You had this really great idea. You started on your project with great gusto but as time passes you start to feel deflated.
You just are not getting the results you had been expecting. You are left feeling frustrated, disappointed and flat – your dream project is just not gaining traction and your mindset is negative.
Reading about people who have ‘made it’ accentuates your own lack of progress even further.
You can’t help but wonder if you have been duped by all that smart marketing, the glowing success stories of others and your own misplaced optimism and enthusiasm.
Your well-meaning family and friends had questioned you right from the start. What? Leave your full-time job? Embark on a writing career NOW? Start an internet-based business? (Or whatever other phrase fits here for you). Are you crazy?
Now their voices have become even louder in your head.
You would so love to be one of the success stories. The one who finally made it but right now have lost all your mojo and nothing to show for your courageous decision.
Well – here is the good news:
It is not the end of the road just yet!
You see – here’s the thing. Frustration, doubts, slow results, being deeply, personally challenged and any other mixed bag of feelings you are going through right now are all part of the journey to achieving anything worthwhile.
Think of the achievements of some of your heroes and people who took matters to a whole different level … I’m thinking Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Edison, Kate Sheppard, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs and the list goes on and on.
They all hung in there including in the ‘down times’ with their inner conviction and actions. And you can too!
Here are seven proven points of action, which will increase your chances of success.
1) Keep the dream alive
Keep your vision of what is possible very close to you and remind yourself frequently as to why you started this project. Keep an image, picture, person, symbol or phrase in mind that anchors you back to this.
I had a client once who carried a picture of his vision in his shirt pocket and even slept with this by his bed! Crazy? Maybe but why not if it helps you achieve your dream!
Other ways to keep your dream vividly close to you is to re-visit ‘your big why’ frequently. In other words, what is the big picture and rationale that drove you to pursue your dream in the first place? For example, was it financial freedom, spending more time with your family, honouring your inner call or helping lots of people?
The clearer you can get on your ‘why’ will enable the ‘how’ to follow.
Keep fueling your dream through your intentions and actions every day. Each morning, when you wake up, ask yourself, “What are the three things I am going to do today towards my dream?
Keep your vision alive by sharing with trusted others who are also passionate about their dreams and are on a similar journey.
2) Persistence and grit
We intuitively know that to achieve our goals we do need to be focused, put in the work, keep learning and refining the actions we take. Research by psychologists such as Carol Dweck and Angela Lee Duckworth all attest to this.
Angela Duckworth Psychologist at University of Penn says, “If it’s important for you to become one of the best people in your field, you are going to have to stick with it when it’s hard,” she says. “Grit may be as essential as talent to high accomplishment.”
Carol Dweck’s research in the area of growth mindset shows that even the most basic abilities can be developed through perseverance and hard work.
She suggests framing your current challenge as a learning experience and something that you haven’t mastered ‘just YET!’
So don’t give up prematurely.
You can develop persistence and grit by:
· Seeing the path as a learning journey
· Focusing on and enjoying the process not just the outcome
· Keeping a diary/journal on the project so when you look back you can see how far you have come already
· Having people with whom you can share your frustrations as well as your mini-successes
· Taking a short break and then coming back to the project
· Stretching yourself – doing things just outside your comfort zone.
As Angela Duckworth puts it, “Gritty people do more deliberate practice. They spend time working on really specific goals that are just outside of what they could do yesterday.”
3) Your best creation
We do our best work when there is a confluence of our strengths, passion, interests and values. Check that your project is one that is based on your strengths and what you truly care about, as this will give you the most momentum and satisfaction.
Naturally we can’t all be good at everything so consider farming out and getting help with areas that are not your strength. This will also enable you to avoid getting bogged down and losing steam in your progress.
Sometimes in the pursuit of our end goal, we can forget, minimize or over-ride the pleasure of doing what is intrinsically enjoyable. Positive psychology principles such as savouring these moments and having a sense of gratitude help increase our levels of happiness and well-being.
Stoke these fires and nourish and feed that which is truly meaningful for you.
You could do this by re-visiting your top three to five values and ensuring that your project is in alignment with these.
For example, your value of ‘making a difference to kids struggling at school’ can add to the pleasure you gain from the fact that your project on ‘new learning methods’ is really adding value here.
The value of doing work that is deeply aligned with your core values is PRICELESS!
4) Get feedback
If you are feeling stuck or experiencing low momentum, it might be the time to get some external input and feedback.
Reaching out to experts in the field, peers, coaches or mentors can help provide the extra flush of new and different ideas that can get you energized again.
It can ensure that you are doing the right things not just things right.
Sometimes we all need some course-correction and stretch.
Why not give yourself the benefit of this? Who can you reach out to?
It can be a good idea to frame the feedback you ask for. For example, “What is good about this project?” and “What could I do better?” or “What am I missing?”
Framed this way, you are less likely to perceive the feedback as “negative” and more as useful information to course correct, adapt or pivot!
If you do find yourself getting dis-spirited, that is okay too. It is human to feel disappointed, even depressed but the key is not to stay here too long. Get the momentum going again.
As an entrepreneurial client put it, “Get lemons, make lemonade!”
5) Learning framework
It is easy to lose perspective and a sense of progress that you may be making especially when you hit a lull or set back.
As per Stanford University Professor, Dr. Carol Dweck’s work on fixed versus growth mindset; adopt a growth mindset where challenges are seen as an opportunity for growth and further learning rather than insurmountable failures, which stop us short in our paths.
Notice what is working and what isn’t and refine, adjust or get external help accordingly.
Notice the progress you are making every day, week or month as you learn from any mistakes. Your progress and what is possible then becomes limitless!
You could focus on these three things:
· What went well?
· What didn’t go so well and what can we learn from this?
· Next actions?
6) Manage your expectations
Being forewarned is forearmed. Know that anytime we take on a big step in our lives, all the monster and gremlin voices from our family and cultural conditioning which have plagued us in the past, will come flooding back! And believe me, this time even louder and more pervasive.
Why? Because your dreams are bigger too! In my own case, it was and “Just who do you think you are to be doing xyz?” Other examples can include, “Will this idea work? What if it doesn’t work … failed again!” or “You don’t have a degree and the right credentials to be doing this …” or whatever other conscious or sub-conscious driver that has been running your life to date.
Get to know what your ‘trip-up monster voice’ is likely to be so when it does happen you are not taken by surprise. Instead you can identify this for what it is and then carry on.
Your dreams are worth fighting for!
A common feedback from many entrepreneurs, managers and leaders, I have worked with have repeatedly said that things always took longer than they first anticipated.
So have a re-visit of your expectations and timelines. Get help on your project and go easy on any high expectations and tight deadlines you may have placed on yourself.
Your first prototype may not be the best and failure is also part of the terrain.
But remember the turtle also wins the race!
7) Have fun and take time out
There is not much point to doing anything especially pursuing our dreams and vision, if it isn’t fun!
Sometimes we need to be reminded of this as we roll up our sleeves and get stuck in to do the work.
Teresa Amabile’s book, “The Progress Principles” – Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement and Creativity at Work emphasizes the importance of having a great inner work life including positive emotions more often than not, strong motivations and a favorable perception of work and colleagues.
Having a total break from your project, doing something completely different, even mindless, can leave us feeling refreshed and recharged with the extra bonus of added insights!
How can you find ways to make your project more fun?
Bringing it together
We have seen time and time again, that achieving anything worthwhile takes persistence, effort and time. Results do come but it takes time. As many successful people have said, “My overnight success was really a culmination of many years of hard work before that!” And I do love Steve Job’s, “Fail fast.”
So if you are in the space of slow or poor results, despair not. See it as useful information indicating perhaps that there is a need to re-adjust, course-correct or pivot.
After reading this blog, note which point resonates with you the most?
What actions will you take to re-connect with your dream and advance things forward?
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