I consider myself to be an extremely hospitable person. Let me be clear: my family PRIDES themselves on making room at the dinner table and in our home for guests, so to be anything BUT hospitable is to bring intense shame upon my parents. I do my best at opening my home to anyone who wants to swing through, but this past week, Mike and I had some extremely unwelcome houseguests.
And I’m not just talking the one-off fruit fly that hovers around your overly-ripe bananas hoping for just a taste. I am talking swarming, mobbing, full blown hoards of fruit flies invading my house and claiming my kitchen for their own. Did you ever see that short-lived CBS show, Brain Dead? The premise was that aliens invaded D.C. and fed on the brains of Washington’s elite via tiny ants. Hard to believe it didn’t last, right? Anyway, as I looked down into my kitchen sink and watched the mass wave of fruit flies stampeding out of the drain, I couldn’t help but feel the slightest fear that my brain was in danger.
I joke, but this was a maddening experience. We did everything – we covered our kitchen in home made traps with wine and old fruit and apple cider vinegar. Had anyone seen our kitchen, they would have thought we were mad scientists or just plane crazy. It seemed that the fruit flies would never go away. I typically cook every night – I couldn’t bring myself to cook because I was so grossed out just being in our kitchen that I didn’t want to face it – or worse, tempt the flies to join us for dinner.
If you read my blog post earlier, you know that we’re moving. I just kept thinking – “I can’t wait to have an entirely new kitchen. I wish we could just move right now so I didn’t have to deal with this.” I was becoming so discouraged – as silly as it sounds, I wasn’t sure my kitchen would ever be back to normal. We had put out so many gross looking traps and sprayed a TON of bug-be-gone. It felt like a tainted space in which no progress was being made.
Have you ever felt like this about your professional endeavors? Ready to completely throw in the towel because of lack of progress?
I have. As a creative person who thrives on being busy, slow days were the worst for me. I could have had an extremely productive and successful day the day prior, but as soon as things feel stagnant, I would become anxious and start questioning the viability of my ideas and my potential on the whole. I became my own worst nightmare as negative thoughts would lead to inaction and inaction became the self-fulfilling prophecy of my negative thoughts. It’s a cycle – and you have to break it. Here are three ways I overcome discouragement and push through downtime on the path to success:
Call a Spade a Spade
Stop in your tracks. Are you ruminating on negative thoughts? Are the “I’m not even good at this” or “I’ll never be that successful” bugs creeping into your brain (much like Brain Dead)? Stop feeding these thoughts by trying to disprove them – or worse – succumbing to them. Instead, pause and practice mindfulness. Psychology Today defines mindfulness as the state of active, open attention on the present. Rather than worrying about the future in the midst of all of your current negative anxiety, stop and recognize that you are having an off day. It’s ONE off day – not an off LIFE. Acknowledge the reality of good days and bad days and make peace with the fact that this may not be your most exhilarating or challenging day. Once you acknowledge where you are, it’s easier to work within those parameters, rather than make yourself crazy trying to force the day to be something it isn’t.
If you’re anything like me, chances are you’ve felt this way before. This cycle is nothing new. You have had bad days before, and in all likeliness, they’ve been followed by good days. But despite the progress and successes you’ve experienced on those good days, they become overshadowed by the drought of slow days. It’s important to acknowledge this cycle. It’s important to remember that you’ve experienced valleys before, and you’ve found your way out of them. You are capable. This is part of the journey. Nothing is a straight-line. There is always a way in, as long as you stick with it.
Pick a Task, Any Task
Which brings me to my third point. Sure – today might be a day where you feel you are banging your head against a wall, only to be met with bad news or glacial progress. Today may not be the best day to try and move mountains, but it doesn’t mean you can’t tackle a hill. Pick a project that you know you’ll be able to complete, and get to it. Don’t allow your thoughts to consume you and completely steal your time, energy, and productivity. Be kind to yourself, knowing that today, it might not all get done – but SOMETHING can get done. Even if it’s just brainstorming all of the things you want to make happen tomorrow. Even if it’s just organizing your desk. Pick something tangible that you know you can accomplish – task completion gives way to a greater sense of productivity and accomplishment. Not to mention, when you climb out of the valley and up onto your next peak, you will be so glad you took something off of your to-do list.
Today, as I wiped down my fruit-fly free kitchen, I couldn’t help but chuckle at my own anxiety. While we were knee-deep in bugs, it was truly hard to see past them into cleaner days. But here I stand to testify. We made it through. My kitchen is clean. I even cooked dinner last night. I’m glad we kept setting out the traps and working relentlessly to restore our home – it paid off. And your hard work will, too.