I woke up January 1 and said to myself, this is going to be my year. It was going to be the year that turned my side hustle into my main hustle. I was going to make my dream of becoming a professional speaker a reality. In addition to working full-time, I had spent the last few years presenting to companies about what I learned about grit, resilience and gratitude after I was run over by an 18 wheel truck, and I knew that in order to take my speaking business to the next level, I would have to really commit, and leaving my steady job and fully immersing myself into this work seemed like the right move. I felt ready for whatever came my way…at least, I thought I was.
What I hadn’t realized was that the path to my goal wasn’t a straight line, it was full of peaks and valleys, twists and turns, and sometimes there was also an unscheduled cry break, right in the middle of the New York City subway at 2:30 in the afternoon.
I didn’t have those quick victories that I was used to having when I was working towards a short term goal, and a few months in, I found myself feeling like I would never be successful, and that I should just give up. I lost all of my “New Year, New Me” mojo, and I didn’t know how to move forward.
After feeling sorry for myself for a little bit, I started to do some research, and I found that I wasn’t the only person who felt like this. It happens so often that there’s even a name for it, the valley of despair. I knew that I wasn’t ready to let my dreams go, so I tried everything that I could to get out of the valley. Here are the five things I found to be the most helpful:
Remember the why
When we are trying to achieve a long term goal, the why can get lost in the minutiae of everyday tasks and responsibilities. Sit down and write out why your goal is important. Will your success have an impact on other people in your life in a positive way? How will achieving this goal improve your own life? What is your mission?
When I took the time to write down my mission — to share the insights that I have gained from the most challenging time in my life in order to improve the lives of others — I was reminded that this wasn’t a goal that I wanted to achieve just for me, it was a goal that I knew would help others. It made me feel like the harder I worked, the more people I could help, and that kept me incredibly motivated.
Environment is important
Making a shift in your environment can dramatically impact your motivation. When I was struggling to focus on my business, I realized I needed to change my work environment from my home office to a coffee shop. Being around other people, and cutting out the distractions that my home office had energized me, and made the work feel fresh and new.
Motivation isn’t a choice, it’s a habit
Over the last 10 years, I have become an early morning exerciser, not because I’ve always been an early riser, or because I love it, but because I know that exercise keeps me positive and happy! In order to make sure I would get up and immediately strap on my sneakers, I started to put my alarm across my bedroom right next to my workout clothes and sneakers so I had no excuse not to immediately work out. I’ve done this so consistently that I wind up feeling weird if I get up and don’t workout. It feels as natural to me as brushing my teeth before bed and eating breakfast in the morning. By telling myself, I am a person who works out in the morning! it’s stopped being a choice, and has become my life – which isn’t only good for my health, but also great for my Instagram, which now has a lot of gorgeous sunrise pics!
Short term pain equals long term happiness
The hardest truth of all is that changing our lives for the better is hard work. Understanding that this struggle is temporary is always a helpful reminder. Over the last year, I’ve woken up more than once to an alert on my phone saying my checking account balance was below $25.00. Even with thoughtful budgeting, I hadn’t fully understood the financials of being a small business owner and all of the expenses that I might incur. Looking at the $3.26 I had in my account until my next speaking gig made me feel like such a failure.
When this would happen, I would repeat the mantra of “short term pain for long term happiness” over and over again to myself, with my goal in mind. I would imagine how happy I’d feel when that goal was achieved and I had a consistent stream of income, which helped me focus in and get back to work.
Consider your have done list (before your to-do list)
All of the smaller tasks that come along with achieving a goal can feel so overwhelming and endless! What has helped me the most has been taking an hour or two at the end of every month and writing down all of the things that I’ve accomplished in the last 30 days. Whether it’s the number of pitches I’ve sent to potential clients, or reminding myself of positive feedback I’ve gotten from a client, taking a minute to look at what I’ve already achieved makes it easier for me to see my progress and know that I am getting closer and closer to my goal.
Originally published on January 9, 2019.