Bite Off What You can Chew… then Chew!

How to Eat an Elephant

cruise0022At age 65 and almost 250 pounds, I was desperate to do something to regain my health.

My first attempts at exercise were sporadic and it took me awhile to learn what healthy eating was all about. I didn’t have the perfect plan but it was gratifying to be headed in the right direction.

The goal of being fully alive physically is daunting and sometimes seems impossible. There are times when in spite of all your resolve, weeks and months pass without progress.

It’s as though you stand gazing at a mountain peak, longing to be at the summit. But without some intermediate goals, your friends may find you standing in the same place years later still dreaming of being at the top.

In their book Younger Next Year Crowley and Lodge tell us how the captain of a sailing ship kept moving ahead even when his sailing ship was dead in the water because the wind had died.

He ordered his crew to load a light anchor called a kedge into a longboat and row half a mile or so out in front of the ship. The longboat sailors set the anchor there, and everyone aboard ship pulled on the anchor line until the ship moved that half mile. Then they moved the kedge another half-mile out and pull on the line again. It was slow progress that carried a whiff of desperation, but it was progress and much more desirable then being dead in the water. It kept them motivated and moving forward until the wind picked up.

Five years ago, my form of kedging was signing up to compete in a triathlon. That may seem like an unlikely and desperate goal for an out-of-shape, 65 year old fossil, but I learned that if I expected to finish that race I would have to set bite size intermediate goals small enough to put on the calendar and accomplish.

If I wanted to be at the top of the mountain I would first have to step over the branch in front of me. I could do that! Then I would have to climb the ridge. I could do that! Next I’d have to cross the stream on the other side of the ridge. I could do that! With that kind of commitment, one day I would stand at the top and see a hundred miles in every direction.

I finished second (in my age division) in a race that required a 200 yard swim, 11 mile bike ride and a two mile run.  You can read the entire account in my book Fully Alive but I will tell you now, that accomplishment was the result of hundreds of short (bite size) training workouts that finally gave me the strength and endurance to finish the race.

In a few weeks I will be 70. But this 70 year old could whoop that 65 year old fossil any day of the week.

Whether you’re working toward living fully alive physically, mentally, socially, or spiritually, short-term goals and immediate action steps are essential if you expect any progress. It isn’t enough just to make a plan; you have to work the plan. That means setting bite size goals that will eventually lead to the ultimate goal.

What struggles have you faced trying to reach your goals?

What strategies have helped you? 

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

My book Fully Alive and the DVD of the motion picture has changed many lives.  Click here to get the book and here to get the DVD.

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7 thoughts on “Bite Off What You can Chew… then Chew!

  1. Ken,
    I am a little surprised that you are going be 70, but that is only about eight months sooner than me. People around me peg me at 50+, because what 60+ person goes out on inline skates at 7 in the morning and does around 3 miles. A friend told me that 70 is the new 50, and I’m inclined to agreed, that it feels about how I expected to feel(when I was a kid) when I reached 50. I might retire, as soon as I find something else I want to do for the next 20 years. Keep it up, Ken, your funniest stories are yet to be. (and you already have some of the funniest I’ve ever heard)

    • Thank you for your encouraging word “J.” How I would love to see you again, reminisce and dream together. Although I know you are capable of “reading my mind” (-; , it would be so fun to catch up in person. thank you for keeping in touch. E-mail me with you contact info and let’s try to make a reunion possible

  2. You are such an inspiration to us all … I have been having some health issues & not been able to do my temporary part-time jobs … therefore am gaining weight while eating too much & sitting around watching too much tv … am trying to make myself get out of the house & at least do some water aerobics classes … this, at least, would help me to keep “staying alive” … as you put it … as always, enjoying your e-mails at the young age of 77.

    • Terry, Your words are such an encouragement. Your attitude is indeed one of the things that at 77 will keep you younger than some who have had fewer birthdays. The easy chair and television can destroy all that. Keep fighting to live fully alive. I’m in your corner.

  3. Ken,
    Thank you for a great article. I love the kedging story. It is so picturesque and delivers a very clear message that I need to keep being reminded of.
    To answer your question, my big struggle was with 2 bouts with a deadly leukemia, which started when I was 50. During that struggle, my mind was wanting go, but my body wouldn’t participate, so I was forced to do some kedging, starting with walking up and down 4 steps a couple of times per day. That was all the energy I had. Finally, at 65, I had put all that behind me and am now living vibrantly at 70. Just in case my story may help others, I wrote 2 blog posts on it at http://wp.me/p7ip9I-4s

    The struggle I am kedging through now is getting my internet business off the ground, with guidance from you and Dan Miller. I needed to hear the kedging story you shared to remind my speedy mind that small steps add up to big accomplishments, and to be happy with small, daily steps forward.

    Mentally and physically, I must hold it down to what I can do (small steps) and not be daunted by what I cannot do (the whole enchilada at once). Thanks so much for the encouraging reminder.

    • Bob, I read your very encouraging post and would like to submit it to my team as a possible guest post? Would that be agreeable to you. Thank you again for contributing to the conversation.