10 things to do when it feels like you’re failing

“You know those days when you get the mean reds? … Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of.
Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away.”

– Breakfast at Tiffany’s

One of the hardest things about being an ‘online entrepreneur’ or chasing your creative dreams is the fear. The fear that creeps in when your inbox fall quiet for an afternoon; when you’ve not had enough sleep; when someone else gets the big break that you wanted to be yours. It’s the fear that whispers ‘what if you’re not good enough?’ or ‘look how you’re failing!’. It’s the fear that makes most people give up.

I’m not a fan of giving up, ever – or at least not before every option has been exhausted. I describe myself as ‘annoyingly tenacious’ and if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of me trying to get something I want, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. ? Ahem. Sorry about that. 

Tiffany’s doesn’t do it for me, so when I get afraid, I get productive. In fact fear is one of my biggest motivators in life! Apparently it’s quite common in POTS patients, as we have to rely on our adrenaline to ever push us into action – but you can do it too!

When fear or self doubt or a creeping sense of failure hit, here are ten things you can do to channel it into something a little more productive.

10 things to do when it feels like you’re failing

1. Send out more invitations to success. Ugh, that sounds like such self-help garbage, but what I really mean is, put yourself out there some more. When I start to spiral into hopelessness I get out my Macbook and connect, ask for help, and PITCH. Think of something that would feel like a really big win for you – a contract, a meeting, whatever. Write a killer email explaining why it should happen, and throw it out into the universe. Sure, it might lead nowhere – but then again, it might not. What have you got to lose?

2. Write it out. If you could read all the posts in my ‘drafts’ folder from bad days, sad days, mad days… well, you’d know me a lot better, to say the least! ? Most will never see the light of day, but just the act of writing it all out is productive and cathartic, and I’m a big believer in any skill, including great writing, requiring regular daily practice.

3. Change course. Sometimes the fear comes to tell us something important – that we’ve gone off path and need to correct our course. If something someone else has done has triggered you to feel threatened, look at what it is you’re doing, and why it doesn’t fill you up.

4. Make big plans. Some of my biggest business leaps have been born from a feeling of competition or fear. We can all be guilty of standing on the edge of the cliff and looking down, wondering. Sometimes we need someone or something to give us that push into the great unknown. Without wishing to sound too Pinteresty – if you never do anything radically different, don’t expect anything to radically change.

5. Set a strategy. If you’ve been triggered by seeing something someone else has got – more likes, more followers, a big contract – set a strategy for how you can achieve it too. Write it down, in tiny achievable steps, then get started on the first. It feels way better than sitting there wallowing, and again – it’s actually productive!

6. Make an inspiration board. Either literally, or go to Pinterest and find a whole heap of images and quotes and ideas that make you feel optimistic and excited about what it is that you do again. Soak it in. Repeat as needed.

7. Take a break. Sometimes the best way to escape all those racing fearful thoughts is to shut the computer, stick your phone on airplane mode and go do something else. I can recommend: walks in the wild, binge-watching Gilmore Girls, playing with a child or reading a glorious novel in bed. 

8. Get back to the creating. Whatever it was that got you into this business – be it photography or writing or crochet or even just a great eye for interiors or baby clothes – go do that. Not the SEO or the Facebook ads or the hashtag lists. Go do the thing that you love, and that drives you.

9. Talk to your business besties. It is absolutely essential to find people who work and think like you, who can hear you out in times of crisis. If you don’t already have a network like this, take steps now to build one, so it’s there when you need it – and when they in return need you. & if you need someone to vent to right now, come tweet at me. I promise, whatever it is, I’ve been there.

10. Listen to podcasts! I know I’ve been harping on about podcasts quite a bit lately, but listening to the right one can feel a lot like chatting to a business bestie *and* having a mentoring session, all in one. If need be, download a heap, get in your car and drive yourself uncrazy. Then stop on your way home for a bottle of wine, and get back to work.

One final note:

If you find yourself repeatedly struggling with comparison and fear, then talk to someone. A mentor, a therapist, a life coach – depending on how it manifests and how intrusive it is in your daily life, there are different folks to turn to. 

That might sound excessive or indulgent, but the truth is this: the biggest asset your business has is you and your mindset. If you’re in the wrong head space and it’s holding you back, investing in shedding those fears and unhealthy mind-traps can transform your entire future. The single biggest thing I see holding back the people I mentor is themselves: their fear, their doubt and their false beliefs. 

What do you do when things start to feel hopeless? Got any good cures for the ‘mean reds’? 

  • Rida Suleri-Johnson

    I’ve been really trying to conquer the fear and put myself out there more. Ive not done resolutions in years but did this year because I want to say yes more and do more and put myself in line with where I put my children.
    I’m not sure exactly where I want to go or what I want do but I know it’s already helping.
    Not feeling good enough or enough is a big thing for me; but again I’m working on it. I have to shake or dance (literally) that feeling off.
    Spiralling isn’t something I cope with at all.
    Having recently come to terms with the fact I have PND and I’ve been suffering with anxiety for like the last 15 years (but just realised) is odd and hard. But I’m doing good and trying and dancing off the “reds”.
    I forgive myself.
    Lovely post Sara, thanks for sharing.
    Although no idea what POTS or SEO are! ??

  • My grandfather always said to me “When you don’t know what to do, just do the next thing.” To this day, he’s one of the most productive people I’ve ever met… while still leaving time for relationships & helping others. It seems like it might be an obvious piece of advice… but my fear tends to present itself in the form of feeling overwhelmed. I have so many things to do, I’m completely overwhelmed, & afraid I won’t be able to finish them. On those days I write an unbelievably BASIC to-do list. “Get dressed” “Wash the dishes” Fold 1 load of laundry.” I just try to do the next thing. Push through that “slog” feeling, & just do one simple thing.

  • Yessss, Sara. Thank you so much for these. When I feel like this (and funnily enough, I felt this just this week), I always start by stepping back from it. Long bath, painted nails & a good book does the job for me, and then I jump to #5 (set a strategy) and try to remember #8 (creativity) at all times.

    The bit you’ve bolded at the end there is so true – I just started reading Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’ today and it echoes what you’re saying here. 🙂

    Flora

    http://www.theeverchanginghome.com

  • Some really good ideas here. I’ve been feeling the same lately or more so feeling like I don’t have the motivation and feeling as though my creativity has gone into some sort of hibernation mode. I always find that taking a break from what I’m doing is a good way to take a moment just to breathe. I usually go out for a walk just to clear my mind, listen to some music and even keep some sort of camera on hand because inspiration could be anywhere! Helpful post.

    Kayleigh | anenthusiasmfor.blogspot.co.uk

  • Elinor Hill aka Beachhutcook

    Are you a mind reader? Today I had one of those days, crazy hey? So I got cooking and luckily my team made all the right noises with their mouths full. So next time I don’t win that pitch I’m not going to do that whole Diva thing.

    Actually I quite like my inner Diva – sshh! X

  • Diana Maria

    I felt like I wrote this, I feel this way so often at times! Getting back to creating and just seeing where that takes you can do wonders. I think I’ll try setting a strategy this week and see where that takes me. Thank you for this wonderful post!

    My Lovelier Days

  • I needed to come across this today. These are lovely suggestions. I have been meaning to create a new private Pinterest board as an inspiration/life vision board. And yes, writing it all out is very therapeutic as well!

  • Nicely put (or written haha) However, it’s a really nice and encouraging post. Thank you for sharing it.

    Lucie xx http://www.inbluebox.com

  • I love how you started off the post with a Breakfast at Tiffany’s quote – it’s one of my favourites! As a teenager, whenever I had freak outs I would always put on that film and it would calm me down a bit. I loved this post – so much positivity!

    Lynnsay x
    http://www.sartorialscot.com

  • Peabody Amelia

    Great idea. Like putting yourself (me) out there and create. Good reminders thank you.

  • This has been incredibly helpful today, thank you for writing it.

  • I find the best thing to help me is writing in my diary. It helps with anger, anxiety, sadness, happiness, literally everything and it helps clear my thoughts whether the text made sense or not!

    Lii
    https://byliil.wordpress.com/

  • @oftheeveryday

    sara. thank you. i could read your writing all day. so human, raw and inspiring all at once. truly.

  • Emma Bibby

    Hello! I just wanted to say thank you for such inspiring blogs – and for all that you share – your generosity with sharing your tips and techniques including your podcast is so appreciated. You really are an inspiration! Thanks for this post too x

  • Pingback: Love love love list: February 2017 - BeNourishd()

  • Pingback: Podcast 5 - Avoiding the comparison trap - meandorla.co.uk()

  • Pingback: Corners of the Internet #23: The Best of the Internet, from Me to You()