Monday, October 01, 2007

Curious about Overwhelm: What Overwhelms You? and How Do You Handle It?

Definition: to cover over completely, as by a great wave; to overflow and bury beneath; to engulf; hence, figuratively, to immerse and bear down; to overpower; to crush; to bury; to oppress, etc., overpoweringly. To cause to surround, to cover.

I have many careers and the tasks and needs of each career often coincide. I usually, however, can deal with this without becoming overwhelmed. This past week and weekend, on the other hand, put me into a state of overwhelm. I started to feel immersed, overpowered and surrounded by all of the perceived commitments I set for myself.

I decided that the quick way to write this week’s blog – already a day late – would be to look up a few quotations and zip through them along with sharing my thoughts and feelings. As so often happens, the quotations put a new spin on the topic and were also so interesting that they took me out of my overwhelm state.

So here goes with some of the best that are in the genre of self improvement:
  • Sound character provides the power with which a person may ride the emergencies of life instead of being overwhelmed by them. Failure is... the highway to success.” - Og Mandino, American author
  • Enlightenment must come little by little - otherwise it would overwhelm.” - Idries Shah, Indian author
  • Dream small dreams. If you make them too big, you get overwhelmed and you don't do anything. If you make small goals and accomplish them, it gives you the confidence to go on to higher goals.” - John H. Johnson, American businessman

My question to you is, “Should we ‘Dream small dreams?’” There are many approaches to goals and reasons why we don’t achieve them. Small goals do lead to higher goals, if we truly want those higher goals. Oftentimes, big goals are set because of what others want us to accomplish, not what are the burning desires we actually have.

I especially relate to what the actor Campbell Scott said, “Directing is: you're overwhelmed the whole time. Your mind never stops. If you care about it. You wake up in the morning and you begin thinking about it and then you go to sleep at night and you're still thinking about it.” Apply this approach to whatever profession you pursue. Yes, you are overwhelmed the whole time, but it is wonderful and useful “overwhelm.”

I also relate to the Welsh explorer, Henry Morton Stanley, who wrote, “I did not see the whole. I only saw this rock ahead of me; I only saw this poisonous snake which I had to kill in order to take the next step. I only saw the problem directly in front of me. If I had seen the whole thing, I would have been too overwhelmed to have attempted this.”

I feel that this is great advice when you have what so many call, “Too much on my plate.” By focusing on one problem at a time – not worrying about the “whole” – I competently make my way out of overwhelm and move on easily.

Here are a few more quotations for you to think about and chew upon:

  • The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” - Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher
  • Man has a limited biological capacity for change. When this capacity is overwhelmed, the capacity is in future shock.” - Alvin Toffler, American author
  • Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” - Desmond Tutu, South African leader
  • If I cannot overwhelm with my quality, I will overwhelm with my quantity.” - Emile Zola, French novelist

Meanwhile, I would love to hear from you about overwhelm. Do you ever feel it? And, how do you deal with it? Have a great week!