No matter what path you’re on, you’ll find there’s always bumps in the road. With all my greatest intentions and goals, sometimes things just come to a standstill. Frustrations and setbacks make it hard to shake off that feeling of failure… our brain knows when something’s not right making it challenging to regain momentum. There are a few things we can do to get us back on track and moving again. Yes, you can teach old dogs new tricks!
Success is never a straight path
Think of your dream as the destination and your goals are the steps along the way. We create a plan of how to get to each goal with tasks. The road we drive on is life itself.
There’s always more than one way to get there
Sometimes while on the road, I come across hairpin turns that I have to take slowly. When I get to the straightways, I can catch up on lost time. If there’s traffic up ahead, I need to step on the brake and slow down to avoid losing control and crashing. When there’s an accident or the bridge is out, I need to take a detour and find another way to get there.
Slowdowns or detours should not be considered missed opportunities or setbacks. Take the time to see the big picture and decide if you need to take a different road. It’s not about falling behind or not moving quickly enough. Slowing down and being cautious is better than getting into a crash.
But what happens when you do crash?
The bumps in the road test our determination. Sometimes a crash might have you really reconsidering that goal. Before the move, I was a fashion designer. I love designing, but there are prices our lives pay for being in the industry. When I couldn’t get a job in California, I took it as a sign to step back from fashion.
Things happen in life. We had to start over. We could have been better prepared for the coming crash and done things differently, but the global financial crisis of 2007 happened so quickly. It’s taken quite a few years to get us back on track.
2020 was unique. No one could see any of it coming. In one day because of COVID-19, we were all at home trying to manage changes over night. We have been able to minimize the issues that have come up and handle things better. I’ve learned to slow down, keep my eyes on the road ahead, while carefully maneuvering around the pitfalls of 2020. I know it’s far from over. We have to stay vigilant.
What keeps us from getting back on the road?
When we’re faced with threats, our brain goes in to fight-or-flight mode. This is how we deal with stress or danger, real or imagined.
When faced with a situation or feeling where our brain feels like we’re under attack, or there’s a threat to survival, we instinctively run away or avoid these situations. Once the brain feels we’re no longer in danger, there’s a feeling of relief. But to keep us safe from the same situation, our brain increases our level of anxiety for the next time and we get stuck in that anxiety cycle unable to face our fears.
We can get fearful or anxious from a big event or a buildup of smaller stressful life situations. Maybe there was a death in the family, work or school stress, fears about money and paying your bills. When we don’t face our fears and deal with our anxiety, it continues to build and can stop you from getting things done.
So how do we regain momentum and motivation?
Take a step back and evaluate the process.
Find the gaps in your thinking and figure out a better way. This may mean you will need to redirect, but it will be worth it.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m too close to the picture… I liken it to an artist who’s been working on a painting for a while. They’re so into the details, they lose sight of the bigger picture… without stepping back to take that larger view, the image can get distorted and much different than what you as the artist intended. Sometimes that’s okay. Sometimes it works out into something you would have never expected that’s even better. But when you have something very specific in mind, it’s time to gain a broader perspective.
If necessary, work on something else.
Take a break. The brain is a muscle and focusing on one task over an extended period of time can cause cognitive overload. This can come from spreading your attention over too many things (guilty here). Maybe you’re hyper focused and stressed with just one task, which is even worse, because just thinking about it is as mentally taxing as actually doing it. Just the act of procrastination is taxing your brain!
I remember all those times I thought I was a driven professional, continuously working late into the night until I dropped. With young kids and household responsibilities, it’s just not sustainable. We have to take breaks. Pushing to the point of mental fatigue doesn’t give your brain a chance to rest and reset.
Prepare your mind, values and goals.
We need to see the bigger picture. Do we really want this? What is our true goal? Your goal should have a solid “why” behind it that is just for you and no one else. Really consider your values and make your intentions clear. This helps to redefine your goals.
Sometimes when we get anxious over things, it’s our brain telling us something needs to change. Reevaluating our values give us the choice to make one small change to do something better. When we take time to explore how we’re feeling, we give ourselves the power to resolve the problem so we can take action and start moving again.
Reevaluate your environment.
Is life getting in the way? Are there too many disruptions? Even the little things can become micro threats in our environment. Traffic, being late, noise, assignments, deadlines, or just taking on too much all at once.
We end up feeling anxious but can’t always pinpoint what’s causing it. It can make us restless, jumpy, irritable and easily triggered. It can make you feel sick with head aches, stomach aches, and generally feeling overwhelmed.
Are we surrounding ourselves with the people and things that can help us be successful? One of the best ways to get over these feelings is to write out our thoughts, say it out loud, share them with family or a trusted friend. Beyond encouragement from family and friends, you might consider finding a community of like-minded people. Maybe seek out a mentor or coach.
Use your habits to drive actions.
When you really have to push through, breaking your big tasks down into mini tasks helps you progress. Consider it like riding a bike. On a straight flat path, you can put the bike in a higher gear and get where you need to go faster. But as the path goes uphill, you’ll find it’s harder to stay in that higher gear… you can stand and push, but at a certain incline you just can’t push with that higher gear… so, we downshift to make things easier. Means you’ll have a smaller gear, it will take a lot more rotations, but the effort is much smaller and easier.
Small consistent daily actions built into your day as a habit can help you regain momentum. Breaking your big tasks into small steps makes them doable. Celebrate and keep track of your daily wins to prove you are capable of achievement.
Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going– Jim Ryun
Pay attention and keep your eyes on the road.
Everything in life requires attention. Even when we think things are going well, the minute we stop, so does our progress. We have to tune into ourselves and what we’re feeling.
I could lose weight by watching what I eat, but the minute I stop, I’ll gain the weight back. It has to be a permanent lifestyle change. This applies to anything in life – money, relationships, business, health… If we want to have a great marriage, we have to intentionally spend time with our spouse. Truly listen to our spouse and give them attention. Life is all about giving attention to things that matter.
Setting a new path
I’ve come to realize life is not a race to the finish to see who’s the fastest, strongest, or best. It’s my personal journey where I get to take my time, see the sights around me, and stop for rest breaks. If necessary, we can take a detour.
I look for the signs, slow down and watch out for danger. When the coast is clear, I can regain momentum. I have a map and I know where I want to go, but there’s more than one way to get there.
What are you working on? What challenges are you facing? Let’s stick together and we can reach our goals together!