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How to eliminate overwhelm and get “Big Things” done

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Have you ever rock climbed?  I can remember many summer days when I was going to college in California on heated rock faces in the foothills of the Sierra mountains.

While I was never a master climber, I enjoyed a good scale here and there.

What I learned climbing has helped me tremendously when I’ve tried to make big changes in my life.  See, rarely does a climber know every single movement they are going to make from when they leave the ground to when they are on the peak.

Long climbs are broken into smaller segments going from one outcropping to the next.  These little rock shelves on the face of a cliff allow the climber to take a much needed break, catch their breath, clear their mind, and recalculate the best route to the next outcropping.

Little by little, small scales will add up to create long climbs.

Life isn’t much different in reality.  Small steps strung together are always what gets us far distances.

We can often get stuck in overwhelm when we think about big changes in our lifestyle: eating better, exercising more, feeling balanced, getting proper rest, or reconnecting to our personal interests and passions.  These kinds of goals feel miles away when we are still managing the every day demands and intensity of mothering.

Most of us can’t muster the energy to even consider starting the climb.  When you are a mom, major life overhaul is just not realistic…at least when you think of it in major terms.

What we often don’t see are the ledges, the outcroppings, all along the way, scattered between our right now and our ultimate goal.

The capacity to take a big goal and break it down into smaller parts is part of every successful person’s story, in any area of life.  But there is a critical detail involved most people miss: you can only truly set one mini-goal at a time. Trying to sketch out all your outcroppings along the way right from the start is equally overwhelming and defeating.

Rock Climbing Mom
Photo by Big D2112

At any given time in life, you should be clear on three things:

(1) where you are right now,

(2) where your mountain top is, and

(3) the first outcropping you are actively heading toward.

That is ALL you need to know to get started.

Once you accomplish your first mini-goal, you pause and celebrate. You take a breath and take stock.  Because you will be a slightly different person, your surroundings will be different, your vantage point will be different.

Once you get to the first ledge, then you look up again and find your next ledge.  You can not see the second ledge from the ground (even if you think you can), you can only truly see outcropping #2 from the vantage point of outcropping #1.

“How big things get done” is really the “art of the mini-goal”…one mini-goal at a time.

This is exactly the process I followed when I created my course Designed for Wellness. I knew that moms who want stronger, leaner and lighter bodies, calmer minds, balanced moods and more sustained energy throughout their day felt utterly overwhelmed at what they would need to do to make those changes a reality in their lives.

So over the course of 12 weeks I led women, one outcropping at a time, up a mountain that most never imagined they could scale.  I led my first class 3 years ago and after hundreds of mothers have journeyed with me, I know this process works.

Today, I’d love to invite you to take a “Little Tastes” tour of Designed for Wellness with me over the next couple weeks.

I’m leading the only live group-run of the program this year beginning March 9, so to showcase some of the ways we learn and grow through the course,  I mined out a few “little tastes” of the curriculum and am offering them for free every couple of days from now until March 9.

If you’d like to sign up for the no-cost but full-of-goodness “Little Tastes” Tour of Designed for Wellness, hop over here and sign up today!

And I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What major mountains have you scaled in this “mini-goal” way?  Have you found this strategy works in your life?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Brittnie (A Joy Renewed)

    I overcame an eating disorder by tackling one mini goal at a time, just as you propose in this post. Totally works! My example – The thought of gaining 25 pounds was completely overwhelming, but switching to 2% milk, from skim, was one mini and obtainable change in the right direction. 🙂

    • Lisa

      This is an awesome example, Brittnie- thank you for sharing! Little shifts really (really!) do lead to big changes 🙂

  2. Victoria

    This is exactly how I began running. People are amazed all the time at how many miles I run at one go and say “I could never do that”. My reply is always “I haven’t always done it either in fact I started with the span between two telephone poles”.

    • Lisa Byrne

      Love that…I always tell mamas I work with who want to get more movement into their lives to commit to putting on their sneakers, walking out the door and making it to the end of the street. If they want to turn around and come back- that is totally fine. More often than not you’ll keep going and enjoy a 20 minute walk 🙂

    • Lisa Byrne

      Victoria, This completely resonates with me. I tell the mamas I work with to make very small commitments and give yourself the allowance to stop if they don’t want to keep going. Like commit to putting on your sneakers, getting out of the house and walking to the corner. If you want to turn around- no problem! But more often than not, you’ll want to keep walking and you’ll get that 20 minutes in 🙂

  3. Sarah

    I have found myself thinking this very thing about big things I have done (err….He has done) in my life. From quitting my job, becoming a homeschooling mom and even my recent trip to Haiti….each big accomplishment was a result of me following His lead through the many small steps. I feel as though He is leading me down another possible path. I am not certain of the outcome, but I am certain that I will follow.

    • Lisa

      Loved this reflection, Sarah… it does feel even the nature of divine leading to take small steps in faith one after another!

  4. Damian

    Good advice to follow. It’s always difficult to know where you want to go unless you have both a clear path to get there and a clear understanding of where you are now. I know I get wrapped up in the minutia of day to day life. Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. Pam @Mommacan

    Truly excellent advice. I have found it encouraging in homemaking to remember that two clean-up minutes here and there actually add up to a tidy home at many points in the day. It is the little steps that make impact. To put in snippets for health motivation sounds truly doable.


    • Lisa

      Isn’t it the truth- this applies in all areas of my life too. When we were growing up my Mom would call a “1, 2, 3 clean up” like your 2 minute clean up drills and it really did make for a major difference in our house 🙂

  6. Steph

    Getting my life and my home organized! It can be very overwhelming to think about organizing everything at once. But little by little we’ve been able to overhaul our routine to make life and our spaces more organized.

  7. Aubrie Entwood

    I felt like this post came just at the right time. I am tired of being tired; sick of being sick; and mostly just feel overwhelmed with everything. As a homeschooling mom to two young boys some days I am just trying to keep my head above water. And, I am definitely one of those people who gets overwhelmed with trying to make positive changes (just this morning I wanted to try a weight loss program again and then I looked at the mess in my house and said “I can’t focus on the extra work to lose weight when there are so many messes!). I looked at the Designed for Wellness website and was really psyched about trying it. Then I got to the price. I am seriously saddened by this cost. I know that people need to make a living, but it is just not possible to spend that much money for many people. I was expecting maybe $75, but over $300 or $400 is just unthinkable.

    • Lisa

      Aubrie, I hope you’ve signed up for the Little Tastes tour so you can get free access to a few gems of the course. And please do explore my whole website- I have build a whole library of free resources to support moms to live vibrant lives. I understand that everyone needs to consider how to best invest their money and I know my courses are not for everyone, but I make sure to give plenty of excellent resources for free so everyone can find value. Blessings to you!

      • Aubrie

        Thank you, Lisa. I did sign up and I look forward to more of the freebies. I will check out the resources on your website as well.

  8. Elizabeth

    It has taken me over 15 years but I have finally admitted to myself that I have an eating disorder. I struggle with binge eating sweets and anxiety which create a vicious cylce for me. My only 2013 resolution and “mini-goal” was to not binge (no other fitness or dietary goals). I have found just focusing on this one thing has made all of the difference. I literally plan my days and live my life with the awareness that overscheduling myself and trying to accomplish too much (outside of taking care of my family & home) triggers a binge. This small simple step has made all of the difference for me and instead of limiting my life it is giving me a freedom that I hadn’t imagined. Thanks for writing this today, I needed to read this to reinforce my commitment!

  9. Sarah Westphal

    Perfect timing for this post Lisa! This is soul food and I will bookmark it.
    I have moments where I will look at #2 and completely forget about #1 & #3 (especially when I am tired and drained, of course) and then get overwhelmed and never take that first step to figuring out what to do for that first “mini-step” to make it to that first outcropping. You’re right that mapping it all out isn’t worth it, because the view is different after each mini accomplishment, which are worth celebration!
    I can’t truly thank you enough for sharing!

    • Lisa

      Oh Sarah, don’t I know the dead end of staring at #2 for too long!! 🙂 Gotta keep moving those feet and reaching those arms with little, efficient steps forward to get there, though!

  10. K Dowell

    This is so profound, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and bogged down by the enormity of a “mountain climb” . I love how you say “that you cannot see the second ledge from the ground, you can only truly see outcropping #2 from the vantage point of outcropping #1”. WOW! I love that!! This really spoke to me! I think i need to teach this to my daughter. Thank you! I am heading on over to check out Designed For
    Wellness. Thank you Lisa!

    • Lisa

      You are so welcome, K…grateful to hear it resonated!

  11. Megan Flatt

    I LOVE this post and it came at exactly the right moment for me. Thank you so much for this analogy. I tend to get so overwhelmed with the mountain I just stay on the ground checking my equipment over and over again. Thank you…I am off to accomplish one mini goal.

    • Lisa

      Megan! Nice!! Love that so much…here’s to one mini-goal added much momentum to your whole day!

  12. Liz P

    I have a mountain to climb at the moment. As at the start of the year (or the start of Feb LOL) I had 20kg (44lb) to lose. I’ve lost 3kg (6.6lb) but I still have a long way to go.
    I’ve recently been frustrated by setbacks – at the moment it seems my options are either to lose weight or to maintain an adequate breastmilk supply for my almost 5mo DD. I’m frustrated by this set-back (because milk supply is my priority) as I wanted to lose the weight by the end of the year.
    However, I am determined not to give up. The scales are going away for a month. I am hoping to lose 2kg (4.4lb) this month but I won’t be weighing myself regularly. I’ll be trying to make consistently good food choices, have planned treats and work my butt off (literally LOL) training for my first 4km (2.5miles) fun run, getting stronger and fitter. I even have some boot camp classes to survive in the coming weeks.
    My challenge, though, is to find meaningful mini-goals for the journey that don’t involve the numbers on the scale.

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