“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is to break things down into small, manageable tasks, and then start on the first one.” Mark Twain.
Breaking things down is a good way to get through something that is uncomfortable, difficult or bleak. It is a bit like driving at night. We can see no further than about 150 metres in front with our headlights. But we can make the entire journey that way and safely arrive at our destination. Thinking too much about what might lie ahead can be overwhelming, especially when we are under pressure. We don’t need to see the whole stairway to heaven, just take the first step. Complete the journey one bit at a time, and do the next right thing that is in front of you.
This time of the year has long been considered the bleakest, when all of us are at our lowest ebb. The season to be jolly is now a distant memory, the credit card bills for the Christmas excesses have arrived and the weather and the news doesn’t help. Now, with the continuing pandemic, the intensity of apparent gloom is much more than the normal, seasonal blues.
But there is always hope, even in the darkest night there will be a dawn and in the hardest winter there are signs of spring. Today I saw the first snow drops and heard a mistle thrush singing. No matter what the day brings, it will pass. The days of future pass, whether they be the happiest or the worst days of our lives, they will pass. Whatever we are going through now will end, like all things.
So, the best way to get through each day is to break things down. It is the old “salami sausage” technique. No matter how much you love salami, the thought of eating a whole one, is daunting. But if you slice it down into thin slices and take one slice at a time, before too long you will have eaten it. Similarly, just slice and dice your way through life’s complex and challenging things.
My personal preference is to break things down into three. Life comes to us, one day at a time and it conveniently breaks down into – morning, afternoon, and evening. Especially in tough days, like now, I just think about getting through the morning. Mornings for me are usually focused on writing and I break it up into 3 sections with short breaks in between. Afternoons are broken down into 3 physical activities way from the desk, such as cooking, walking and gardening. Then the evening can be 3 “wind-down” activities like catching up; watching TV; relaxing with a book; listening to music; writing up a journal or preparing for the next day.
Three is a truly powerful number. It describes the 3 aspects of being – Mind, Body and Spirit.
Three contains all time – Past, Present and Future and when we focus on the 3Cs – Clarity, Confidence and Commitment – we make more progress with living our best life. The angel number 3 represents Growth, Inspiration and Wisdom and a powerful prayer is “ The Sacred Three, Abide with Me.”
Many people, especially in the business of influencing, like to use the “power of three” in their messaging. Just think of all the advertising slogans and sound bites with only three words. For example, Nike’s “Just do it”; McDonald’s “I’m Loving it”; Julius Caesar’s “Veni, Vidi, Vici” and Christ’s “Love Your Enemies”
Breaking things down reduces complexity by simplifying and clarifying. Start small and work consistently on one thing at a time. Life is always changing and sequential thinking helps to group tasks into a logical, workable order and to identify the important things to do next. Devote your complete attention to just one thing and work on minimizing distractions. Stay focused. The practice of breaking challenging things down into manageable pieces also helps to divide and conquer fear. This simple practice will make you more productive and calmer. When life becomes complex and overwhelming don’t despair or rush headlong into compulsively doing, without thinking. Stop. Reflect. Break things down and use the Power of Three.
BEYOND PERCEPTION’S REACH is a collection of brief thoughts and reflections on the complexities and challenges of life’s mysteries. The weekly blog will explore some of the questions and personal challenges we face in our uncertain and confusing world. How do we bring a bit more joy, purpose and fulfillment to our “one wild and precious lives”?
© Denis McBrinn 2021