Even the most inspired and talented among us falls into a slump from time to time. Take baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who went 24 games without getting a hit back in 1965. But he didn’t let a rough patch stop him: he went on to be named MVP later that year. It’s a good reminder that no matter how stuck we feel we are, there’s always the potential to make a comeback.
While we may not have a story as extreme as Mays, most of us have found our way out of a professional, creative, or productivity slump. So we asked members of the Thrive Global community to share the motivational strategies they’ve used to get unstuck. Which will you try?
Create a mental checklist
“Whenever I’m not feeling myself, I go through a mental checklist and interview myself. I start with how my body is functioning. Have I gotten enough sleep the past week? Have I been moving and sweating enough? Has my food consumption been healthy/nourishing lately? Then I assess my environment. Is my space cluttered and messy? Could the house use some cleaning and sanitizing? Lastly, I check in with myself and my relationships. Have I made time to connect with my loved ones during the busy week? Have I made the effort to self-reflect? How have I been sparking creativity? More often than not, my slump will be associated with one or a combination of these factors. I then have a list of solutions called ‘if that, then this’ to help me get back to my best self.”
—Melissa Muncy, content marketing, San Francisco, CA
Use the Nike strategy
“When you realise that motivation is created by action and not the other way around, you stop feeling that you have to ‘feel like’ doing something. Waiting to feel motivated is usually a waste of time so find ways to overcome the inertia instead. My favourite is to mentally, or out loud if I am on my own, count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 quickly and then shout ‘just do it’ in a firm voice. And move, immediately.”
—Hazel McCallum, smoking cessation and anxiety coach, London, England
Focus on your family
“A few years ago I realized I wasn’t a great dad. Stressed out with work, short tempered and snappy with my 3- and 6-year-olds. I decided to work out what it meant to be a great dad. The best thing I did was ask myself every day — ‘what kind of dad did I want to be?’ I also did end-of-day 60 second reflections to realise what I could do differently. Over time I renegotiated my relationship with work and started putting my family first. Now the relationship I have with my children is immeasurably better, and I’m happier.”
—David Willans, strategist, London, UK
Spark a new passion
“Even after achieving my career goals, I focused on what I felt was missing in my life and my worry, doubt and fear created more negativity. I not only felt ‘stuck’ in life, there were times I contemplated giving up. In 2005, however, I wandered into a fossil shop and bought a dinosaur tooth that would change my life forever. My interest in that fossil not only awakened my passion for paleontology, but set me on a life-long quest for adventure. I now realize it was my change in mental focus — to something positive, productive and exciting — that radically transformed my life for the better.”
—Elaine Howard, attorney and author, Leesburg, FL
Get moving — ideally outside
“To get out of a creative/work slump, I rely on physical activity. There’s nothing like a great surf session to get me out of my head, not to mention the mental benefits of the ocean’s negative ions. If surf conditions aren’t good, I’ll often settle for a hike or a yoga class. Basically anything that gets me out of my head and into my body works as a reset, and I always come back to my desk refreshed.”
—Elena Zaretsky, Screenwriter, Los Angeles, CA
Take a few minutes to journal
“I take a quiet me-time break, then jot down (pen and paper) the answers to these clarifying questions:
What am I grateful for? (This often works all by itself!)
What emotions do I feel right now? (Afraid, hurt, angry, sad, frustrated, etc.)
Why? What happened?
How do I want to feel instead?
What can I do to feel that way now? (Take action, take a break, release it, give it time, etc.)
Then I imagine how great it feels to already be inspired, creative, productive, and energized, which becomes my ‘why power’ that gets me back on track.”
—Kelly Rudolph, certified life coach, San Diego, CA
“Learning about something that piques my curiosity helps me get unstuck when I’m in a slump. I just choose a book, podcast, or documentary about a topic that interests me and reflect on the new information I learn. Pursuing lifelong learning keeps my mind open, which helps me see possibilities to move forward from slumps.”
—Whitney Hopler, communications director, Fairfax, VA
“My 5-year-old reminds me each day to live in the moment and be thankful for what we have. Jumping in the puddles, watching the worms come out after the rain, kicking the soccer ball… He finds great joy in the little things. I find I’m in a slump when it’s all work and no play.”
—Lisa Pezik, Business Strategist, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada
Make time to play
“Play away your slump! Stop being such a grown up — just for a short time, let go of the stresses, responsibilities and disappointments that have put you in Slumspville. Get back in touch with your real you, create a bit of freedom. Enjoy playing, do some sport, work on a puzzle, paint a picture, have a boogie. But make sure you do it for you. Whatever it is, you will soon be back in flow, more relaxed and that’s just the invitation energy and joy need to come back to you.”
—Kelly Herrick, artist and collaborator, Derby, UK
Watch your language
“Calling what you are experiencing a performance slump in and of itself may be inadvertently keeping you stuck. So the first strategy to try is to change your language and perspective on what you are going through.”
—Lauren S. Tashman, Ph.D., mental performance coach; New York, NY
“As a small business owner, when I hit a slump my entire business suffers. Two years ago, I lost both of my parents in a very short time and hit a slump due to grief. I had a difficult time focusing, planning and being creative. To drag myself through the slump to the other side, I relied heavily on my planner and a running to-do list. This helped me focus on critical tasks and appointments. Since I wasn’t able to be creative, I focused on critical mechanical tasks that I could accomplish and that I usually put on the back burner for more interesting tasks.”
—Susan Santoro, blogger and professional organizer, Northern Virginia
Use the S.T.U.C.K. Method
“Feeling stuck comes in all shapes and sizes. From being stuck on fear in my business, anger in a relationship, or frustration with myself. The most effective way I have found to get myself and my clients unstuck is using the S.T.U.C.K. Method created by Shira Gura. Five simple steps to break free from any stuck spot:
1) S — Stop, pause and breathe
2) T — Tell: What emotion(s) you are stuck on? There may be a few!
3) U — Uncover: What beliefs or thoughts are hiding under that emotion?
4) C — Consider: Are these beliefs true? Are they serving you? If not, can you stretch your mind to consider alternative thoughts?
5) K — OK: Remind yourself that we all get stuck as humans, and it’s OK.”
—Isabelle Griffith, Mindfulness & Resilience Coach, London, UK
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