Discouraged? It happens. Even the most strong, optimistic people have bouts of insecurity and disappointment. But don’t give up yet! Success may be just around the corner, and you just need to boost your spirits for the last (and often most difficult) leg of the battle. Here are some ways to reach for your inner strength and get yourself through this bump.
1. Remember what you’re working for.
Ask yourself: Is this problem bigger than my dream? Is this feeling more important than the sense of accomplishment I will later enjoy?
Focus on the goal, and if the dream feels far and almost impossible to reach, do what you can to make it concrete. For example, if you’re struggling with a business, schedule a lunch date with a friend who’s successful entrepreneur. Or, if you’re enduring a stable (but awfully boring) job because you’re saving for a house, drive around and look at your dream homes.
2. Surround yourself with positive people.
It’s natural to vent with other friends—and sometimes, the emotional release can be just the thing you need—but you could be feeding off each other’s negative energy and adding to the feeling that ‘life is crap.’
Spend time with people whose enthusiasm and passion inspire your own. You may have a friend who’s gone through really bad times but has constantly been buoyed up by her faith. Or find a ‘virtual’ friends—inspiring books that tell the story of triumph over tragedy, or an internet community where members offer encouragement and advice culled from their own personal experience. It helps to know that you’re not the only one who’s been through a crisis, and—like them—you’ll survive.
3. Get some perspective.
Problems have a way of looking bigger than they seem. What are you really afraid of? What’s the worst thing that can really happen, and what would you do if that came true? Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill, and if it really is a mountain, there’s always a way to scale it. Confronting your fears head-on reduces their power over you. ‘Hey, I can handle this!’ or ‘It’s not as bad as I thought.’
4. Nourish your physical, emotional and spiritual reserves.
No general would send his troops to war without shields and ammunition. However, many people throw themselves into a project and neglect their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Your discouragement may simply be a symptom of burn-out. You’re so tired (on so many levels!) and your body is screaming for some much needed work-life balance.
Take the delays and problems you have been encountering as a sign to take a break. You can’t do anything about it anyway (that’s why you’re so discouraged) so focus on other areas in your life you may have been neglecting. Take up a sport or a hobby, reconnect with an old friend, read a book that’s completely unrelated to your project. In other words, build up your inner reserves and broaden your mind. You’ll return feeling refreshed, and with a bigger perspective on life.
5. Drop the emotional baggage.
Discouragement may be a sign that you’re investing way too much, emotionally, in a single outcome. We all need a dream, but remember—the dream is not you. Your success should not be the measure of your self-worth, nor should it be a substitute for other more important things in life (like unconditional love).
Sometimes, failure and discouragement are blessings in disguise, forcing us to realize that our goals can give us money but not meaning, and success but not satisfaction. It can also be liberating to lose something and still find that we are…okay. Life did not end. The world is bigger than we thought.
6. Think small.
You may be so focused on the big goals that you’re forgetting to appreciate smaller, everyday victories. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day—and neither did it take just one brick. Celebrate small milestones: securing a new client, setting up your home office, or even accomplishing every item on your day’s to-do list!
Count your blessings, too. Hate your boss? At least you have co-workers you enjoy talking to. Struggling to get your new business off the ground? Thank God your partner’s supportive and helps you out with office tasks. Actively looking for the positive helps keep negative feelings in perspective. You can say, ‘I’m having a tough now, BUT…’ And that ‘but’ is enough to get you through the day, to better times.
7. Treat discouragement as a teacher.
Treat life as one big laboratory experiment. Each failure or setback provides a clue that points you in the right direction. ‘Okay, that didn’t work. Why?’ Analyzing the situation objectively can give you insight, experience and skills that you’d never learn from a textbook. After all, if the path you chose were easy, everybody could do it. The difficulty—and the discouragement you occasionally experience—is the price of having a dream worthy of pursuing.