Overwhelmed by Starfish

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Editor's Note: At the Spark Your Life Convention in Cincinnati this fall, we were lucky enough to hear from a panel of talented, inspiring and successful members. One member in particular stole our hearts. The video of her story, along with some of her best one-liners can be found here. She wanted to share this essay.

by Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)

So many times I’ve started the new year with hope and aspirations to really change my life for good this year. All it is going to take is some willpower and a can-do attitude until I’m on top of the world. It’s maybe a few weeks or months until I realize that a life overhaul is very strenuous and takes more energy than I can afford with the rest of life banging on the door. Family and job take priority and soon I find myself slacking on exercise and recharging my batteries on vending machine fare. Career, family, dealing with life and emotions all take over my best laid plans. I know I have to do something. So, sometimes… most times, I’ve done nothing.

What if it were hot and dry, and water were scarce? If I set a bowl outside, it would collect water from eventual rain. That bowl would be filled--it would be filled by lots of tiny raindrops. Raindrops are pretty small things, but they could make a big impact on someone’s thirst if collected.

The question is: “Do I want to set my bowl outside?”

With health and fitness, a little goes a long way. Studies have shown that losing just 10% of your body weight vastly improves your health and chances of avoiding diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. Maybe you aren’t at the stage where you can stick to a particular calorie range, but you might be able to eat smaller meals through the day and do so off of smaller plates. If you are disabled, maybe you can’t do traditional exercise, but get creative and find things you can do. The trick is to move any way you can. Your doctor might even prescribe in-home physical therapy. That’s how I got started. Studies also show that small amounts of exercise throughout the day are as effective as the equivalent time in one session.

Doing nothing because I can only do a little is very unfulfilling. The quote “You can’t save the world, but you can help those around you” hit home with me. I may not be able to do everything, but I can do something.

Quick story: A little girl is hurrying along picking up starfish that have washed up on the beach. A passer-by observes her throwing them back into the water one after another. He asks her why she is bothering, reasoning to her that there are so many that it won’t make any difference. The little girl tells him “To the one I throw back, it makes all the difference.”

When life seems to overwhelm you, what makes the difference to you?

Beth Donovan lives in Indianapolis and has lost more than 110 pounds using SparkPeople.com during her two years on the site. She has gone from being immobile to using a wheelchair to using a walker, which she calls "Freedom."

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When life seems overwhelming to me the things that make a difference in my life are my children. Reading inspiring blogs like the ones you write can also have a profound impact so please do keep writing as I look forward to reading each and everyone. Thank you for posting the link to all your blogs which I'm going through now. Think I got them all for 2010. Report
Very inspiring with some very good thoughts. I am going to get up and get started on my exercise. Report
I started to exercise for health reasons. Now i exercise because it has become a habit and i feel like i'm missing something whenever i don't exercise. Sounds like you had an awesome trip, would love to go on a hiking trip someday. Report
I lived in Indianapolis in 1973 and loved it there. I lived on 76th street and worked at Chrysler down in Speedway. Love HOOSIERS. Report
Congrats Beth.
Great story! Report
When I first started going to the gym ten years ago, I thought if I couldn't do a two hour workout, then what's the point of going. Now I realize no matter what I do is better than nothing.
Thanks for the great post. Report
Thanks for the starfish story. I've found myself not bothering with some things b/c I didn't feel I could do enough to be worth it. I'll have to remember this next time. Though, part of my problem is that I do too many little things and end up not having time to do any big things. Or worse, I do little things that help others, but then don't leave enough time to do little things for myself. I think the trick is to prioritize, which is something I've designated as one of my goals this year -- to spend less time doing little things for others and more time doing things (both little and big) for me and my family. Not that I won't help others at all, I just need to make sure I take care of me & my goals & dreams first. Then I'll be in a better position to help others later. Report
Wow! Loved this blog! I have tons to do today but I will start my exercise program todaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay. I want a bathtub full of raindrops and an ocean full of stafish after this one! Thanks ~INDYGIRL!! Report
This moved me so deep down in my Soul. Thanks. Yeah....I am changing and I am having to reschedule my priorities and have losses from it....and even my many groups that once supported me are not working.....I need peace with putting my self first...and that comes from "just doing it", right?
Thanks for your honesty.
mydaughtersmom Report
This was what I needed. I liked the raindrop thought of a little adds up to a lot. Thank you. Report
Wow, I really needed to read this today. I always start out all gung ho and then fizzle out later because I've done too much too soon. Thanks for the reminder to take small steps. I believe I will get there. Report
I had the ability to be at the spark convention where Beth also touched my life. I love this post b/c its so true, I go all out the first few months then life slams my door shut with all these to do which have to be done and I walk away from my progress. I have now learned to focus one major change at a time until its a habit and it feels natural and not such an effort. Thanks beth for this great insight. Keep it up! Report
I try to live my life this way - a little bit makes a difference. I have now been motivated to continue and to continue working over the weight loss hurdles. Report
Great blog! I took up Powerlifting briefly and at my gym they had a class of competitor called Differently Abled. There were paraplegics who competed and I'd watch them enviously as they easily bench pressed 100 kilos no problem. Same with those with mental disabilities, who could Deadlift and Squat even heavier. Report
Wonderful blog. That is exactly the way I have been feeling lately. I think I will set my bowl out and see what happens. Report
Hi Beth! I just joined this site today and already love it! Loved your story so much-congratulations on your success! and thank you so much for the motivation!( I live in Indiana too but closer to Louisville). "See" you on here! Report
Great writing, as always, Beth! Glad to call you my Sparkfriend. Report
very good story! it does make sense, the small decisions we make every day can add up to a huge outcome. Report
Great story thanks Report
Incredible story, thanks for sharing!! :-) Report
Thank you! Report
Incredible and inspiring....thank you so much.... Report
A friend told me this starfish story when I was frustrated at only being able to save one pup out of a litter of pups who were all worthy of good homes. I never thought about it as applying to weight loss, but I can see now where this attitude can apply to lots of areas of our lives. How we perceive our limitations and challenges and adjust our attitudes is so, so important. Thanks again, Indygirl. Report
Very well said! Kudos and congrats on your 110-pound weight loss. Way to go!! Report
Very inspirational! Two of my favorite mottos are:
Don't concentrae on what you can't do. Instead, focus on what you can"
"Something is better than nothing." Report
WOW - this got me "sparked" for my morning exercise. Thank you so much for sharing such an inspiring story of strengthand perseverance! Report
Very good story. It is so true- I found that being overwhelmed in Jan. led me to doing the exact opposite of what I wanted to accomplish. This blog was right on time for me. Thank you! Report
My daughter is a vegetarian since childhood because she doesn't want animals to get killed. When she gets the question ''why are you doing this since so many fish are caught and sold in the market'' she answers '' I will save this one fish that I will not eat''.

Uhura Report
This hits home. Not only for taking care of yourself, but taking care of each other and the Earth. Every little thing we do to help, HELPS. And not just ourselves!!! Report
It's so fitting that I would read this today. I've been going through a lot of *stuff* in recent months and this month in particular has been very difficult. And because it has been stressful, I've reverted to old coping ways and feeling awful about myself in the process.
"Doing nothing because I can only do a little is very unfulfilling"-- wow, what a thought-provoking concept this is. I re-read it numerous times until it really sunk in. This really hit home.

Such a terrific post this is. Indygirl has been inspiring since Day 1!! Report
Great attitude! Also love the starfish story Report
Have always liked starfish and your story has given me an idea. It is kinda of the reverse of the star chart we had in school as kids. I'm going to print a picture of a beach and place starfish on it. As I lose the pounds a starfish will be saved - regaining their health. Likewise I will be regaining my health.

Thank you so much for sharing. Report
Wow, Beth, what timing. I really needed this today. I've been struggling with a lot of "stuff" this week. I was just thinking that another work week starts tomorrow and I'm not in a very good place psychologically right now. Your blog has helped. Thank you. Report
Congratulations on a job WELL DONE! Report
Totally agree with your blog. I feel relieved that someone else is or has experienced similiar thoughts, feeling and repeated patterns. Thank you so much Report
What a wonderful perspective - both parts of this story, the bowl of water and the starfish, show how small amounts and 1 element at a time, can make a difference.
Thank you Report
Nicely written. It helps put things in perspective. I will remember the drops of rain in a bowl. Great journeys are taken by small steps. Thank you!!! Report
Wow! What wonderful milestones; it just shows how determined she was to take control. Truly inspirational. Report
Thanks for sharing, keep up the good work. Report
Thanks for sharing. I'm have been motivated in the beginning of wanting to make changes, and then I let myself become overwhelmed with the responsibilities of life, and I give up. I want instant results. I love your story and how you used the starfish story to stress a point. Little changes add up and will make a difference. Your story is definitetly a keeper and something I will read on days I need inspirarion. Report
Reminds me of the movie, "Traffic". One of the main points of that movie was, "You may not be able to win the war on drugs in this world, but you can win it in your home." Thanks for the inspiration!

Start somewhere, end big! Report
Wow... That is an awesome and inspiring story. I have never really thought in terms of small drops or that one star fish. I am new to sparkspeople and your essay has made an impact on me. Thank you. Report
Congratulations. You are doing great. It was a very inspirational blog as well. Keep up the good work. Report
This story makes me feel as though I have been taking too much for granted . I always thank God for the health I have - the ability to walk and run , see and hear and everything else . But , now that I have "extra" weight on I am putting all of that, and more, at risk - diabetes , heart attack , walking . That should be motivation enough. The analogy to the stafish certainly makes me think a lot more about why not stick with it. Thanks Report
I loved this article, it was so inspiring to me, great job on the weight loss. Report
Very Inspirational and I enjoyed reading and these things keep me motivated! I try not to get overwhelmed by next week or next month and take it day by day now too! congrats on the weight loss hopefully I can reach my goals too! :) Report
I couldnt agree with you more, all the things that need to get done in a day, house work, family, and work. Its not always easy to fit in a work out or to prepare a healthy meal, then what happens... you buy food out and miss your work out, either because of time restraints or feeling too tired, I'm glad I'm not alone in this,I dont want to use it as an excuse thats what i fear. Congrats on your weight loss, its a great accomplishment!! Report
Thank you for sharing your story! You are such an inspiration! Report
Congrats! Keep it going.

Congrats on the weight loss! Thank you for sharing such an inspirational story! Report
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