We all have these days when we start questioning if the road we’re going down on is really the right one. Maybe we’re stuck in a never-ending project. Maybe we feel like we hit a dead end. Or maybe we’re frustrated that some things don’t go the way we expected. It’s things like these that can sometimes bring us dangerously close to wanting to give up on everything and just retreat to a deserted island.
Whenever that happens, take a step back and go through this checklist:
1. Remember why you chose to do what you do
Think about the moment you realized that this is what you want to do for the rest of your life. Recall exactly how that made you feel: the enthusiasm, the impatience to start your journey, the joy with which you shared your dream with your close ones. Go through your old notes, re-read the first emails you ever sent, reopen those silly diagrams you strived to create for your first project and remember how much effort you put into shaping your skills.
Now notice how much you’ve evolved, how much you’ve learned, how many people you’ve met and how good you’ve become at what you do. Look at yourself today and remember you wouldn’t have gotten this far if it wasn’t for the you back then.
2. Take a short break from everything
Sometimes we can reach the breaking point just because we hit a level of exhaustion we failed to see coming. The (unfortunately) famous burnout is the #1 responsible for our discouragement, and that’s exactly when we should stop pushing ourselves over the limit.
The short-term cure for this – but very effective nevertheless – is to get away from all that noise and just do something for yourself. Put that laptop away, switch off your phone, pick a random destination (it’s quite important not to overthink the details) and run! Take 2–3 days off to sleep, walk, read, breathe, take pictures, eat good food and laugh.
3. Listen to other people’s stories
Chances are the blockage will go away soon enough, but it’s easier to overcome a tough moment if you don’t fight it alone. Look around for the people you admire the most and grab some inspiration from them. Ask them about the biggest challenges they’ve encountered along the way and find out how they managed to deal with them.
You’ll notice that success never comes easy for anyone, and even the strongest of people went through some hard times before reaching prosperity. Keep in mind that this is just a phase and it will get better and you will become one of the people that others look up to.
4. Share your knowledge
This is one of the most rewarding and motivating things one professional could experiment. It’s both a great opportunity to help other people thrive and also a good occasion for you to measure your evolution.
Find the best ways to share your knowledge and get out there to spread the wisdom. Hold presentations, become a public speaker, run training sessions or even have individual talks with people from your area of interest. Expose yourself to as many possible situations that give you the chance to use your experience in a productive manner. Whatever the method, it’s always satisfying to know that you are a role model for some and that you made a difference in other people’s lives.
5. Learn from your mistakes and move on
You know what they say: sometimes you win, sometimes you ̶l̶o̶s̶e learn. You need to run objective retrospectives on your activity and figure out what areas can be improved. Analyze every process, make a list of what went well and what didn’t and don’t look back.
Always keep in mind that progress comes with experience, and experience is an accumulation of DOs and DON’Ts. So don’t get stuck in a momentary fail, but rather use it to develop new strategies to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Just make sure you actually try everything before saying you’ve tried it all.
6. Celebrate the small victories
This one is particularly difficult because we are goal-driven animals that don’t stop running until they’ve reached the final target. And by doing so, we miss taking joy in completing small everyday tasks. We stress out so badly about meeting our deadlines that we often (if not always) forget to take pride in the multitude of actions that got us there.
So take the time to enjoy every step forward. Gather your team, congratulate each other — and yourselves — and go out to celebrate your work over a drink (or a chocolate cake, whatever you find most rewarding 🙂 ). Treat your progress with appreciation and respect because, in the end, it’s the small achievements that lead to great results.
And last but not least, try taking “I have to” out of your vocabulary. It puts unnecessary pressure on you, making you feel like there’s an imaginary axe constantly hanging over your head. Relax, find the fun in every activity and remember you’re doing it because you want to, because you’re good at it and because it’s worthwhile. Good luck!