"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Have you ever felt discouraged that things don't seem to flow out or manifest as you hope that they would? Ever felt lost for motivation to keep at the good fight, when it seems that many more times than not, things seem to go more wrong than right? Are you struggling with injury right now and wondering if it will ever end? Recently, I've received a number of notes from athletes asking about how best to motivate ourselves and push forward when we are discouraged. Sometimes the writer describes it using words like frustration, or feeling "stuck," and even angry, and they want to know how to turn things around. That's a great question!
First, this is our collective humanity folks. We ALL feel discouraged or frustrated or "stuck" at some point in our lives and with our training. Whether it's being at our "wits end" with an injury (DON'T run through it, no matter how much you might want to. Read this to learn more!) that hasn't healed, or being frustrated with the economy or a business venture that seems stuck, or confused by our own behavior toward something we very much want but seem unable to achieve, we all have these feelings.
As Scott Peck says in the first line of his best selling book, The Road Less Traveled, “Life is difficult.” Yup. No one has a life without problems and difficulties. This is characteristic of what it means to be human. I think in all of my years, I've finally (hopefully) learned that happiness is given by how we manage the problems we’ve got, not the absence of problems. If we manage large problems well, we can be very happy. If we manage small problems poorly, we can be assured of sadness and frustration. However, there is a corollary to this, yes? People can be measured by the size of the problems they undertake! Great accomplishments never come without great problems. Big people undertake large problems (such as solving global warming). Small people restrict themselves to small problems (like whether that guy in the other lane cut you off or not).
All of that being said, one key to finding resolution is to ask the RIGHT questions. It's common to hear someone ask questions like, "Why am I so stuck?" or, "Why does this always happen to me?" Notice the assumptions that are made about being "so" stuck and that this sense of discouragement or frustration "always" happens. With questions like that, no wonder there's frustration and a sense of hopelessness.
A much better question might be, "How do highly successful people handle these normal experiences?"
Here are a few of my observations about how successful people handle the normal roadblocks and frustrations of life, and that includes being injured.
1. First, successful people learn they must face the truth and acknowledge that what they are doing isn't working. They do NOT keep beating their heads against a wall. Stop the madness! If you're discouraged, frustrated, or stuck, be honest enough to say, "this isn't working" and take a rest. That means if you're fighting an injury, get to the root cause of WHY the injury occured. Contact us and we will help. Check out the testimonials on our site and hear from folks who have been there and are now better than ever.
2. Second, successful people seek the truth and understand there is a difference between being discouraged, which often has to do with being tired (it may be time for a day off or a recovery week), verses real depression, which is an illness (it may be time to see the doc). Frustration is normal and can be seen as a belief that what you're working toward is possible, it just isn't happening. In all things, seek the truth.
3. Succesful people ensure their values and highest aspirations align. Often we are frustrated because our goal isn't consistent with our values. Sometimes we self-sabotage or procrastinate because deep inside we don't truly want the thing we say we want. Human beings can achieve amazing results when they are totally committed. Unfortunately, we are also capable of fooling ourselves about this.
4. Again, successful people ask great questions. They ask themselves, "what parts of my goal have I achieved?", or "How have other people solved this problem?" They consult with experts, read books, and find answers to questions that can help them move forward. If nothing else, they'll ask, "What other crazy, off-the-wall thing could I try just for fun?"
5. They take a DIFFERENT action. After taking a deep breath and asking great questions, highly successful people do something different. They try another way. They are willing to look in the mirror and face the truth in order to move forward positively. Are you?
Sometimes I think discouragement or a sense of impending failure and frustration are actually useful "early warning signs". They are the brain's way of telling us our objective is reachable, but that we might be going about it the wrong way. These normal feelings and experiences tell us that maybe we need to step back, get a new perspective, take a deep breath! Strategize. Get creative. Ask better questions. Seek help from others who care and who have the tools to help you.
Clarify your values and be certain your highest aspirations support you in achieving your goal. I think ambivalence over our outcomes is perhaps the greatest source of discouragement. Do you want to finish atop your age-group and qualify for Kona yet don't want to commit to finally resolving that niggling injury or attacking your weaknesses?
Lastly, seek inner peace in the face of these entirely normal human feelings and experiences. As hard as it may be to do, this requires giving up the notion that “there is something wrong.” Giving this up means that everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be, and exactly the way it is not. In the space of such detachment you can be both peaceful and powerful. This detachment doesn't mean that we aren't commited to principles or a philosophy, or that we are satisfied with the current state of our world. But we can fulfill those commitments much more powerfully from a position of inner peace, than from one of upset, fear, anger or rage.
When our values align with our goals, and we ask the right questions, anything is possible! Use discouragement to your advantage! It's your brain telling you to listen up, develop a better strategy, and work smarter rather than harder.