The Easiest Way to Persevere

There’s just too much to do.  That’s the problem today.  Most people have a threshold.  They can balance just so many plates in the air, and add just one more, and the whole operation comes crashing down.  Some of us respond with a paralysis and a moodiness that we can’t beat.  We are overwhelmed and stressed out.

I’m lying in my bed, and I think of what needs to be done today.  It’s huge.  It’s mammoth.  It’s impossible.  But then I remember one of the best coping mechanisms for that overwhelmed, stressed out, paralyzing, moody feeling of “I can’t do this.”

I think about tiny chores.  It’s a simple truth your own mother probably told you when you had to clean your room.  When the chores seem too much, you just break them apart into teeny, tiny chores. 

And they have to be tiny chores.  Remember, we are overwhelmed and stressed out.  We can’t tackle cleaning the basement, but we can clean this one inch of desk.  I need that small accomplishment as activation energy, as catalyst, as fuel.  Then, a reaction starts.  A glorious, vibrant one. 

So I start in the smallest division of my mammoth task as possible.  I do one inch, then the next inch, then the next and next and next.  You fold this one shirt.  You clean this one dish.  You study this one page.  You write this one sentence.

And soon you’ve written a dissertation.

I’m persevering through the day, and all of a sudden, the stress drains.  The finished tiny chore gives me a power that moves out in concentric circles like a stone I’ve thrown on the surface of the water.  I can do this next thing and then this one and that one. I’m inspired!  I’m energized! 

Perseverance is “steady persistence in spite of difficulty.” I don’t have to do everything right now. There’s difficulty here, opposition there. But I can do one inch and see what happens.  I can keep doing my inches, steadily.  It’s like starting to exercise.  You just put on your shoes and say you’ll go these few steps.  Maybe you’ll walk or run to the mailbox out front.  That’s good.  That’s the inch.  Later, you could run to the stop sign.  Next week, I won’t even be able to catch you. 

Do the inch.  Living with flair means I think of this task in terms of the inch

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  1. That's a great idea for reducing stress! 🙂 And I think if we thought of it in terms of the inch, we would think more positively and not be so hard on ourselves. Instead of beating ourselves up over all that we didn't do, we could start feeling some peace and a sense of accomplishment over what we did do. 🙂

  2. Yes! Instead of saying, “I didn't get anything done today,” I could say that I did a thousand inches.

  3. This is genius and I always try to do this when I'm swamped! It's like in Eat, Pray, Love when Liz Gilbert's mind tells her to just 'go back to bed, Liz'. She couldn't face the overwhelming divorce issue at that moment – the only next step she needed to worry about was going to bed. It also helps to be very present in every moment while you are completing the tiny chores and almost over-focus on what you are doing. Makes time fly like crazy!