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How To Stay Motivated In The Face Of Crushing Failure

You know when you have those weeks where everything seems to go right. You’re cruising, getting shit done, ticking off boxes, feeling in control.

And then you have those weeks where nothing seems to go right. For every step forward you seem to take two back. Things you thought would be easy turn out to be majorly difficult. And you’re left wondering if all the effort is worth the goal at the end.

Any goal worth going after is going to have some setbacks. In fact, if you don’t experience failure it’s probably because your goals aren’t ambitious enough.

Michael Jordan famously recounted the key to his success in this oft mentioned quote:

“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan

And yet, when you’re bogged down in the day-to-day, it can be hard to gather up the motivation you need to keep going. In those moments, return to this post and try our ideas to help you move forward.

Move. Just move.

The crushing weight of stress, overwhelm and feelings of inadequacy can literally pin you to the couch or desk. Moving, getting up and just walking around can help shed those feelings and give you a much-needed endorphin boost.

Put on your shoes and head outside, if only to walk around the block or to the shops and back. Once you get going, you may want to go further. But even just five minutes away from the source of your stress can give you the perspective you need to approach things from a new angle.

Focus on the smallest task

Have a major assignment due in 24 hours and you’ve barely cracked open your reading material? The stress of a big task can cause our minds to spiral and look for an easy way out – like Netflix, Facebook or eating a massive chocolate bar.

When you’re overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of a task, focus on only the smallest thing you can do next. It doesn’t have to be the “right” thing. Just one thing you can do to move yourself forward.

If it’s a massive assignment, task yourself with reading just one article related to the topic. Or highlighting just one page of text. Or finding just one source you want to quote. Once you’ve started, it’ll be much easier to keep going.

Focus on what’s going right

In his book Smarter, Faster, Better, Charles Duhigg tells of 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447 where the pilots failed to right the plane because they were so overwhelmed by the data being spat out that they couldn’t identify what was really happening. Even in the final moments, as the plane nosedived towards the Atlantic ocean, the pilots failed to correctly diagnose the problem. As it was, 228 people perished as the result of a massive brain freeze.

When we get overwhelmed we have a tendency to tunnel-down and focus on only the most immediate bits of information. The problem with this approach is when we react too soon and fail to see the bigger picture.

In situations when you’re overwhelmed, take a moment to stop and consider the situation. If you’re at work, excuse yourself and step outside or head to the break room. Pause. Breathe. Then examine the facts and decide on the best course of action.

Write down your achievements

There’s an old hiking trick that goes: when you stop to rest, sit so you’re facing back down the mountain rather than looking up to where you still need to climb. The sense of accomplishment you get from seeing how far you’ve walked will give you the energy you need to keep going.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything on your list or the goals you want to achieve, take a moment to write down everything you’ve already achieved that day/week/month/year. Seeing those achievements written down – no matter how small – will give you a momentum to tackle the things on your list.


Nell Casey is a small business copywriter and content creator for creative brands building a presence online. She's constantly on the hunt for the best way to #getshitdone in less time. Find her on Instagram @nellcasey_creative

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