Last year I was in a dilemma. I’d found success as a writer and as a coach, but my business had slowed to a torpor. I didn’t know how I was going to pay the rent, let alone eat. 

Of course I engaged in the typical self-sabotage: Why the heck is this happening to me? I should be rich already! I’m not cut out for this shit. Help!

I indulged those thoughts for a week, which accomplished nothing and slashed my confidence to a speck. Rent was due in exactly three weeks, and I feared having to move back in with my parents — again.

But in my four years of being a freelancer and entrepreneur, I’d always found a way when I kept moving. I’d figure out some problem or make a new connection or stumble into a new gig. Only when I kept pushing, though. So in the midst of my weeklong wallow, I reinforced the weakest voice in my head. Just keep moving, I told myself.

It was hard enough to think the thought, let alone act on it. But as I sat in bed feeling sorry for myself, an urgency came over me, and I knew what I had to do. I had to just keep writing.

How one small effort multiplied into thousands of dollars per week.

I didn’t know how it would get me through. I didn’t know when it would. But even with the threat of failure practically strangling me, I trusted that my best effort would be enough. So I wrote about my most valuable experience — why professionals should spend more time on love-to-do lists. Not exactly an ace in the hole, but completing the article gave me back my momentum. And when I submitted it to a major magazine, the article did better than all my previous ones combined.

Within one week, I’d received nibbles from several potential clients. Two weeks passed, and I’d started negotiating the biggest writing project of my life. And exactly 21 days later, I was paid my assignment’s first half advance, which was triple my rent. Salvation!

Looking back a year later, having surpassed $5,000 a week in income, I owe everything to that one seemingly insignificant decision: Write. Every external sign told me I should just give up, and I had allowed my inner dialogue to follow suit. But if I hadn’t made the choice to wrangle my thoughts and keep moving forward, even in the face of certain failure, I would’ve slunk back to my parents in defeat. I would’ve relinquished all of my hard-fought independence. I would’ve given up my dream.

But here I am today, several small efforts later. I quadrupled my writing income by coaching others to make weekly breakthroughs a lifestyle. And my specialty? The daily action steps that keep you moving toward your goals.

After the breakthrough with my love-to-do list article, I promised myself to never again be in a position where I wasn’t doing something to advance my goals. Because the second I stop creating value for others, the second I stop advancing my goals, I start to feel helpless; and that helplessness feeds on itself until I feel despondent, which prevents me from being useful — and profitable.

Those negative emotions kept me on my mom’s couch for three years, but I’ll never indulge those feelings again. That’s why I always have a plan. You should, too.

Break through to the success you deserve with an action plan.

1. Get your confidence going first thing in the morning.

In order to keep moving forward, you have to have energy and inspiration. That’s why I meditate, exercise and set daily goals first thing in the morning. Then I immediately jump into my action steps for the day. Set up an hour-long routine for yourself that includes time for reflection, exercise and planning out the most important actions steps for your day.

2. Commit to several hours of real work a day.

When I work, I feel purpose, direction and confidence. I’m moving forward. When I don’t, I feel helpless. But it’s easier to not write when I’ve stopped for even just a day. That’s why I always plan on writing no matter how I feel and no matter what’s going on around me. If I complete that article or speech, I’m moving forward. And that’s the only thing that matters.

So whatever it is that you do, do it every day. Be so consistent that you won’t have a chance to feel sorry for yourself.

3. Control your thoughts.

Once you lose control of your thoughts, you lose control of your actions. And when you lose control of your actions, you lose control of your habits — and those are what determine your success.

Negative thinking was responsible for the week-long rut that almost knocked me out of the game for good. But after I turned it around, I made a habit of checking my thoughts. So I did affirmations to prime my mornings — I am confident, I am successful, I am consistent, etc. Then I planned out 20 minutes in the afternoon to reflect on my thoughts. Are they negative? Are they helping or hurting me? I then reflect on what I’m grateful for, excited about and proud of so that I can finish the day fully focused on doing my best. Meditation helps me to stop fear-based thinking in its tracks, and it reminds me that I always have a choice to step forward.

One fail safe way to control your thoughts is to schedule ten self-encouragement sessions in your daily planner. Here’s what it’ll look like:

Encourage Yourself! ☐☐☐☐☐☐☐☐☐☐

Then any time you make a good decision, you praise yourself and check off a box. You can also check off a box if you practice affirmations, or in any way support yourself mentally.


If you want to succeed, you’ll do whatever it takes to keep moving forward, especially in the darkest times. But forward momentum is a habit. So build the routines that support it.

Start your mornings off in a way that energizes you and boosts your confidence. Then immediately jump into creating something. That could be writing, designing, marketing, teaching, painting, etc. Keep knocking out your goals that you came up with in the morning. And make sure that you’re always choosing positive thoughts. Set daily goals for affirmations and self encouragement. For bonus points, set a recurring alarm every 30 minutes to remind you to stop negative thoughts and to choose useful ones.

And if you need expert guidance and a fail-safe method of getting the lifestyle and career results you’re after, consider my coaching services.

Originally published at


  • Daniel Dowling

    Performance Coach, Writer for Greatist,, Mindbodygreen, and FastCompany.

    Dan Dowling, here. I was the poster child for lost millennials - couldn’t keep a job…addicted to relationships…constantly checking social media and email. But when I got hungry enough for success as a writer, I gave up my distracted lifestyle and adopted one daily goal that changed my life forever: Do. Your. Best. Today, five years later, I’m a productivity coach who’s published on the world’s biggest sites (including Entrepreneur, Fast Company and Mindbodygreen), and I’m transforming lives through the best-effort, zero-distraction lifestyle that worked so well for me. Come and and learn how to always give your best at Millennial Success!