It’s finally December in a year that seems to have halted in March. Even in good years it’s hard to stay focused and disciplined, so it goes without saying that you probably feel a little burned out by now. I know I do. The normal stress of running a household, working, and raising kids is compounded by additional worries about supply runs and invisible pathogens. Instead of giving up and crawling into a hole to wait until “normal” life resumes, here are some things you can do to help you stay determined when you feel defeated.
1. Find what motivates you
It is really difficult to keep trudging through shit if you don’t know why you are doing it. Ask yourself what really motivates you to get up in the morning. Is it showing up for your kids? Do you have a passion for something you love? Are you helping your community?
I stopped writing for almost 10 years because I felt utterly defeated. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and the more I read, the more incompetent I felt. “No one would ever be interested in reading what I have to say,” I thought. I really had to sit myself down and ask why I stopped. Was it the fear of rejection? Was I ready to give up forever because I thought people might not be interested? Going through those questions made me realize how sad I felt at not even really giving this dream a chance to take flight.
2. Seek out your tribe
It is hard to have the stamina to keep going down a tough road alone. Friends make the journey so much more enjoyable. Who are the people you lean on when you’re deflated and out of gas? The people who will listen to you wallow in self-pity for a bit then snap you out of it. It might be your childhood best friend you’ve been sharing secrets with under camp sheets by lantern light or someone you met on social media. Think about all the people who root for you and cheer for you, even from afar! Support is so important, and the individuals who give it freely and abundantly are worth cherishing.
I struggled a lot with this because people I thought would be excited about my journey (as I was for theirs) didn’t really seem enthused. On the flipside of that, people I didn’t expect to be excited about my writing journey kept building me up and asking me for more things to read, which encouraged me to work harder. This leads perfectly into the next one.
3. Get rid of expectations
When you have expectations, your mood and reaction is based on an external action. When the external action doesn’t conform to your desired outcome, it can make you angry, sad, or a rainbow of emotions. That can be really defeating, especially if you feel like nothing is going your way this week, month, year. (Let’s be real, nothing is going anyone’s way this year.) In order to stay with your goal, you have to get rid of your expectations. It helps if you’ve already figured out what motivates you. If you don’t know yet, find out tout de suite!
Remember, not everything you’re curious about or want to do is going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Sometimes you’ll go to your parents, siblings, or friends to share a grandiose idea, only for them to stare blankly at you. Stop choosing your pursuits based on other people’s reactions. And stop seeking validation from others. It’s soul crushing when they don’t give it.
4. Plan it out
Ever heard the saying “Rome wasn’t built in one day?” Neither will your business or book or weight loss magically happen in one day. Great things take time. And lots of planning. Ooodles. A good way to stay determined is to break up your big goal into little snack sized chunks, small milestones you can check off and feel good about. Looking back at that list should remind you how far you’ve come. Remember, even a little progress daily will become a lot eventually.
5. Be okay letting some things go
Some days you wake up feeling like you’re ready to conquer the world. Other days you wake up only to crawl back under the covers and hide. If you are already feeling like you are drowning, it is time to reassess priority.
Have you ever heard the commencement speech Brian Dyson gave about prioritizing commitments? It goes like this: Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends, and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. I absolutely love this and try really hard to remember it when I’m faced with trivial things that stress me out. The glass balls you label are infinitely more precious and irreplaceable than the rubber one. It’s important that you handle those glass balls with the utmost care. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we work hard so that we can give our family the best, but our efforts are futile if there’s no family around to share in the spoils of our success.
6. Take time to reset
Sometimes feeling defeated just means you need a timeout. It doesn’t mean you have to double down and work harder than ever. It’s okay to take a rest and reset. If you are doing something strenuous like working out, take a few days off for self-care. Get a massage or experiment with meditation and aromatherapy. Give those muscles a break. If you are doing something that is mentally taxing like studying, give your brain a break by reading something for pleasure or watch an amusing television program. Take the time you need to feel rested and refreshed so you can tackle your goal again.
7. Pay it forward
Celebrating someone else can sometimes re-energize our own efforts because our mood is boosted by their joy. Do you know anyone who is in school and taking classes? What about someone who owns their own business? Or anyone who recently tackled a DIY home improvement project? Reach out and ask them how it’s going and give them some encouragement and support! If you follow anyone on social media who is hitting milestones, double-tap and give them that like, write a quick comment, or share! Spreading kindness and joy is totally free to you and doesn’t take a long time but will absolutely make someone else’s day.
Lastly, take a deep breath! Nothing lasts forever, and this too shall pass.