Are you choosing to stay stuck?

I took a road trip to visit my big sisters in exotic Iowa recently.  When I hit one of those stretches where no radio station comes in clearly, I reached into my stash of emergency CD’s for some music.

It turned out I’d grabbed one by Wynonna Judd. While this was purchased in my younger, country-listening days, I popped it in anyway and realized that one of the songs had been written just for my clients and me.

In “Rock Bottom,” Wynonna makes an important observation: “When you hit rock bottom, you’ve got two ways to go: straight up [or] sideways.” That got me thinking: How often do we entrepreneurs feel like we’ve hit rock bottom and gotten stuck there? And what do we choose to do to change things around?

Obviously, the first choice is the most fundamental: Am I going to have a major pity party and whine about having bottomed out, or I am going to do something productive about the situation? I know I’ve opted for Door Number One on a few occasions, and it’s never been pretty. Although it’s often the easy choice, that doesn’t mean it’s the right one.

Even though choosing to take action is ultimately more productive, that still leaves the question of exactly what you’ll do to bounce back. Here are some approaches that have produced good results for me.

  1. Think “Yes, and…”.  This allows you to acknowledge that, yes, the current situation is pretty stinky; this approach is more honest and emotionally healthier than trying to kid yourself that everything is just peachy when you know damn well it’s not.  However, I think the real power kicks in when you add the and, because that little word shifts you from being a stuck victim to a solution-focused problem solver.  And implies that there is a way out of your current crummy situation and that you’re perfectly capable of uncovering what that is.  Once you act as if the solution is out there, you’re far more likely to uncover it.
  2. Instead of working harder, try not working at all. This strategy is a lot harder for me to apply. I tend to get caught up in thinking, as you may, that if I just bear down, grit my teeth, gut it out, I’ll forcibly pull myself out of that rock-bottom place I’ve found myself in. The problem with this “work harder” approach is that we just add to our stress without adding to our effectiveness. Even though it’s hard to do, you may get better results in the long run if you step back – both mentally and physically – from the situation. Give your mind and your emotions a chance to clear and settle; work the kinks out of your body; give yourself the chance to come back refreshed and stronger.
  3. Ditch the gloom-and-doom, woe-is-me thinking. When you’re working to get out of an emotional pit, more than half the battle is getting your head on straight. The more you awful-ize the situation and rehearse how lousy it is, the worse it appears, the bigger the problem looms, and the less capable you feel of dealing with it. At times like these, it might be wise to adopt another of Wynonna’s views: “A dead-end street is just a place to turn around.”
  4. Connect with trusted resources to see if they can provide some mental WD-40 that will get you unstuck. I’m fortunate to be involved with two different Mastermind groups. While one is virtual and one is face-to-face, I know I can turn to the members of either one for input on handling almost any challenge that’s staring me in the face. Often times, their input strikes me as a BFO: a blinding flash of the obvious. It’s a little embarrassing to realize I’ve missed something that seems so obvious (once someone else has pointed it out to  me), but that’s a small price to pay for regaining my forward momentum.
  5. Keep your eyes on the prize. Although I don’t remember who’s attributed with the observation that successful people value results more than comfort, I’ve never forgotten this powerful saying.  Do you choose to stay focused on the challenges (roadblocks, problems, obstacles,pain-in-the-neck tasks) facing you, or do you choose to use one of the preceding strategies for getting beyond the temporary slump so you can achieve your desired outcome? Once again, it might not be the easiest thing to choose to focus on the long-term goal, but it’s certainly the most productive.

What are your thoughts? When you’ve hit rock bottom and feel like you’re stuck there, what have you done to get moving upward and onward again?

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