One day during my freshman year of college, I received a call from my mom, telling me that my uncle had passed away. I didn't really process everything in that moment. I was shocked, just as anyone would be from an unexpected death in the family. Despite the news, I maintained a fairly regular routine that day. I went to class, had lunch, lifted weights, and then went to practice.
I stretched and warmed up with a clear mind, and as we began baserunning drills, I preformed them as usual. While necessary, practicing baserunning can become a bit monotonous, especially if you are of incredibly average speed.
During one of the reps that I took, I messed up. I went to do it again and messed it up once more.
What we were doing was not complicated. When the pitcher lifted his front leg, we ran to the next base. Then you jog back and do it again. That was it. I tried three or four times, and I could not do it. I literally could not figure out how to run.
After my fourth attempt, I just walked off of the field and broke down crying. I wasn't crying about the drill, that was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. It had finally hit me. Trying to achieve in the classroom, on the field, and the news about my uncle all became too much. I was overwhelmed with emotion.
I remember my teammates being like, "what's that kid's deal?"
I can't blame them; it looked as if I punked out because I couldn't do a drill.
When they found out about my uncle, they were nothing but supportive.
After practice, I stayed and talked with my coach. We broke down all that was stressing me from trying to get good grades, to performing the best I could on the field and everything in between.
He presented me with a question that, at the time, I had never heard before.
He asked me, "how do you eat an elephant?"
I was baffled. I had zero clues where this was going. And I had even less of a clue what it had to do with my life. But my coach went on.
He said, "The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time."
While still ridiculous, he was implying that the way to get through feeling overwhelmed is by taking things one step at a time. I have since heard the analogy many times since and have implemented it into my mental practice.
It is a message about perspective and taking pride in your progress. Both philosophies have allowed me to become the player that I wanted to become in baseball and contribute to the person I am today.
With so much going on around us, it is easy to become overwhelmed. We might feel as if our to-do list has grown to the size of a 2-ton creature. We must, in these moments, keep perspective and believe that even a single bite, a single step in the right direction, is enormous progress.
I was able to eat that elephant during my freshman year. But only when I stopped trying to swallow it whole. I began to take a single bite at a time I saw that it was making a difference, and even realized that I wasn't eating alone.
If you feel like you have an elephant in your life, I hope that this helps you identify that it is there, gives you a plan of attack, and encourages you to realize that you don't have to eat it alone.