How to Take on an Insurmountable Task

Lynne Taetzsch Health Guide
  • At our bipolar support group meeting this week, one of our members was facing a large project that he couldn’t seem to get his teeth into. He used the holidays as an opportunity to “float,” but now that they were over, he had to face reality and get moving. Yet he seemed to be blocked and felt incapable of even making a start.

    We all brainstormed ideas on how to get past this block, and came up with three interesting approaches.

    1. Start small. When I have a big project I am reluctant to complete, I like to make a list of all the necessary tasks, breaking things down into small bites. Then I look over the list and pick something small that I won’t mind doing. I start there. Gradually, as I accomplish some of the small steps, I find myself getting engaged in the process and moving on to the more difficult tasks.
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    2. Consider the worst outcome. Another member pointed out that we often have trouble starting a big project because we are afraid of failing. If we consider what the worst possible outcome might be, it helps us to get past this fear. I use this method often when I find myself uptight about an important event in my life, like meeting the director of a NY gallery where I was having an exhibit. Or giving an art talk about my work.

    Once you realize that you will indeed live through a total failure to perform, it takes the edge off. All we can do is our best at any moment, and if that’s not good enough, then so be it.

    3. Visualize your goals. I found this to be the most unusual and intriguing suggestion of the group. The member who suggested this one said, “Write down what you want on a sheet of paper, without considering what you have to do to get there.” He said to pick a few key things you want in your life, to write them down and look at them every day. The point is that this visualization will implant these goals in our psyche and without consciously thinking about it, we will work toward them.

    I plan to try the visualization technique starting today. But being a practical, hands-on kind of person, I probably have more faith in method #1, taking a small step toward my goal. What works best for you?

Published On: January 16, 2007