The strategy of “divide and conquer” has been around for ages, most often connected with old military battles. Applying this time-tested military strategy to painful tasks in your daily life can help you experience the same success inferior armies used to defeat mightier ones.
Here’s how it works: when facing a superior opponent, the challenger must be broken down into smaller, manageable, and defeat-able segments. Instead of going head to head with a better adversary, it’s more like you’re going head to toe, or head to finger. You are not taking on the whole beast all at once. When you apply this same strategy to very difficult goals or tasks in your life, your path to success becomes a lot easier. For example:
1. Getting back on a fitness plan to lose X amount of pounds.
If you have been inactive for a very long time and want to get back into shape, the thought even stepping foot in the gym to hit the treadmill can be scary.
“I’m going to go to the gym everyday this week.”
“I want to lose 20 pounds by September.”
Those are two fierce goals. The goals become less fierce when you divide and conquer them. Since you may be coming from a long period of physical inactivity, why not stay away from the Zoolander fitness plan right away? Instead of putting yourself into an unmanageable situation, divide and conquer your fitness goal to set yourself up for success.
Set your battle plan to go to the gym TWICE in your first week of new physical activity. The next week re-evaluate the plan and if it went well, add another gym day to make it three times the following week. If you struggled during your first week, keep the battle plan at two times for another week until you feel ready to move on.
2. Getting out of Credit Card debt.
So you owe $3,000 to American Express and every month it’s getting worse. You’ve been overwhelmed for a while and you’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how you can make an extra $3,000 this month. Stop wasting your time.
Just divide and conquer. Instead of trying to take on the $3,000 all at once, take a step back and break it down into a manageable situation. Find a way to make an extra $250 a month. Cut your monthly expenses by a few hundred dollars a month. Whichever you choose, use that extra money to start chipping away at your debt. Before you know it, your $3,000 debt will no longer be an issue. Not to mention, you will not be stressed out on a month to month basis when you have your strategy firmly in place.
3. Surviving an event or function you do not want to attend.
So you have a long work function or family outing that you have to go to, but really don’t want to attend. You’re probably dreading it. Not attending the event isn’t really an option for you, so now it’s time to divide and conquer. Figure out when it ends or the amount of time you need to spend there to fulfill your duty without leaving early, and feeling like a jerk. Break the event down into 30 minute increments and set an alarm on your phone as a reminder. For every 30 minutes you survive (by staying positive and “happy to be there”) reward yourself with something: maybe a new drink or a scheduled “run to the bathroom” to check your phone. While you’re conquering each half-hour battle, you are one step closer to the surviving the entire event — congratulations!
For things you know you HAVE to do, but don’t necessarily want to do, dividing and conquering will always make it a little bit easier for you. Look at these difficult goals like an under-matched, but smarter strategic competitor, and soon enough you’ll be surprised at what you end up accomplishing.