A serendipitous email hit my inbox this morning, on the topic of ‘hanging in there’. It was actually an email newsletter for entrepreneurs and the main article was impressing the point that if you’re not doing something you absolutely LOVE (either in business or in life), it’s almost impossible to get through the tough times that will inevitably arise.
You’ve no doubt had your own ‘tough times’ at various points throughout life, be it with work, relationships or finances. Whatever the situation, somehow, we always seem to come out the other side - usually a little bruised, battered and worse for wear, but if we just focus on putting one foot in front of the other, eventually we do get through.
Sometimes however, in the midst of challenging circumstances, it can feel like our problems will get the better of us, particularly if we don’t have a range of coping mechanisms to ride the tough times out. Because of this, I thought I’d do a little ol’ bloggy wog about a technique I’ve used recently to pull myself through some ‘tough times’ (namely tech issue after tech issue with this blog – made even more trying since I.T. has never been my forte and I was determined to do everything myself). On top of the technical challenges, there were then the psychological mountains of exhaustion, frustration and diminished drive to climb. Before long I was starting to have thoughts like:
“What’s the point even going through with this if I’m feeling so ‘blah’ about it? I should definitely be feeling more passionate about this….”
And the negative thoughts snowballed till I was questioning…
“Is this the right thing for me?! Or am I just wasting my time and making a big mistake?”
I bemoaned my low point to a friend (who I affectionally call ‘The Voice Of Reason’) and in their characteristic gentle wisdom they said, “Keep going, I’m proud of you. The end part is always the hardest bit”. Those few simple words really encouraged me and helped me flick a mental birdie to the insidious thoughts I’d really been allowing to do a number on me.
It’s Different When The Shoe’s On The Other Foot
The annoying thing is, I’m great at coming up with ideas for other people to get them motivated and excited about their projects – but when it comes to cheering myself on, focusing on all the reasons why it WILL happen and getting my positivity motor running, I sometimes feel like the ‘tough times’ can very quickly drain my gas tank.
When my friend gave me those few words of encouragement and the reassurance that the ‘end part was always the hardest’, it gave me the juice to go the final miles and get the project up and running.
It also reminded of a quote by Isadore Sharp, Founder of the Four Seasons Hotel chain, who said, “If someone had told me ‘Look, you’re going to start today and spend the next five years wasting your time trying to get this thing started’, I would have said, ‘I can’t do that’. But you never think about what it’s going to take of you. Think: I’ve got it now.”
So what can you do when the ‘tough times’ hit, to spur you on?
Getting The Energy To Make It To The Finish Line
I’m hugely passionate about this site because it combines everything that I love most in life. I know without a doubt, my passion is the only thing that stopped me from throwing in the towel at the millionth technological problem and the main reason I put in the hours I do, outside of my full time job. I suppose when you really love something, you don’t give up. Be it a relationship, a business, a cause or a goal. You really do have to be completely in love with what you’re doing if you expect to be able to access the inner reserves that will help you make it past your sticking points.
The email I received this morning drove home the importance of passion, not only in the pursuit of our goals, but also in our lives - and reminded me that even when the end is in sight, our hardest work may yet still be ahead of us. Purely just being aware of the fact those ‘final challenges’ (if and when they arise) will try every ounce of energy and passion we’ve got – can help us tackle the tough times, because they won’t seem so much like a bolt from the blue.
Of course, there are other strategies, besides mental preparedness you can employ to make sure the tough times don’t stop you in your tracks completely. I’d like to share one of my favourites with you…
Take A ‘Creative Vacation’
Yep – you read that right! Take a holiday!
When you’ve been plugging away at a goal for an extended period, it’s silly to think you can just ‘go and go and go’ indefinitely. You’re not invincible. Instead, it’s vital that you recharge your batteries so that you’re able to come back and finish the final leg of your endeavour refreshed. A great way to hit your ‘reset’ button, is to go on a creative vacation. In a way, taking time off is actually prioritising your goal, because without strategically placed rests in your plan, you can lose vital momentum.
What Is A Creative Vacation?
A creative vacation is when you take a break from the work you’ve been doing and spend some time on a creative project or pursuit. I came up with this idea when I realised that working on my blog to get it up and running had lost some of the appeal and I was low in enthusiasm. When I thought about it, I realised there was a very important part of the project that had been missing – all the tech and left brain stuff had left me feeling really creatively unexpressed and next to red wine, being creative is what really gets me jazzed. So I decided to take a night off from the blog and go on a ‘creative vacation’, to do something to express my creativity in a non-deadline driven and pressure-free way.
A creative vacation might include indulging in some:
Buying and arranging flowers
Taking some photos
Re-arranging your loungeroom/bedroom
Sketching what your ideal house might look like
Good old fashioned finger painting (well, why not?)
Put your own spin on a traditional cake or cook a ‘creative’ stir fry for friends or a loved one
For the eccentrics: Do something pointlessly fun and kooky - like making a hat for your cat/dog – you could even make an origami one. Or if you’re so inclined, whip one up on the sewing machine. Flat cap, fedora, top hat or beret, see how creative you can get with the decorating of it! I once went on a creative vacation by making a mini wig for my cat, styling it and taking pics of it. True! Look:
Make some jewellery
Try a mosaic craft project
For the boys: Create your own Napoleon Dynamite style dance routine – yeah! (of course girls can dance up their own Beyonce-style storm).
For the girls: grab some bubbles, get a girlfriend over and give her a makeover.
For the boys: make a spice rack! (so retro it’s cool). What better way to get the testosterone pumping and the creativity flowing than to whip out the old tool belt? What’s more, with Christmas on the way, you’ll have the perfect gift for any annoying relatives! Hehee!
For the girls: I used to like trying out different styles of makeup as a teenager as a ‘creative break’ from studying. If you usually wear the same makeup all the time, try something different – a smoky eye, experiment with colours you don’t normally wear, or take a more dramatic lip colour for a test drive.
Find Something Small To Be Positive About
While I was taking a creative vacation from the tech issues of my blog, I focused on the good parts of where I was, rather than the mountain of I.T. problems I was yet to solve. As I scrapbooked away, I realised that I really MUST be passionate about the blog, because I wouldn’t have come as far down the track as I had, if this whole thing really wasn’t for me. I realised that despite their facade of veracity in the heat of the moment, those snowballing negative thoughts were akin to a hawaiian t-shirt in their several shades of wrong.
Being mindful of this was encouraging because it brought me back to my truth – that I really WAS on purpose. It certainly feels far more empowering to focus on what IS working, rather than what’s NOT working, but I suppose at times it’s hard to remember that in any situation there’s always SOMETHING positive, no matter how small, to hang on to. Ironically it’s when the times get tough that it seems hardest to look for those small positives – but it’s those times you need them most – so when you DO find them, cling on to them as if they’re your life-raft.
In my spare time, I enjoy painting, so I know how vital it is to periodically step away from the canvas, in order to see what’s really going on within the picture. Given this project’s intensity and the way it had consumed my life, it made sense to take a creative hiatus from the blog and enjoy a birds eye view before putting the final brushstrokes in place. After a night playing around with stickers and scrapbooks I returned to face my I.T. demons with renewed vigour and enthusiasm. My vacation had done it’s work. So, sometimes a lull in energy or enthusiasm doesn’t mean something’s not right for you, it might just mean you’ve been running on empty – either creative, energetic or mental – and need a vacation, stat!
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