What to do if things get too much

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There are times in anyone’s life when things just get too much. I know, I’ve been there and probably will find myself in that corner in the future. This is not a nice place to be and a difficult time if you are in the middle of trying to get things done.

Here is my take on how to deal with this – and it might help you too.

Focus on one goal at a time

Whenever I feel down, I realize that it’s often because I have too much going on in my life. I’m trying to do too much. And it kills my energy and motivation. It’s probably the most common mistake that people make: they try to take on too much, try to accomplish too many goals at once.

You cannot maintain energy and focus if you are trying to achieve two or more goals at once. It’s not possible — I’ve tried it many times. You have to choose one goal, for now, and focus on it completely. I know that’s a tough call. Still, I speak from experience. You can always work on your other goals when you’ve accomplished your One Goal.

Get busy and find inspiration

Inspiration, for me, comes from others who have achieved what I want to achieve, or who are currently doing it. I read other blogs, books and magazines. I Google my goal and read success stories. The Entrepreneur Academy is just one place for you to seek inspiration; not only from me but also from many readers and clients who have achieved amazing things.

Bring some excitement back into your life

This sounds obvious, but most people don’t think about it much: if you want to get away from feeling down, get yourself excited about a goal. But how can you do that when you don’t feel motivated? Well, it starts with inspiration from others (see above). But you have to take that excitement and build on it.

For me, I’ve learned that by talking to my wife and others about it, reading as much about it as possible and visualizing what it would be like to be successful (seeing the benefits of the goal in my head), I can get excited about a goal. Once I’ve done that, it’s just a matter of carrying that energy forward and keeping it going.

Build on anticipation

This sounds hard, and you might be tempted to overlook it, but it really works. It helped me quit smoking after many failed attempts. If you find inspiration and want to do a goal, don’t start right away.

Many of us will get excited and want to start today. That’s a mistake. Set a date in the future — a week or two, or even a month — and make that your Start Date. Mark it on the calendar. Get excited about that date. Make it the most important date in your life. In the meantime, start writing out a plan. And do some of the steps shown below. The reality is that by delaying your start, you are building anticipation and increasing your focus and energy for your goal.

Go crazy and post your goal everywhere

Print out your goal in big words. Make your goal just a few words long, like a mantra (“Exercise for 15 minutes. Daily”) and post it up on your wall or refrigerator. Post it at home and work. Put it on your computer desktop. You want to have big reminders about your goal to keep your focus and keep your excitement going. A picture of your goal also helps.

Commit to your goal publicly

None of us like to look bad in front of others. We will always go the extra mile to do something we’ve said publicly. For example, when I wanted to run my first marathon, I told everyone about it. All my friends knew about my goal. I couldn’t back down, and even though my motivation came and went, I stuck with it and completed it.

Now, you don’t have to commit to your goal in your daily newspaper, but you can do it with friends, family and co-workers – and you can do it on your blog if you have one. And hold yourself accountable. Don’t just commit once, but commit to giving progress updates to everyone every week or so.

Think about it daily

Your goal is much more likely to be realized if you think about it every day. To this end, posting the goal on your wall or computer desktop helps a lot. Sending daily reminders to yourself also helps. And if you can commit to doing one small thing to further your goal (even just 5 minutes) every single day, your goal should come true.

Kindle support from those around you

It’s hard to accomplish something alone. When I decided to run my marathon, I had the help of friends and family – and I had a great running community who encouraged me at 5k races and did long runs with me.

When I decided to quit smoking, I joined a fitness club and that helped tremendously. And of course, my friends helped on every step of the way. I couldn’t have made these goals without the people who supported me. Find your support network, either in the real world or online – or both.

Realize that there’s an up and down

Motivation is not a constant thing that is always there for you. It comes and goes – and comes and goes again – like the tide. But realize that while it may go away, it doesn’t do so permanently. It will come back. Just stick it out and wait for that motivation to come back.

In the meantime, read about your goal (see below), ask for help and do some of the other suggestions listed here until your motivation comes back.

Stay strong and stick with it

Whatever you do, don’t give up. Even if you aren’t feeling any motivation today or this week – don’t give up. Again, that motivation will come back. Think of your goal as a long journey and any slump is just a little bump in the road. You can’t give up with every little bump. Stay with it for the long term by riding out the downs and surfing on the ups – and you’ll get there.

Start small. Really small

If you are having a hard time getting started, it may be because you’re thinking too big. If you want to exercise, for example, you may be thinking that you have to do these intense workouts five days a week. No — instead, do small, tiny, baby steps. Just do two minutes of exercise.

I know, that sounds wimpy. But it works. Commit to two minutes of exercise for one week. You may want to do more, but just stick to two minutes. It’s so easy, you can’t fail! Do it at the same time, every day: just some crunches, two push-ups and some jogging in place.

Once you’ve done two minutes a day for a week, increase it to five minutes –and stick with that for a week. In a month, you’ll be doing 15-20.

Want to wake up early? Don’t think about waking at 5.00 a.m. Instead, think about waking 10 minutes earlier for a week. That’s all. Once you’ve done that, wake 10 minutes earlier than that. Baby steps.

Keep building on small successes

Again, if you start small for a week, you’re going to be successful. You can’t fail if you start with something ridiculously easy. Who can’t exercise for 2 minutes? If that’s you, I apologize! You will feel successful and you will feel good about yourself.

Take that successful feeling and build on it, with another baby step. Add 2-3 minutes to your exercise routine, for example. With each step (and each step should last about a week), you will feel even more successful. Make each step really, really small, and you won’t fail. After a couple of months, your tiny steps will add up to a lot of progress and a lot of success.

Take time out to read about it daily

When I lose motivation, I just read a book or a blog about my goal. It inspires me and reinvigorates me. For some reason, reading helps motivate and focus you on whatever you’re reading about. So read about your goal every day, if you can, especially when you’re not feeling motivated.

Call for help when your motivation is down

Having trouble? Ask for help. Email me. Join an online forum. Get a partner to join you. Call your Mum! It doesn’t matter who. Just tell them your problems – and talking about it will help. Ask them for advice. Ask them to help you overcome your down time. It works.

Think about the benefits – not the difficulties

One common problem is that we think about how difficult something is. Exercise sounds so hard! Just thinking about it makes you tired. But instead of thinking about how hard something is, think about what you will get out of it.

For example, instead of thinking about how tiring exercise can be, focus on how good you’ll feel when you’re done – and how you’ll be healthier and slimmer over the long run. The benefits of something will help energize you.

Squash negative thoughts – replace them with positive ones

Along those lines, it’s important to start monitoring your thoughts. Recognize negative self-talk, which is really what’s causing your down. Just spend a few days becoming aware of every negative thought. Then, after a few days, try squashing those negative thoughts like a bug – and then replacing them with corresponding positive thoughts.

Stamp out negative thoughts like “This is too hard!” and replace it with positive vibes like “I can do this! After all, if John can do it, so can I!”

It sounds corny, but it works. Really.

John Di Stefano

An entrepreneur at heart and founder of the Entrepreneur Academy in Brussels, Belgium. He is teaching and supporting entrepreneurs in the skills every entrepreneur needs to create a better life for themselves and the people around them.

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