How to Break Challenges Down into Little Pieces

unarranged colorful puzzles
by Vance Larson

I find it helpful to break it down. Too big, too much, too soon, will overwhelm you. Little pieces makes it manageable. Little pieces keeps you engaged.

Have you ever faced a problem that seemed insurmountable? Or, maybe you have too much on your plate. Or worse, you have no plate at all. It is during these challenging times, that I break it down into little pieces. And because I have been down this road before, I find it helpful not to count the miles, but to simply put one foot in another.

This past weekend I was thinking about my upcoming week. If I looked at it from Monday to Saturday, I would say “that’s impossible”. I start my days around 4:30 in the morning and run till 10:00 or so in the evening. Monday thru Friday, I work 9–5 as a case manager. In the evenings, I am in private practice. In between gigs, I write (for as many as 12 different publications). And this Saturday, I am working in the next state over and then I’m going to see my family. A very long week to say the least. But as I write, I am not concerned about tomorrow. I am concerned about being mindful this evening. Can I connect with my clients? Can I honor my wife?

Little pieces. Take the pressure off of yourself. Be present in the “now”. Many, many years ago while heavily involved in the martial arts, we would often spar. As I rose in ranks, I went from sparring one person, to fighting two. Eventually, I ended up fighting three. Little pieces. My instructor said, “They are all coming for you. Hit the one in front of you first”. See what I am getting at? Don’t worry, much less think about how big the problem is. Focus on the immediate need. I could run through scenario after scenario regarding my week. Or, I could simply participate in the day that lies before me. Little pieces.

I use this principle for couples who come to see me. I don’t let them unload years of problems in their first session. I ask them to talk about what got them through my door today. Little pieces. We have to make it manageable. Otherwise, the task would seem too great. By focusing on what got them to my door, we have a much greater chance of building a foundation. We can take care of the amenities (all those years of problems) later. But we must start slow and strong.

There’s a great saying “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Little pieces. Most would say a thousand miles is too far. In fact, it may be. But a single step is manageable. There is nothing wrong with big dreams. Just remember that little pieces complete the puzzle.


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