We’ve all heard the idiom, “making mountains out of molehills” and likely have used it at some point; it’s almost certain that we have all even done it ourselves. It’s an odd saying but gives a good visual to describe over reactive behavior disproportionate to the event that caused it. Have you ever tried to climb a mountain made from a molehill? Since loose dirt needs to be moved to create the mountain, climbing one must be like scaling a very tall sand dune. In other words, very difficult if not impossible! Whereas we could step on a molehill without even realizing it…they are small and are all around us! So why do we persist in making these unnecessary mountains? Human nature of course! We find ways to pile on dirt (self-doubt, emotion, past experiences, fears, etc.), until we suddenly find ourselves facing a mountain that seems impossible. But, is it really?
My mom recently started working on puzzles, completing a few lent by friends. I’m not a puzzle guy and am definitely not patient, so they seemed complicated to me. But Mom has been enjoying her newfound hobby, along with painting and knitting, and asked if my friends had another puzzle she could borrow. When I asked, the response was how big (number of pieces) the puzzle should be. My mom said the more complicated, the better. Good for her! I relayed the message and was given a wooden puzzle with types of pieces I had never seen before. It was a puzzle within a puzzle, consisting of an inner picture and an outer border. Since the border was nearly all the same color, I thought the puzzle was difficult. Mom confirmed my thoughts. Her first comment was, “this is impossible and seems complicated, I can’t do it.” I reminded her that is what she asked for, complicated. She opened the box, saw the pieces, made a similar comment, and pushed it aside. But, not taking defeat easily, Mom opened the box again and started to work on the puzzle. Good for her!! It took her a few days of staring at that mountain,but then she got past it by simply walking around the mountain and getting started. The simple act of opening the box, sorting the pieces and making progress kept her going. She’s not done yet, but the puzzle no longer feels like the impossible obstacle it once was. She converted her mountain back to where it belonged: a molehill.
Years ago, I worked with someone who complained about how hard and impossible everything was. No matter the assignment, the default starting point was that it could not be done. This person spent a lot of energy building up the work in their minds before they even started, and as a result of creating these “mountains”, they could not start. Most times, someone had to help them get started before they were able to see the way forward. Almost every time, once they started, they completed the work without issue and it was done well. I finally found a way to help them past the “mountain”. Each time they went down the rabbit hole (oops wrong metaphor!) or started shoveling to build a mountain out of their concerns, I asked a simple question: how do you know? Or sometimes, I just asked “why”? Somehow this helped redirect them to get started and once they did, they dug into the work and completed it without issues.
Why do we turn our molehills into mountains without even trying? Instead of spending our energy and imagination thinking of the reasons something can’t be done; why not just get started and see how far we get? In most cases, I guarantee we will find we have finished the task without any problems at all!!
“Don’t think too much. You will create a problem that wasn’t even there.” – Unknown
What mountains will you turn into molehills?
Have a great weekend.