A lot of the things I do in my free time (and in my job) are overwhelming when I look at them superficially. I have a 4′ × 5′ canvas buried in my closet, a painting of my wife and I that I wanted to do for my mother-in-law, and it’s been sitting there for 3 years because it’s so overwhelming. Last year I joined NaNoWriMo because I’ve had (and recorded) a few dreams I’d like to try writing a story around. I immediately quit after realizing I have no idea how to extend a scene into a full length novel. Even at work, I had to learn how to configure a software package using a programming language I didn’t know in a programming paradigm I’ve never worked in. It felt hopeless when I first started.
I’m in the middle of an art project where I do art every day for a year". Several times I’ve felt the same about this project as I have about the stuff above. Every time I stuck to it though, because the project is about daily progress more than it is about results. Every time I found a small crack where I felt I could get a handle on the situation and where I started to see the results I wanted. I used that small glimmer of hope to persevere through, built on top of what got me there, and blew the whole thing wide open.
The same thing happened at work. Every time I thought I knew what was going on I’d try something and it would blow up. I felt that I would never get a hold of this task. Until I tried something and it stuck – it was doing exactly what I wanted it to do, meaning my understanding of the situation was correct. I used that understanding to try more things and as I worked through, I finally figured it out.
When you’re faced with a task or goal that seems almost unachievable, find the quickest, smallest win you can. Find the crack in the armor and then use that momentum to do it again, and again, and again. Eventually you’ll crack the problem and get to where you want to do.