How to Stay Motivated when Progress is Slow, Nonexistent, or Backwards

how to stay motivated when progress is slow, nonexistent, or backwards

So you’ve decided to improve your life – congratulations! They say that a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. But when you’re on step 752, you see how much farther you have to go and you’re already tired. You’re not even close to your destination! And there are obstacles that knock you back! And there is boredom!

Everyone loves a beginner but no one loves an intermediate. How do you stay motivated when progress is slow, nonexistent or backwards? Especially while we are in lockdown, it seems like nothing is changing, and everything is stagnant. But this is not the time to give up. If anything, we need to be fired up all the more.

 

Celebrate Even the Smallest Wins

The problem with being an intermediate learner is that you don’t get as many obvious wins. If you start learning a language, you can learn a few words pretty quickly. That feels great! But then you start speaking with other people in that language, and it’s so hard. 

Whatever progress you’re making, it’s ok if you celebrate the smallest increments – percentage or absolute. There is no one on high judging you for celebrating too early. It only matters whatever keeps you motivated to keep moving. Any progress is still good progress. Don’t let declines in progress distract you when they could just as easily motivate you.

Reframe Struggle as Success

When we picture success, we often imagine it to be instant and easy. Many quit through the slow trudge and struggle of hard work because we think success is overnight. We think we start something and it will be like gliding down the bunny slopes with fanfare and paparazzi while wearing a mink coat, instead of sustained rote repetition, embarrassment, and failure.
There comes a time when you hit a wall. And every successful person hits this wall. But obstacles mean you’re challenging yourself beyond what you could do. This is the only way to get really good at something. Check out another tool to remind yourself that failure can be fun.

Stop Envying Overnight Success

If we are still at the bunny slope stage, we should be happy that we aren’t going down the black diamond slopes because we aren’t prepared to have black diamond-level problems yet. We learn how to deal with those problems while working through the bunny slopes.

We see people who achieve success at a young age and then think nothing of watching them crash and burn. We think, we would do better if given the chance. But we have no idea. The problem with lotto winners or pro athletes is not that they’re dumber at finances; much of the problem is that that they get all the money in one go.

The problem with overnight success is that you have all sorts of difficult situations and problems and you never had to figure more basic versions of the problems out when it didn’t matter. You can face a new obstacle on the bunny slopes and trip and fall and learn; it’s much harder to fall and recover on the black diamonds with people watching and criticizing your every move.

The Struggle Teaches You Strategies for Success

If you can’t stop yourself from spending when you’re on a low income, it doesn’t become easier when you have money. It may take longer for you to get into trouble, but having more money doesn’t mean you have better control; it just means you have more to lose. This is the reason you need to start start saving before you make a lot. If your brakes don’t work when you’re going slow, they’re not going to work better when you’re going fast.

In this way, you can be happy with your beginner awkward phases because they teach you and prepare you for the big stakes games.

  • Be happy for your awkward relationships because they taught you to be better when you meet your future spouse.
  • Invite gratitude for entry-level jobs, because you wouldn’t want to play around when you have the chance to prove yourself at your dream job.
  • Be thankful for beginner poker games, because when a million dollars is on the line, you will have developed a great poker face from playing for a nickel.

Chances are you will make more money later in life. We can be grateful that we are struggling when we have struggles now, because when we get more successful, we’ll know exactly what to do. When we are trustworthy with less, we can be trusted with more. It just takes time and trial and error.

Struggle Teaches You to Love the Journey

You have to love the process. The people that become great musicians, usually loved learning how to be better musicians. You can chase fame and money and you might be successful. But you have to LOVE fame and money. Most people people will flame out first because they only somewhat like music, fame, or money. It’s like someone who loves crossing finish lines but doesn’t love to run. How far is that person going to go?

Once I made a joke about a blogger complaining about their page views. And I got a surprising amount of pushback. Of course people can complain about anything they want, but it’s like being angry that people aren’t appreciating the way you karaoke.
If you want to make money, there are easier ways. If you want to have fun, there are easier ways. Maybe you should try one of those. Because the journey and the obstacles are definitely going to happen – “success” might not. If you hate the journey, will you ever be “successful?”

I think overall, the people who love the journey will go the farthest.

What if Progress is Going Backwards?

Ok, but what if it’s not just that you’re moving slowly – but you’re actively on the decline. How do you stay motivated when you’re putting one foot in front of the other and you’re moving backwards?

The thing is, progress is not all in one direction. Two steps forward, one step back. Or one step forward, two steps back. It happens.

I heard this great line in a podcast The Art of Manliness by the Author of Make Today Matter: 10 Habits for a Better Life (and World), that the first rule of being a doctor is Do No Harm. So if you’re not having a great day, if you know you’re not making progress, that’s ok. You’ll have days like that. You can’t win them all, you can’t make progress on every day. Some days you’re just fighting not to drown.

The only rule for yourself that day is don’t harm your goals. If you’re trying to mind your anger, and everything is going wrong and you just don’t think you can be a GREAT person today, that’s fine. Just don’t cause any irreparable harm. Don’t yell at your family. Don’t send out mean emails. You don’t have to beat yourself up for not getting ahead; just try to contain the level of harm done.

Or if you need major car repairs while paying down debt – that’s going to slow down your progress and it sucks! But don’t give up the whole game just because you hit a pothole. Ok you’re not going to pay down as much debt this month because of this unexpected expense – but try to keep levelheaded and stay the course as much as possible otherwise. You can be on triage mode and just congratulate yourself for not digging yourself further into a hole. That’s a terrific win, even though it doesn’t feel like it. It’s overcoming these obstacles that will get you to the end. You’re a champion even if it doesn’t feel like it.

How to Stay Motivated when Progress is Slow, Nonexistent or Backwards

In conclusion, you won’t always be improving by leaps or bounds. That’s A-OK. Remember that you’ve made the first step toward your path of self-improvement and that it’s this vast middle area where it really starts to get fun. You learn to overcome obstacles, learn to love your craft and get better prepared for success. As long as you continue to celebrate your wins and keep the big obstacles from deterring you completely, you’re well on your way for your inevitable success.

I’d like to leave you with the following quote I read in Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World:

I used to resent obstacles along the path, thinking ‘if only that hadn’t happened life would be so good.’ Then I suddenly realized, life is the obstacles. There is no underlying path. – Janna Levin

It can be easy to be caught up in pitying ourselves and the obstacles we go through. We think we would rather have everything handed to us on a silver platter. But we actually don’t. There’s the old joke about the guy who died and in the afterlife, he wins every game, can get any woman he wanted and owns everything. He gets frustrated and asks to see “the other place” thinking that he was in Heaven. Then he’s told, nope, the place where you get everything you want, is a kind of hell.

You are in the middle of your magnificent journey. Why would you want to skip ahead to the end? This is when it’s about to get really good. Good luck!

Treat Yo’Self: How to Splurge Without Guilt

splurge without guilt
EW.com

Treat My’Self

I once dated a guy who only ate food that was “healthy.” This was disappointing for me because my favorite food is fried chicken. 3-piece Popeye’s with 2 sides and a biscuit – yum! I love desserts. I love ramen. I love food! I’ve never counted calories and I hate dieting.

Judging from what I just wrote, you would expect me to overweight and pretty gross. Well, maybe the latter but not the former. How do I do this? Well it’s because I’ve learned to treat myself, and splurge without guilt.

How to Splurge Without Guilt

What I’ve listed above are all aberrations to my diet. 90% of my meals are home cooked and reasonably healthy. I also practice intermittent fasting so I have a very calorie-restricted diet. I bike, climb, run, and swim regularly.

The secret to treating yourself without guilt is to make splurges abnormal and savings normal.

This means you get the fun of the splurge without gaining weight, going into debt, or suffering the typical consequences of treating yourself.

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The Secret to Health, Wealth, and Happiness

secret to health wealth and happiness
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A few years ago, I realized I had discovered the “secret” to succeeding in the health, wealth, and happiness departments. I had lost ten pounds and was keeping it off. My legs had never been so toned, my skin was glowing, work was fulfilling, my finances were growing, and my relationships were going great.

And it wasn’t because I was working harder. I hadn’t been tormenting myself with terrible diets or 5am wake up calls. What was shocking about my transformation was how little sacrifice I had made.

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We Teach Women to Retreat, We Teach Men to Advance

we teach women to retreat
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My inbox’s tone has been very gentle lately. The newsletters tell me, it’s a big scary world and I shouldn’t feel bad staying in my fetal position and only resurfacing when the world is better. Drinking more wine, spending time alone, and vegging out are encouraged, perhaps even celebrated.

Most of my newsletters are directed at women. This is not a coincidence. We teach women to retreat; we men to take charge.

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100 Good Stories During The Coronavirus Lockdown

100 positive stories during the coronavirus
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Good Stories During the Coronavirus

There is no shortage of bad things to discuss right now. It’s easy to lambast governments for their actions or inactions or to be indignant at people for not socially distancing properly or for panic buying or other acts of selfishness. We were already in an outrage cycle before the world fell apart.

If I move away from the internet, I see so much good and so much to be grateful for. I could find good stories even during the coronavirus lockdown. If this pandemic were happening pre-Zoom and Google Hangouts, pre-Internet, pre-Tiger King, it would be way worse. I’m grateful that this is all happening as the weather is getting warmer so people have the option to go outside and might even get more sunshine than normal. I’m excited for my friends who are new parents, who get to spend more time with their newborns while on lockdown. Really, it could have been much worse.

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50 Quick & Simple Financial Tasks You Can Accomplish in Quarantine

50 quick and simple financial tasks to do in quarantine
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There are so many financial tasks that we “know” we should do, but who has the time to even remember them, let alone do them. But now that we are all in social distancing, do we have a lot of excuses?

I’ve compiled a list of 50 quick and simple financial tasks you can complete in quarantine to get you jumpstarted on your money goals. These aren’t all clearly “financial” but every part of your life impacts your finances – your health, your relationships, etc. I wouldn’t do them all in a day, but any one of them is feasible in a day. These are all beginner tasks but stay tuned for another post with more advanced tips.

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What Happened When I Retired for a Year at 35

what happened when I retired for a year
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On February 4, 2019, I quit my job. February 19 was my last day at work, and February 20 was my first day of freedom. On this one year anniversary, I’d like to look back at what happened the year that I retired at 35.

The “Accomplishments”

I read another blogger’s early retirement post and he could quantify a great deal of accomplishments. And I guess I can rattle off things I’ve done, but that seems like running a different kind of rat race. 

I kept busy on my time off. I’ve traveled a bit – to L.A., New York, San Francisco, Redmond, Capetown, Johannesburg (South Africa), Lisbon, Porto, and Sintra (Portugal). This is what I would say if people asked me what I had done with the year. Travel seems to be the only “real” accomplishment worth noting when you’re retired. And to be fair, South Africa was eye-opening, especially after listening to Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. But to me, the really interesting changes were when I was home. 

What I’m focusing on in this post is not necessarily my choices during the year, but the repercussions. I often would made one choice that led to another choice and all those choices led to a different trajectory. It’s like when I started this blog, then I started Twitter to promote it, then I met friends, and two of those friends were the duo that started Chain of Wealth, who will figure significantly in some of these adventures. You just never know where things are going to take you. And the oddest part of any journey may be where you end up. 

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What If We Stopped Teaching Women to Be Afraid?

stop telling women to be afraid
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How Fear Became Common Sense for Women

Why do we teach women to be afraid? For years now, I’ve seen articles and social media posts discussing how #yesallwomen live in constant fear of violence.  This fear means women refrain from many enjoyable routine activities like exercising, going out at night, or traveling by themselves.

This idea bothers me every time I see it. The fear is grossly outsized compared with the actual risk. For example, Wikipedia states:

Although fear of crime is a concern for people of all genders, studies consistently find that women around the world tend to have much higher levels of fear of crime than men, despite the fact that in many places, and for most offenses, men’s actual victimization rates are higher. [emphasis added]

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How to Help a Depressed Lawyer (Especially When that Lawyer Is You) (Part 2 of 2)

Lawyers and depression go together far too often. Learn how to help lawyers who are suffering from mental health problems.

help a depressed lawyer

 

In my previous post, I talked about why lawyers are so depressed and now we get to the meat: how to help a depressed lawyer. TL:DR  – the legal world is an environment that leads to depression. It doesn’t provide meaning, creativity, the chance to build meaningful relationships, the opportunity to be in nature, security, hope, intrinsic values, etc. The good news is that there’s likely nothing wrong with you if you’re a lawyer and you’re depressed. The environment would be enough to make a lot of mentally resilient people depressed. Still, we shouldn’t feel content knowing the causes of depression – we should learn ways to combat it. The following are some ideas to help a lawyer with depression, even if that lawyer is you.

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Why Are Lawyers So Depressed? (Part 1 of 2)

woman sitting on brown wooden box
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Photo by Matheus Viana on Pexels.com

A month ago, I logged into Facebook and saw a suicide note. Through the comments, I found out, my friend had passed. The situation reminded me of the last suicide I had heard of – a young lawyer- and the mental health problems that disproportionately affect attorneys. While some commentators have tried to explain why attorneys suffer from depression, I wasn’t convinced so I looked into it myself. So why are lawyers so depressed? Here are my thoughts.

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