You’ve heard it all before, and at this point you’re deaf to it: that success only comes to those who try… or that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger… or that so many famous and successful people failed spectacularly before they were successful.
But you look at yourself in the mirror – at what you wished to have accomplished, but haven’t… where you have fallen short in your career. And you feel like a failure.
You might think you’re alone in this, but you’re not. Most people fail to meet their own lofty standards, and what’s worse, there’s always someone in their lives that has – perhaps an old classmate or collaborator – someone who has taken the path you’ve taken and truly hit it out of the park.
So, what’s the solution to your malaise? How can you get yourself back up on your feet and back in the game, focusing on achieving your goals and doing work that matters? Here are three tips that can help.
Tip 1: Focus inward, not outward.
I’m guessing that a big part of why you’re feeling depressed is that you’re focused on outcomes – what you’ve achieved (or haven’t achieved) and how that measures up (or doesn’t measure up) to what others have accomplished. And our social media age of instant and omnipresent information certainly doesn’t help in this regard. When you’re feeling down, it almost seems inevitable that you’ll see something online or in your email inbox announcing someone else’s great achievements that make your heart sink.
But instead of focusing on achievement, what if you focused on purpose and meaning? What was it that you wanted to accomplish in the first place, and why? And why does it matter? What’s your inner course of conviction?
If you focus there – on why the work you’re doing matters, to you and to others – it’s easier to see why it’s worth getting up off the couch and pushing onward. Your clients or audience or patients need you! So, focus on that instead of achievements and outcomes.
Tip 2: Think “want” instead of “should.”
It’s possible that the reason you’re mired in a sense of blah is that you’re focused on what you think you should be doing – or, better yet, what you think others (family, friends, classmates) think you should be doing, rather than what you actually want to be doing. It may feel like an insurmountable leap to move from what you’re doing now (which ultimately is a product of “should”) to what might really inspire and motivate and engage you in the future (and which, ultimately, is a product of “want”). But chances are, if you find the courage within yourself to take that leap: to pivot to things that you genuinely, intrinsically enjoy, you’ll end up being happier, more fulfilled, more productive, and, as a result, with a higher ceiling for making that impact on the world that you inspire to make.
Tip 3: Surround yourself with a good support system.
Sometimes we’re so mired in our own disappointment that it’s hard to remember why we pursued our ambitions in the first place. And that’s where close friends and colleagues who know us and support us can help. It can be deeply insightful to have a conversation with someone who knows you well and cares about you. That person can give you an outside perspective – helping you rediscover what you’ve always cared about, but perhaps forgot or put on hold… or even help you find what might be a driving source of motivation for today’s version of you. Supportive, insightful conversations with someone who cares can be deeply valuable in putting you back on track, especially if you feel swamped and overwhelmed in your own sense of failure.
In the end, it can be hard to dig out of a hole that you’ve dug for yourself. But by pressing pause, reflecting upon your true interests, and leveraging the wisdom of people who know and care about you, you’ll be back on track in no time — ready to commit yourself all over again to what really matters to you.