Does this happen to you? You’re doing something new, pursuing a new goal or change and it feels like NOTHING is working. Here are some ways this has shown up for me:
- I’m pitching or submitting writing all over, but all I hear are crickets in my inbox
- I market myself, but my social following isn’t growing as fast as I want
- I’m working on that book and it feels like I’ll never finish it
- I diet and exercise but haven’t lost weight yet
- I tell my teenagers to do their chores, but feel like I’m just talking into an echo chamber
Meanwhile, you look on your Instagram feed and it seems that everyone else is killing it. This is when I usually get a little punchy.
I’m the type of person who, once she knows what she wants, wants it NOW. Of course, as an grownup I’ve had to learn–usually the hard way–that I have to wait. And sometimes that wait is looooong. Or seems like it, anyway.
Trying something new, whether that’s a diet, pitching a book, eating better, or even pursuing your dreams, is a risk. And risks always bring up resistance.
If we don’t try anything new, we feel safe, comfortable. We know what to expect, even if that’s mediocrity.
When we step out of our comfort zones though, and take a risk, we don’t know what the outcome will be.
And waiting in silence can sometimes feel like failure, or torture.
Our bodies and minds often react to the sometimes slow burn of waiting in predictable ways. But the good news is that recognizing those predictable reactions can be an effective way to begin digging yourself out of the anxiety or despair of waiting.
A few years back, I had a job I hated. Every day I had to prepare myself mentally to survive the day without slapping my boss and telling him what I really thought. Aside from not being treated like a human being, I think the thing that stung the most was that I was working so hard at something that didn’t matter to me. I knew I was capable of so much more; I knew I wanted to do something more meaningful, to help people.
On top of the shitty job, I had a second job in retail, and yet still could only afford to live at my mom’s apartment, sharing a single bedroom with my two kids. Of course I realize that others have it way worse and I don’t claim to own all the pain. But basically, my prior businesses had failed and I was in a very disempowered mental state.
It was a real banner time in my life.
My stress levels were near capacity, so much so that I was practically incapable of figuring out what to do next to get back on my feet.
Funny enough though, on top of all that I had recently decided to commit to pursuing my dream of becoming a writer and speaker.
I figured, heck what else did I have to lose? If I failed at what I thought I should do (being a successful business owner), I might as well fail at what I really wanted to do (be a writer and speaker, inspiring others).
So between two jobs and two kids, I’d carve out 20 minutes each day to do something, anything, even minuscule toward the glimmer of life I wanted to lead.
Each morning I’d pull myself up out of my twin-sized bed, and with a heavy heart, push myself to reframe my mentality.
My mantra usually looked a lot like this: at least you have work, this won’t last forever, there are lessons to learn in this space.
Most of the time, I believed myself. But sometimes when the tendrils of negativity had dug too deep into my soul, I bawled, cursed, and complained, which if I’m honest, helped purge me, too. In any case, I needed reinforcements–I could not rely on myself alone to be positive.
Yet despite the love and support of those closest to me, I knew the only one who could shift this was me. So I had to reinforce my own mindset.
I listened to motivational speeches, books, and seminars on the half hour commute to the job I hated. When I arrived, I’d take a deep breath before I opened my car door. I’d gather my lunch bag, straighten my business casual button-down, and walk, head held as high as possible, past my bosses’ office windows on the way to the front door. I grasped for a happy thought so I could have a smile on my face when I walked through the door to whatever shitstorm of demoralization was in store for me that day.
I’m not very good at faking it. But I clung to those positive messages I’d listened to in the car on the way to work.
I survived that near year of struggle and moved on to better things, but every day was a push and pull of dealing with crap and doing everything I could to stay afloat mentally.
It felt like FOR-EV-ER!
Nowadays, I’m doing the work I feel put on this earth to do and there is a deep well of fulfillment that comes with that, but not always such a deep pocket book. Of course I’m still working hard to attain certain further goals, aka building my Empire of Empowerment. **insert non-evil laugh here**
But sometimes I still grow impatient when results aren’t materializing as fast as I’d like. Sometimes I even get in a panic and wonder if maybe I would be better off if I just had a “normal” life and the security that comes with that.
When I’m smart, I go back to those coping tools I learned the hard way. So, here are some tools that will hopefully help you in your journey.
Weighing the Alternative
As weak sauce as it may sound, the thing that often gets me through a tough waiting period is weighing the alternative. I mean, I could be living a different life–one of predictability and stability, but never get around to writing my books, never help people with their brands, never bring hope to those who’ve had to rise above their circumstances. But I would be miserable.
So as torturous as it is to wait when you’re doing the work and NOTHING is working, it’s still better than not doing what you feel you must.
Listen to Positive People (or People Who’ve Been Through it)
Is that motivation enough, though? Aside from the shadow alternative of not trying, the other thing that gets me through is listening to, or reading, or watching inspiring people.
We can’t always have the perfect mindset, so sometimes we need to rely on someone who’s not in the pit of despair–someone who can throw us a rope of encouragement to help us climb out of our self-imposed misery.
Did you know that for every negative thought or comment you need to counteract it with seventeen positive ones? Negativity is sticky. Positivity is more hard-won, but worth it.
The other thing tendency when you’re trying something new and aren’t getting a response or a reward is to try to figure out what you’re doing wrong so you can quickly change it.
Sometimes this is a valid approach. I mean, we all know the definition of insanity.
Sometimes it is not. More often than not, it takes more time to build this new thing than we realize.
Just because it’s taking time doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong track.
We’re so used to immediate gratification these days, so if we don’t get thousands of followers, or millions in sales, or immediate recognition right now, we think we’re doing something wrong.
Often, we just need to stick with what we’re doing, make minor adjustments, and trust that the Universe will meet us halfway. Either that, or trust that miracles are possible.
One way to decipher whether you need to change your approach or just keep sticking to it is to have a group of trusted, knowledgeable peers (or a mentor), to be honest with you.
It’s not over
I think the most important thing to remember though, is that there is virtue in the work itself, even if the outcome isn’t what you’d hoped for. As cliche as it sounds there is always something to learn. Usually a lot more from the things that didn’t work than the things that did.
Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve had many ventures, ideas, tries and fails. I’ve learned a ton.
Even if you’re trapped in a soul-sucking job, eventually there will be a way out if you keep your eyes open. Even if you’re not seeing results yet from your new workout regime, you will. Even if you’re not hearing back from publications on that essay you’ve been pitching, you will; or you won’t and then maybe you’ll just publish it on your own blog. 😉
We humans always forget that nothing is permanent (well, except death, but until then…). Change is inevitable, so if you’re going through a period of struggle you have to remind yourself it will end.
It’s also important to be realistic and not expect to be the next bestselling author, or Steve Jobs overnight.
Finally, the thing I go back to when I am questioning everything, including whether or not I should press on, is my WHY. I ask myself two questions to determine if I’m feeling like shit because I’m following the wrong path, or if it’s just a bump on the right road:
- Why am I doing this?
- Do I really believe in it?
We can have all of the right tools in place, but if we aren’t sold on the reason we’re wanting to lose weight, or start a business, or build this brand, we likely will not have the follow through. So if your “why” is not good enough, either figure out a better “why” or perhaps it’s time to change routes.
While the first question prompts you to remember your goal, the second question activates your own well-developed bullshit-o-meter.
We often ignore the wisdom we have deep down. Asking ourselves if we really believe in what we’re doing can often reveal clues to whether or not we should keep going.
Here’s a tip: when you ask yourself these questions, pay attention not only to your mental response, but to how your body feels in that moment. Often, our bodies reveal what our minds are sometimes incapable of telling us.
Listen, I know it’s hard to keep walking the path when you can’t see where it will end. There are only a few guarantees in life, and most of them do not ensure that you will be the victor. But one guarantee is change. So if you’re doing the work, things will change. It may not happen according to the timeline you set, but it will come eventually.
I keep going, despite the times where I’d rather curl up in the fetal position and never get out of bed. I remind myself that to think that I wouldn’t be met with challenges when trying something new is just delusional thinking.
I believe that: good things are coming to those who are striving for good.
Finally, one of the best ways to quickly shift your emotional state is through music. So here’s my little gift to you, my own personal badass-good-mood-kick-ass-take-names playlist. I hope it makes you dance toward your vision of success!
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