Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Categories Management Articles, Personal Growth

Estimated Reading Time 3 Minutes

Do you remember being on the receiving end of this piece of wisdom when you were 16 years old and juggling many competing interests?  Of course it began with “Don’t” when you heard it for the first time.  It was well-intentioned and designed to protect you more from poor performance than anything else.  Did it serve you well then?  Does it deserve to be a habit of thinking for you today?

How We Grow

The first true career I had involved working as an instructor at a fitness club.  It was very interesting and I was able to learn quite a bit about the body and how it can be enhanced through exercise.  One of the fascinating concepts I learned was that to build your muscles, you needed to overload them with resistance to the point of failure.  Literally you had to overwhelm them in order to cause them to grow.

I also learned that our muscles would adapt to the level of resistance applied, and in order to increase strength, we have to continue to progressively increase the workload.

What Do Most People Do?

I found the common pattern among most of the participants was to find an amount of resistance that was challenging, and eventually take pride in how much easier it got as they adapted.  The idea of pushing themselves to higher and higher resistance wasn’t very appealing.  Finding a level where they might have originally been challenged, but now feel successful at, was the common path.

How Does This Relate To You As A Manager?

I see at least two ideas here that as a manager, you should consider.

First, are you pushing yourself?  Are you more interested in comfort or achievement?  What does biting off more than you can chew look like for a manager?  Do you make commitments to goals that are beyond where you previously have been able to accomplish?  Are you willing to push yourself to find out what your current limits are?  Do you buy into the idea of progressive resistance and add more as soon as you are able to comfortably handle your current level?

Second, do you set expectations of your team members for the same?  Do you push them to commit themselves to “the next level”?  Do you challenge them as soon as you see them get comfortable?

The Key to Success

If you believe that success is a journey, not a destination, then you will understand that to progress you need to keep adding more resistance.

I mentioned earlier that when you first heard this wisdom quote it was “don’t bite off more than you can chew.”  I like a different version which goes “bite off more than you can chew, and learn to chew it.”

Transformational Exercise

Give some thought to whether you are seeking comfort or achievement as a manager.  Identify areas where you once challenged yourself to get better, and once you did, you stopped pushing further.  Also consider whether you are helping your team members by pushing them, or if you are allowing them to bask in comfort.

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