Psychotherapy

Small things can lead to bigger things

In one of his Moments with Elliott Connie, psychotherapist, author, lecturer and founder of The Solution Focused University, Elliott Connie, recounts the inspiring story of US Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who was caught under enemy fire while accomplishing a mission in 2005. During one battle, in which many of his comrades were killed, Luttrell was shot over a dozen times and fell off multiple cliffs, breaking his legs, his back and multiple other bones in his body, biting his tongue in two, and knocking himself unconscious. When Luttrell woke up, his body riddled with shrapnel, he was aware that the gunfire had ceased, but realised that he could no longer walk or move. Luttrell thought he was dying, and yet, in that moment, chose to do something amazing that ultimately saved his life. He reached out as far as he could and drew a line in the mud. And then he set himself the task of hauling his broken body over that line. Luttrell thought that if he could do that, and if he was still alive, he would do it again. And again. Luttrell did this for seven miles, until he found water and was rescued.

Luttrell’s incredible story has been the basis for both the book and movie Lone Survivor, and he has given multiple lectures on his experience and the lessons he has learned from it.

As Elliott points out, this story gives us an inspirational example of how challenges can be more achievable once we break them down in little tasks. This approach is something we can draw on in our everyday life, when we feel overwhelmed by an assignment we have to write, a tax return we have to file, a room we have to tidy, a commute we have to complete. Such challenges can loom large like mountains, but every mountain is made of rocks, and if we shift our focus to putting one foot in front of the other, we can conquer the mountain, rock by rock.

For many, COVID-19 has been that explosive attack, shattering our life as it was. Many have lost loved ones, jobs, relationships, security, meaning. And with the majority of the world still closed for business, there is little motivation to start picking ourselves up.

But if we break down the seemingly impossible challenge of getting back up into tiny tasks, we can motivate ourselves, with each small success, to carry on with the next task. And the next. And the next. Each success, however small, triggers our brain’s reward system to facilitate this process. Every positive action activates the production of hormones like serotonin and dopamine, which boost our self-esteem and our motivation to act positively again. And again. Helping us to move forward step by step, to find a new normal amid the rubble.

References

Connie, E. (2016). Small Things Can Lead to Big Things. Moments with Elliott Connie. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rd3QIelHxhk

Luttrell, M & Robinson, P. (2014). Lone Survivor: The Incredible True Story of Navy SEALs Under Siege. Sphere.

The Hero Summit. (2013, October 13). Lone Survivor: A Conversation. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5m9CMT_1bU

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