Have you ever worked towards a big lofty dream, and suddenly found yourself discouraged, dismayed and disappointed? Being in that uncomfortable space thinking, "This is never going to happen. I am failing and can't imagine reaching my goals. I might as well give up."
Much has been written about the difference between success and failure. Napoleon Hill said, "Most great people have achieved the greatest success just one step beyond failure." Confucius stated, "Greatness is not achieved by never falling but by rising each time we fall." And Donald Trump claims, "Sheer persistence is the difference between success and failure."
Whether you are working on losing weight, switching careers, or writing your first novel, it is unlikely that there won't be moments when you feel like giving up. Feeling discouraged can overwhelm us, cause our self-esteem to plummet, and leave us immobile. We battle between letting go of the idea or plowing forward.
So if you really aren't ready to throw in the towel on your hopes and dreams, how can we defeat discouragement before it defeats us? After a decade on coaching clients towards varied goals and visions, I've determined the following seven steps to walk through discouragement and back into forward motion.
1. Sometimes you just need to take a break. If you have been working really hard and consistently towards your goals, and it feels like for every one step forward you are taking two steps back, it's time to take a break. Be it a day off, a long weekend away, or a mini-vacation, plan something fun and relaxing. Do something refreshing and rejuvenating that has absolutely nothing to do with your goals. Giving yourself a mental break from thinking about it, and the physical break from working on it, will give you a renewed energy, determination and direction.
2. Revisit your vision and motivators. When you first decided to go after this dream, what did success look like for you? Does that picture still fill you with passion and desire? Make a list of all the reasons you want to achieve this goal, and keep asking yourself, "Why does this really matter to me? How would I feel if I decide to give up now?"
3. Reach out for support. Whether it's your mom, best friend, or business associate, share your doubts with your greatest cheerleaders. Talk with the people you know will encourage you, be honest with you, and look at your situation with fresh eyes. Consider working with a mentor or coach who is an expert in the arena you are hoping to enter.
4. Review your past accomplishments and search for a common thread. Was there a time in your past when you faced a similar challenge, struggled but somehow overcame obstacles, and reached success? What helped you back then? What personal strengths and talents did you call on that helped you succeed? How might you apply those attributes now?
5. Stop comparing yourself to others who have already achieved what it is you want. Yes, it is smart to learn from others. When possible, pick the brains of those you admire who are living the dream, and ask how they accomplished their success. But let go of jealousy, or self-berating thoughts. Everyone's journey and timetable are different. Along with persistence, you must cultivate patience, and an appreciation for every step you have already taken.
6. Think outside the box. Spend time brainstorming. What haven't you tried yet? No matter how crazy the idea may seem, experimenting with new and different ways is better than trying the same old thing that's not working or worse yet, trying nothing at all.
7. Take action. Now that you've renewed your enthusiasm, and come up with some new ideas, get back into motion and stay there. Every morning ask yourself, "What is the one step I can take today that will bring me closer to my dream?" Plan it and do it!