There are lots of things that stop people from going after what they want—the fear of embarrassment or failure, their vast care about others’ opinions, and more. However, there’s one more huge reason, and that’s the one we’re going to tackle right now so that you can start to do the thing you want to do.
This one thing that stops us is overwhelm. When we look at the big picture of what we want to do, it can be terrifying. For example, if you have a goal to write a book, it sounds clear and simple, but then you research how to do it, and suddenly that simplicity has turned into a mess.
There’s so much information on the Internet about everything. There are different people to follow, blogs to read, worksheets to download, videos to watch, and podcasts to listen to. It’s an overload, and the act of learning alone can be just as stressful as doing the work because of how much is out there.
When we learn about how much work there is to put in for something, we can’t help but feel like we’re losing our minds because there is so much to do. Overwhelm crawls up, and whispers to us, “It’s not worth it. It’s too much work, and you don’t even know where to start!”
But I’m going to tell you the complete opposite: It is so fucking worth it.
Especially because overwhelm isn’t some big scary monster that can’t be defeated. It’s not impossible to lower your stress and do what you want. I know because you’ve done it before, because I’ve done it before, and because others have done it before. We’ve taken overwhelm and pounded it into the ground. So, how do you overcome and defeat overwhelm? By taking it one step at a time.
The solution to the overwhelming problem is that simple. You have to break it down. Think about it this way: Say you wanted to read It by Stephen King. That book is over 1,000 pages, that’s a lot of pages, and to anyone who first lays their eyes on it, it can be a little overwhelming knowing that there are so many words to read.
But how have millions of people been able to read It? What separates them from those who want to read it but don’t think they can?
They took it one step at a time—in this case, that can mean, they read 30 pages every single day. Committing to reading 30 pages every day is a hell of a lot less overwhelming than over 1,000 pages. Actually, that commitment isn’t overwhelming at all. Of course, there are lot of avid readers who didn’t do this, but the reason that the people who felt overwhelmed were able to finish the book was that they broke it down.
That’s how everyone else deals with overwhelm in different areas of their life. They take something big and scary, and then they turn it into something small and digestible, something that doesn’t make them want to pull their hair out.
If you want to deep clean your entire house you start with one room, right? Then, you move to the next, and the next thing you know, you’re done. If you want to write a book, break it down. If you want to learn to play the violin, take it one step at a time. Learn which string is which, learn how to hold the bow, then learn how to play A, B, and C on the G string, then move on.
If you want to do something that seems overwhelming, break it down into manageable steps. For example, let’s go back to that book you want to write (or at least are pretending you want to write for the sake of this example).
Say that you read somewhere that you have to pick a topic, then write about it, and finally finish it before sending it off to an editor to see if you can get it published. I mean, basically, that’s what you have to do, but that seems insane. Just “write about it” alone leaves you with stress building up within you.
What do you mean ‘write it’? What do I write about? How much do I write? How do I make up a compelling character? What’s the problem? How’s it going to be solved? What will the reader take from it? And on, and on.
That’s a lot to take in, and it would stress anyone who’s about to write a book, but you can deal with that by breaking it down. Lay it all out on a piece of paper, all the questions that you have, write them down. Then look them up.
Compile a list of topics that you want to master, ignore the ones that you feel confident in, and dedicate a couple of days to learning about each and every one of them. I’d recommend taking courses or reading books simply because they tend to be organized for you, and you don’t have to dig around Google so much, but that’s up to you.
From the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep, learn about that specific thing. Take lots of (organized) notes, and when one month passes, stop learning. I’m serious, don’t listen to another podcast or watch another video because you know everything you need to know. What do you do next?
You find a quiet place, you sit down, and you write. With what you know about everything, just sit down and write a story. Don’t go back and edit, just sit and write. If you stumble across something you don’t know how to approach, who cares? Write it, and then afterward, you can go back and edit. Take it one step at a time until you finally see your book on the New York Times Bestsellers list.
That’s how you deal with overwhelm for everything in your life. You break it down, and you take it one step at a time.
P.S. Articles aren’t supposed to have ‘P.S.’ but Thought Catalog has always been unique, so we’re going to go ahead and add it. Anyway, I wanted to say, taking it one step at a time requires discipline. It’s a simple technique, yes, but you need to be dedicated.
As Russell Brand said, “One day at a time. It sounds so simple… It requires incredible support and fastidious structuring.”
Still, I believe you can do it.