— originally written April 18, 2013 for one of my extinct websites —
We all battle discouragement at times. Sometimes it feels like all our effort is going to naught, getting us nowhere fast, or robbing us of our time and energy – for nothing. It may even feel so bad as to make us think we have nothing of any real value in our lives – or within ourselves. At the very least, discouragement causes that “blah!” feeling that seems like an impossible barrier between us and what we are supposed to be doing at the moment.
What causes discouragement?
Fatigue – our mind or body – or even our heart – is exhausted! We have simply pushed it too hard, for too long.
Frustration – our plans seem to be failing, or we are half the way through with them when suddenly we realize we just don’t have what it takes to make it the rest of the way. We are overwhelmed with the possibility of failure.
Distraction – adding to our frustrations, we have seemingly endless distractions – other people and things that demand our time and energy, furthering the possibility that our plans will fail.
Fear – either secretly or openly, we may fear both success and failure. Finishing a project means it will be judged. And judgement of course brings the possibilities of criticism, rejection, or other types of “owning up to” our responsibility for our part in the project. We aren’t so much discouraged about it being done, as that it may never be “over”. There is a huge “unknown” looming on the other side of the finish line — sometimes overwhelming in itself!
So what might help?
Rest – recharge your body, mind, heart, and spirit. Go for a walk, use your senses, do something you truly enjoy, spill your guts to a friend. And above all else, LET GO of your project for the moment!
Reorganize – often when we think we have the path all laid out, events conspire to prevent us from making an unforeseen mistake. The resistance we feel can cause discouragement. Often while we are resting (as above), we catch a glimpse of what might be “off” on the project. Perhaps we are doing the right things — just in the wrong way, or in a less than efficient order. Step back and see what needs to change.
Ask for Help – successful leaders (even parents) do not do everything themselves. They delegate. If part of your discouragement might be coming from trying to do it all, then hang a do-not-disturb sign not only on your door, but on yourself — delegate some of the work on your project and separate that from your other responsibilities. And don’t forget to delegate ANYTHING you can, to others. It is NOT selfish to teach other people to do tasks that they can handle — you not only free up time for your own projects, but encourage the other person’s growth as well!
Tiptoe – take a small break from your big project and its big expectations. Do something NOW that you are certain you can do well, to give yourself a confidence boost and feeling of accomplishment. Get in an extra workout at the gym — that always makes you feel great (once you get started). Finish that art project that’s been waiting patiently for your return. Determine TODAY to clear out your closet and bring all your nice-but-never-worn clothes to the local Goodwill — or do some other volunteer community activity that allows you to contribute a piece of yourself. Or simply spend some time with a loved one, truly sharing your time and your heart.
Try this: The next time you feel discouraged, make yourself two lists: 1) List some things you always wanted — and have managed to get for yourself: a good friend, a nice home, a particular skill or college degree, lower blood pressure… 2) List some things that you have now that you truly appreciate (but may take for granted): a soft pillow, a reliable singing voice or pitcher’s arm, a collection of family photos, honesty in yourself or your children…
Think of how each of these things (your “treasures”) might be visually represented. For example, a dove could stand for a peaceful home, a smiling heart for lower blood pressure… And make a collage or other artwork to hang on your wall to remind you of all the things you have already managed to gain in your life so far. Give your treasures their rightful place in your mind, your heart, and in your work environment. Allow them to help you keep discouragement at bay.