Are you feeling defeated? This post was written by Marc and Angel Chernoff and has been republished with permission.
This morning, I didn’t feel like doing anything. It’s a combination of exhaustion from a few days of hard work, and a lack of sleep with a sick toddler in the house. I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything important, which is a rare occurrence for me. I just felt completely discouraged and defeated. I started overthinking things and doubting myself, and wondering whether anything I do is worthwhile.
I sat there in this funk for nearly an hour and wondered how to get out of it. Should I just forget about today? Should I just give up on this project, because I’m not as good at it as I thought I was?
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That’s what I was considering, at least for a little while. But the better part of me knew this mild state of depression was temporary, and so I dug into my own intellectual toolbox for solutions—little tricks of the mind that can have a real effect on reality.
Here are four things to keep in mind (and do) when you feel discouraged and defeated.
You are not the center of the universe (stop making it all about YOU). I think we all have the tendency to put ourselves at the center of the universe, and see everything from the viewpoint of how it affects us. But this can have all kinds of adverse effects, from feeling sorry for ourselves when things aren’t going exactly as planned, to doubting ourselves when we aren’t perfect. So this morning, instead of worrying so much about myself, I thought about other people I might help. Finding little ways to help others gets me out of my self-centered thinking, and then I’m not wallowing in self-pity anymore; I’m starting to think about what others need. I’m not doubting myself, because the question of whether I’m good enough or not is no longer the central question. The central question now is about what others need. Thus, thinking about others instead of myself helps me move forward.
You are more than one thing (loosen up and stretch your identity). We all have this picture in our minds of ourselves—this idea of what kind of person we are. When this idea gets threatened, we react defensively. People may question whether we did a good job, and this threatens our idea of being a competent person, so we become angry or hurt by the criticism. Someone falsely accuses us of something, and this threatens our idea that we’re a good person, and so we get angry and argumentative. When I wasn’t productive, it made me feel defeated because I began subconsciously worrying that I wasn’t who I thought I was. My solution was to realize that I’m not just one thing. I’m not always productive—sometimes I am, but sometimes I’m unproductive, too. I’m not always motivated—sometimes I am, but other times I’m feeling lazy. And obviously I don’t always have great ideas either—because that’s impossible. The truth is, I can be many things, and remembering this helps me stretch my identity so it isn’t so fragile. Then it doesn’t matter if someone thinks I didn’t do a good job—because I don’t always do a good job. I make mistakes. I am less than perfect. And that’s perfectly okay.
Today is still a priceless gift (make the best of it). I only have so many days left on Earth. I don’t know how many that is, but I do know it’s a very limited number. I know that each one of those limited days is a gift, a blessing… a miracle. And that squandering this miracle is a crime—a horrible lack of appreciation for what I’ve been given. And so, I reminded myself this morning that this day counts and that I still need to make the best of it. That doesn’t mean I need to be hyper-productive or work myself into the ground, but that I should do something worthwhile. Sometimes taking a break to nourish yourself is a worthwhile activity, because doing so allows you to regroup and do other worthwhile things. But just sitting around in self-pity isn’t helpful. So I got up and took my young son for a little walk that we both enjoyed, and I came back feeling better (and so did he).
Even the tiniest possible step is progress (take that tiny step). It can be hard to get moving when you are seriously stuck. This is how I felt a decade ago when I was stuck in a rut after simultaneously losing my breadwinning job and two loved ones to illness. It was really hard to motivate myself when I didn’t think I had the strength to push forward—when I felt insanely horrible and sorry for myself. But I took one tiny step every day, and it felt good, and I got stronger. That’s what I did this morning too—I took the tiniest possible step. Just turning on my computer, opening up a document, and writing a single sentence. Such an action is so small as to seem insignificant, and yet so easy as to be possible when I was feeling defeated. And it showed me the next step was possible, and the next.
Yes, I’m still feeling out of it, but not defeated. I’m feeling stronger, because I took these steps. I know some of you feel the same way from time to time, maybe more often than you’d like to admit. That’s okay; we all do. We aren’t machines, constantly charged up and ready to fire on all cylinders. We are human, which means we falter, we doubt ourselves, and we feel pain sometimes.
This too shall pass.
Marc and Angel Chernoff are professional life coaches who enjoy sharing inspirational advice and practical tips for life on their popular personal development blog Marc and Angel Hack Life. Their first book, "1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently," is a collection of tips and reflections on the little things that make a huge difference in our daily lives. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.