Thursday, September 2, 2010

One Step at a Time


When my step-daughter, Allison, was small, it was quite a feat to get her to sit at the table long enough to eat a meal. She was always so full of energy – with the concentration span of a goldfish. But her father would sit there and patiently encourage her to eat just a little bit more – another four mouthfuls and then she could leave the table.

Allison would heave massive sighs and wiggle about on her chair, and she would load up her fork with the smallest possible amount of food – but eventually she would be able to proudly report 

‘I did it, Daddy! I ate four mouthfuls.’

Her Dad would tell her she was such a good girl and that she was doing so well. But then, while she was still beaming at his praise, he would add

‘Now just three more mouthfuls and you can go to play!’

Strangely enough Allison never seemed to wise up. She would sigh and wiggle, but she would keep spooning up the food. The three would become two, and the two would become one, and sometimes the one would even go on for three or four times more, just until the plate was completely clean.

At the time I used to wonder how on earth he managed to have so much patience with her. Every mealtime became a marathon event and it drove me nuts having to sit there and watch her go through the same routine each time. But, I had to admit it worked. 

Faced with a plate of food, even if it was only a very small serving, Allison seemed to feel overwhelmed. The thought of being forced to sit in that chair for an extended period of time was enough to kill off any appetite she may have had. But, when her father broke the process down into just a few more mouthfuls – it suddenly seemed a lot less daunting. She was still going to eat the same amount of food. She was still going to be sitting at the table for the same amount of time. But, because it was all presented to her in small steps, she felt able to work her way through it – one mouthful at a time. 

Now I am a cleaner. Being a bit past the first flush of youth, I often find the physical demands of my job can really take a toll. Sometimes, just the thought of five staircases to mop can be enough to drain the energy from my body. In the mornings, just stopping to think about all that I have to accomplish during the course of the day will make me want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head.

But I’ve learned to break down my workload into ‘one-mouthful-at-a-time’. I keep telling myself that all I have to do is just keep plugging along and eventually it will all be done and I can go home. Each time I feel the energy levels dropping – each time I begin to feel a bit overwhelmed, I remind myself that there’s only one more bathroom to clean and a couple of floors to mop. Or I only have to finish vacuuming this area and dust all the blinds and I’m done. 

At the end of my working day, I often look back and think to myself ‘Well, that wasn’t so bad after all, was it? I still did the same amount of work. It took me just as long to do it. But, by breaking down the mountain into molehills I made it seem so much less daunting. 

Try it sometime. It really does work.

As a footnote, Allison is now a very successful Chef and she recently catered for a function at which the Governor of South Australia was a guest. She now makes a living from playing with food. LOL.
©Lyn Murphy2010


Cynthia Occelli said...

Hi Lyn:

This chunk of wisdom is quite valuable. So many times in my life, I've faced more than seemed possible to accomplish. It was then I heard for the first time, "Do it like you'd eat an elephant, one bite at a time". It sounds so simple, but is so profoundly useful.

Keep writing :)


Jennette Green said...

Great blog as always, Lyn! :)