So something didn’t work out. Maybe you crashed and burned on a project. Maybe you failed to keep to a schedule you set (ahem). Maybe something else brought it to a halt. Whatever it was, it stopped you in your tracks. What now?
Sheer force of will may be enough to get back on the horse, but how do you stay up once you’re back there? If you restart blindly, you may get tripped up on similar challenges.
Having freshly encountered this familiar dilemma, I’ve been reflecting on previous projects and what’s worked for me. Here’s a few techniques for identifying and clearing those out so they won’t kick you off again.
Have the right reasons
The desire to just get going again to save face is a powerful motivation, but it carries with it a kind of loss aversion that may sabotage you. Start with this foundation instead: is finding a way to make it work the right thing to do?
This may be more of a gut feeling than a well-reasoned argument. The reason that you started, and the initial excitement or enthusiasm you had then, does not have to be the reason that drives you to continue. Think about yourself and what you want. Or, think about what you want to exist in the world. The important thing is to find your motivation, whether it’s within yourself or outside of you.
It’s also good to recognize how your personality comes into play and avoid forcing yourself to adhere to reasoning that just doesn’t motivate you. It’s counterproductive. Sometimes when I’m stuck on a project, I realize I’m only doing it because it’s something I “should” do. Nothing has made me more miserable than pushing forward on projects where that is my sole motivation.
If the project involved more people than just you, think through who was involved. Are you feeling hesitant to work with others again? Why?
It’s worth taking the time to identify what, in particular, bothered you. Examining what surrounded your experience may help quiet your reptile brain responses. You may find it easier to forgive other people by choosing to believe in their better nature to dissipate lingering ill will.
Don’t forget to forgive yourself while you’re at it. Any perceived slights or weaknesses are probably not as bad as you think, No matter how it was, you’re here.
Is it feasible to keep up the same pace? Maybe a temporary burst of energy got you going originally, but it might be too challenging to keep up over time. Set a new goal for your schedule, and consider ways to break up the work that fit into (or around) your normal routine.
It’s good, in advance of a particular challenge, to recognize whether you’re embarking into something more heroic than you’ve done in the past. If you’re prepared to do it, expect that you’ll need some time to recoup from it and plan those breaks from the start.
If you feel burned by previous experiences, it’s hard not to feel jaded. Sometime feeling low may just be part of the process. Look for small victories to help fuel that sense of hope. It’s especially important to have these if you tend to focus on what’s not done, or what could have been done better. Taking action is a noteworthy thing in itself. As Bryce Roberts recently put so succinctly, most people won’t.
It comes down to you. If there’s a worthy thing to do there, that remains as true now as it did when you first started. Accept that, take a deep breath, and get back on that horse.