How do you eat an elephant?

by ~jenniferlynn on April 11, 2016

in inspiration


One bite at a time.

I have heard this joke quite a few times recently as I have delved deeply into the world of what was one called “self-help” and now I think better proclaimed as “personal development.”

At least that’s what I like to think of it as.

Obviously no one is going to eat an elephant (I have a feeling that are some sort of protected species), but it is what the elephant represents that is the key thing here.

My team leader in a new business venture that I have taken on awarded me with a cute little elephant figurine as a reminder of just this, celebrating my past year of success with the company but also acknowledging my tendency to have an all-or-nothing approach at things. Oftentimes this type of work ethic and mindset can be very beneficial, pouring my heart and soul into whatever it is that I am doing and fully committing to the thing.


But the bulk of the time, this mentality that I have to do it all or consider myself a failure, leads to a significant amount of overwhelm, so much to the point that it leans towards the “nothing”, rather than the “all.”

A year ago my training at the gym looked quite a bit different from what it is now. I won’t make excuses such as: my gym removed our lifting platforms and replaced the area with bootcamp type classes, I lost half my training partners (along with my cheering section and motivators) to other gyms, my “swolemate” at the time is no longer my swolemate, I started a new job, I started a second job, my diet went haywire, leading into a catch-22 of not fueling properly for the workouts I was doing, to not wanting to eat well because I wasn’t working out hard.

I can blame any of those for my training taking a spiral down from 5 days a week, 2 hours a day of Olympic Lifting, squatting, and brutal wods, to maybe 3-4x a week typical Crossfit class, with little to no advanced skill work, programmed squat days, or suck bucket improvements. Or, I can take a bit of ownership and realize that it really is me that’s the issue here – not the box, not my friends.

I whined to said former swolemate the other day (he knows me, understands my frustrations, has seen me cry over one too many workouts, and still knows how to keep me in check even though we no longer deadlift and chill). It’s so silly when I say it out loud, but it emotionally stings that I have legit lost a lot of gains that I made over the last year. And oh, he isn’t the only one to hear about it – I have likely mentioned this to anyone who has stepped within 3 feet of me inside or outside my gym; I complained in my last blog post, and even complain on snapchat. I am quite certain I even complained to a couple new girls at my gym who would probably love to lift what I do now in my newer, weaker self – what sort of role model is that?

“What are you going to do about it?” he asked.


Then I remembered something out of a book I recently read. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.

How simple is THAT?!

So you can’t eat an elephant whole, but you can take a bite. I can’t magically pick a barbell back up and PR my back squat after literally squatting maybe 3 times in the past 3 months, where it was always minimum 3 times a week. I am not going to miraculously look jacked because I did 10 push-ups as part of a warm-up to our workout. And that muscle-up I was shooting for last year at the Open? How in the heck was I going to do that this year when I have not even touched a set of rings since last May?


Do you know I have a fully equipped home gym? While not an ideal training area, presently in my sunroom of my house where Michigan temperatures have been hardly over 30′ and there is zero insulation.. but it’s there. I have full access to squat my little heart out. I can deadlift, press, squat, and row (bent over and on the erg, as I have a Concept2 as well). I have bumper plates so when it does warm up a bit, I can use my driveway as my platform, just in case I need to drop (not much clearance inside for Oly right now).

I have a sweet box jump box and an AbMat.

And know what I am doing with all that equipment.

Absolutely nothing.

There is a fascinating concept called the Compound Effect, as well as a stellar book that explains it. What if, every day I did squat, each day adding just a pound more than the prior day. While realistically it may not work out exactly as that, but think how much I would have added in a year, just making teeny tiny changes daily compared to doing nothing at all.

It is all based on small things.

Repeated daily.

Where in your life do you get overwhelmed to the point that rather than tackling a bite, you do nothing?

I challenge you to look at areas of your life where you overwhelmed, whether it be in the gym, at your job, at home. Make an effort today to divide that “elephant” into one small task daily.

And now.. off to the gym.

Twitter: bluetamarai
April 12, 2016 at 10:05 am

LOVE this!! I can so relate to the all-or-nothing mindset. I’ve been putting off organizing foreeeeeeever and a day. Thankfully, I discovered the Minimalists Game and it finally got me to stop feeling overwhelmed and ACT.

I can really relate to the activity/eating side, too. I’ve struggled to resume a regular training schedule ever since surgery… in September ’13! And since then I’ve gained some fat and haven’t yet managed to shift it. Thanks for the reminder that I’m not alone and that we can make strides together!! xo
Tamara recently posted..Need it to SurviveMy Profile

jen April 12, 2016 at 2:45 pm

I love this post so much. I am annoyed with our programming lately because I love heavy lifting and we’ve been doing a lot of lighter weights/higher reps metcon wods. So I’ve been going to class and whining about it, rather than looking for a solution (i.e. find myself some programming that’s geared toward what I want to do more of and gasp! skipping the programmed wod). Anyway, I can relate. Hope you find what works for you!

~jenniferlynn April 12, 2016 at 2:47 pm

Thank you, Jen!! It’s so easy to point fingers when hey, this is our life and our fun! If it’s not fun, what are we doing about it!

Chris April 27, 2016 at 10:04 am

I feel ya. I try and take all the bites at once. Or just shove the whole thing in my mouth and not worry about bites. Paralysis by the volume. Something is always better than nothing… and with squatting or making it through the day… if we can just manage that one bite, the next day we have a little less elephant to handle.
Chris recently posted..Love, Santa, & Other Things That Don’t ExistMy Profile

Paul Vandyken July 28, 2016 at 10:33 pm

I found that the Kaizen way philosophy is quite same as one bite at a time to eat an elephant. By the way, Easy said than done. I need to overcome my procrastination and take the small action, day-by-day in order to achieve what I want.
Thank you for sharing this inspiring article!
Paul Vandyken recently posted..How to Start On With the C2B Pull-Ups?My Profile

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: