A secret recipe for “bite-sized” elephant – tips for breaking a challenge into smaller pieces.


In business and our personal lives we often talk about the “Elephant in the Room”.  So, today I am writing about that “Giant Elephant” that is following you wherever you go – on the way home from work, while you are watching TV, while you are at your kid’s practice.  The one that even crowds its big rear-end into your car while you are trying to enjoy a little music and alone time.

One of the insights I had this week from my coaching session with my coach is that because I have a new challenge, that big elephant has started following me everywhere I go. I am teaching an MBA class this fall at Portland State University. That is exciting for me, yet daunting as I try to traverse the policies, procedures and processes as a “regular” adjunct faculty member teaching a 500-level class in just a few weeks. I have a lot of things to figure out quickly as I prepare for this new class. I frankly have felt overwhelmed, just as some of my own coaching clients have been feeling.  I described it to my coach Cathy as “I just am tired and can’t seem to get out from under the weight of this big elephant”.

She asked me how I would feel if I got my newsletter done. I told her it would feel great, but I just can’t seem to find the time.  She asked me about other items on my “To Do List”. We then discussed how I would feel if I started “breaking the elephant into bite-sized chunks” and I realized I hadn’t been doing that. Cathy next questioned me what chunks I could start listing as measurable action plans. Hmmmmmm. Yummmmmm.  It all started to click. This was starting to sound pretty tasty and appetizing. Let me summarize for you and I hope it helps and inspires you as well!

The Recipe for “Bite-sized Elephant Stew”:

  1. Take 1 large, specific, measurable goal that is inspiring and motivating. Mix it well with a clear, end-vision of what you want to accomplish. Sprinkle in thoughts about what you want to achieve, how you will achieve it and when you plan to have the goal accomplished.
  2.  Working backwards from your accomplishment date, determine key ingredients and steps required to meet your goal.
  3. Take the large elephant that you carried into your room and start cutting it into several, bite-sized chunks. These chunks should be infused with a dose of reality, big enough to “stretch”, but not so big that your over-fill your cooking pot.
  4.  Once you have created bite-sized chunks, ensure you add specific measurements, specific dates and a way to know if you are on track to meet your inspiring goal or challenge.
  5. Place your chunks into your calendar and cover them with a seal of protection so you have adequate time to focus and concentrate on accomplishing each required task.
  6. Let your elephant and your actions simmer and check often to ensure they are on track and are not going past the “expiration” date.
  7.  Season to taste and adjust as needed. Do you need to turn down the heat? Add some spice? Pull something out of the pot so it doesn’t boil over?
  8. Get help from an experienced “cook” or coach in order to ensure accountability, share insights and to see if your elephant is on track to result in a tasty and delicious stew of experience.
  9.  Once your elephant entrée is done, I’d recommend pairing it with champagne to celebrate all your hard work, accomplishments and learning.
  10. Clean up the mess and get ready to start your next Elephant dish!

I hope you enjoy this recipe and find it helpful.  Bon Appetite!