The Value of Discouragement

Recently, I’ve received a number of emails from people asking how they can motivate themselves and push forward when they are discouraged. Sometimes the writer describes it as depression, other times they use words like frustration, or feeling “stuck” and they want to know how to turn things around. That’s a great question!

We all feel discouraged or frustrated or “stuck” at times. Whether it’s being at our “wits end” with our kids or being scared that a business venture won’t work out, or confused by our own behavior about something we want but seem unable to achieve, we all have these feelings! Unfortunately, one of the first things I notice is that many people ask themselves terrible questions! They ask “Why am I so stuck?” or, “Why does this always happen to me?” Notice the assumptions they make about being “so” stuck and that this sense of discouragement or frustration “always” happens.

With questions like that, no wonder they stay stuck! A much better question is, “How do highly successful people handle these experiences and get back on track?” Here are a few of my observations about how successful people handle the roadblocks and frustrations of life.

1. First, they acknowledge that what they are doing isn’t working, and they stop to catch their breath. They do NOT beat their head against a wall! Take a break! Get some objectivity and relax a bit. When you’re discouraged, frustrated, depressed or stuck, be honest enough to say, “this isn’t working” and give yourself a rest.

2. Second, they get curious. They want to understand exactly what’s happening. Often, the first step to a cure is an accurate diagnosis of the problem! There is a huge difference between being discouraged (it may be time for a vacation or a new perspective), verses depression (it may be time to see a doctor or at least get some exercise). Frustration, on the other hand, is the firm belief that my goal is entirely possible, it’s just not happening fast enough!

3. They double-check their values and highest aspirations. Often we are frustrated because our goal is not consistent with our values. Sometimes we sabotage or procrastinate because deep inside we don’t truly want what 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. They ask great questions. They ask, “What worked for me in the past?” or “How have other people solved this problem?” They consult with experts, read books, search the Internet, and find answers that can help them move forward. If nothing else, they ask, “What crazy, off-the-wall thing could I try just for fun?”

5. They take DIFFERENT action. After checking their values, perhaps taking a short rest, and asking great questions, successful people do something different than what they were doing. They try another way. They hire an assistant or a consultant. They develop a new strategy or change their approach. I’ve come to believe that discouragement, a sense of impending failure, and especially frustration are actually very useful “early warning signs.” They are the brain’s way of telling us our objective is reachable, but that we are going about it the wrong way. These normal experiences tell us to step back, get perspective, take a deep breath, and think clearly!

Strategize. Be creative. Ask better questions. And most important, clarify your values and be certain they support you in achieving your goal. I think ambivalence is perhaps the greatest source of discouragement. We want more money, but don’t want to be away from home. We want to lose weight, but enjoy eating too much. Get clear! 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 pause, develop a better strategy, and work smarter rather than harder.

If you’re stuck or making progress “slowly,” consider a personal coach! I would love to talk with you. If your goals are important, if you are motivated, eager and passionate but it’s “not working” drop me an email! I’d love to talk with you.

Quotes of the Week

“Don’t wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel,

stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself.”

— Sara Henderson


“Identify your problems, but give your power and energy to


— Anthony Robbins


“Success is neither magical or mysterious. Success is the

natural consequence of consistently applying the basic


— Jim Rohn


“Fantasies are more than substitutes for unpleasant

reality, they are also dress rehearsals; plans. All acts

performed in the world begin in the imagination.”

— Barbara Grizzuti Harrison