Updated: Nov 2
10 strategies for keeping on in either case
As a coach for freelancers, solopreneurs, authors, and small business owners, I encounter the expected smattering of popular issues in my clients: income generation, accountability, juggling multiple priorities and projects, imposter syndrome, work-life balance.
But the number one surprise for people I work with— and it surprises me too how often I notice it and point it out to those I’m coaching — is that the “problem” they’re having is not that they’re stuck, but that they’re simply in the middle of it. They’re already on the journey they want to be on. They’re in the midst of it and this is what it looks like, feels like, to be in the thing they want to be in. Many don’t realize they have already successfully started something and are well underway.
The insight doesn’t always make things easier, but at a minimum it almost always provides an eye-opening and useful frame of reference. It could mean that they’re closer to their goal than they thought. It might mean they’ve made real progress but there’s still a long way to go. And, in many cases, there’s the realization that there’s no defined endpoint to arrive at — in the middle of it is the thing and it’s ongoing.
Whether or not you’re self-employed, the strategies that my clients and I use both in our work together and separately in our own businesses can be easily adopted by anyone who:
finds themselves in typical ongoing situation with no planned end — say parenting, marriage, a job, or
is deeply in the middle of something with a long road ahead.
Coaching Yourself Through Walking Walking is one of what I consider to be the four meta-tools of coaching yourself: Walking — easy, practical, healthful — is a terrific way to sort things out. Get your blood flowing and your limbs moving rhythmically and the flow of ideas and answers is often not far behind. As with silent stillness, sometimes a passive approach is best. Just walk with no purpose, for enjoyment, to clear the head, and see what comes up. Or, bring an agenda to your walk, and let the motion support some active dreaming and planning.
Brainstorming Sessions You can always rely on the generative creativity of brainstorming by yourself or with others, maybe even while you’re walking (use a recording app on your phone to capture ideas), for needed solutions or perspectives. For tackling the most challenging situations, I have long relied on Steve Chandler’s morning brainstorming habit (#8 in the linked article).
Just Starting This strategy refers to not waiting to feel like it before starting something. Often it is the doing, the beginning, that brings the motivation, that activates flow and progress.
Scheduling the Tough and Showing Up to Deal The number one habit of successful authors I’ve worked with is a daily writing habit and schedule. What happens quite quickly is that these writers train their brain and creativity to show up and perform at the allotted time. It’s a version of “just starting” (above), but it’s routine and scheduled. And it works for problems too. Don’t have time to deal with something now? Schedule the tough stuff on your calendar and witness how over time it gets easier for you to handle things in the time you’ve set aside for it.
Allowing Not Resisting You may have heard the expression whatever you resist, persists? It’s true. The fastest was through something is to allow it to be and acknowledge its reality. From there you can face it, work around it, or simply let it go (the Sedona Method described at the end of the linked article is an easy method for allowing and quick-releasing). Avoid and it will endure. One Buddhist meditation technique in this category is saying yes inwardly and smiling about it: Yes, this sucks. Yes, I don’t like this. Yes, I don’t know what to do. Yes, I’m scared and confused and sick and tired. You’re saying yes to, allowing, reality. Another version is the reframing with rewording: I don’t have to do this, I get to do it. Yay.
Decluttering the Distractions, Busy Work, and Errands Sometimes we feel stuck because we are — stuck in the middle of a gazillion things competing for our attention. Don’t know what to do? Anything. Just start chipping away at your to-do list; tie up loose ends; clean out the junk from your desk, your life, and your schedule; go for a long walk that also takes care of multiple errands. A metaphor I like to use in situations like this is video game hero:
"What works for me when facing a day of problems, impediments, or crushing setbacks and seemingly no way out or through is to remind myself that the open doors and gems I seek are there (they’re built into the game after all!!). Then, I de-emphasize them. I work on what I can with what’s in front of me — regardless of 12 closed doors; the dark, ominous thicket; being surrounded by enemies and teetering at cliff’s edge — and let those desired things and solutions reveal themselves in time.
And, wouldn’t you know it, it’s often sucking it up and making an uncomfortable phone call, answering lingering emails, or finishing a random project I had been procrastinating over for weeks, that seems to be the secret lever. I do the hero task/s and the gates slide open, the power packs accrue, and the coveted pink diamonds are mine! (When avoiding boring or icky work, I sometimes use the video game metaphor as an incentive…What fancy gizmo or unexpected reward awaits me for undertaking this now?)"
Rules, Systems, Habits of Excellence These are the foundations of a journey where things tend to work much of the time and work well. You learn them from others, from books and websites, from your own trial and error. You adopt what works, tweaking and adding as you go, and then they are there for you to guide, cushion, and support you in the middle of it.
Adding the 30–40 Lesson to the 80/20 Principle What is the 30 to 40 lesson? It’s an insight about change agents from the book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything* (Mc-Graw Hill, 2007) that says we often fail to install real and permanent change because we haven’t tried enough things, taken enough approaches. The number of things required the authors say, may be 30, 40, or more. Having this knowledge alone can re-orient you toward a calm discipline, a resilient endurance, a better attitude, and more realistic time and energy expectations. The 80/20 principle indicates that roughly 80% of one’s results come from the top 20% of causes. Combining them looks like this: Keep an evolving list of brainstormed strategies for your challenge or journey and work on them in order of the likely magnitude of their effect.
Right, Right Now and Savoring Right, right now is the fine art of lowering the bar and making yourself right and feeling it to be so. Right now in this moment, just as you are and just as the moment may be. Once you are savoring your present-moment excellence, you can move on to what’s next. Savoring is the fine art of drinking in and relishing, in sensory and conceptual detail, what’s in front of you. Its benefits include improved mental and physical health, strengthened confidence, awareness of your capabilities, better decision-making, and getting aboard an upward spiral of satisfaction.
Refusing to Choose Sometime we stay stuck because we can’t decide among a range of desirable options. As we all ease out of the pandemic, many people may find themselves in this situation: how to return to normal and keep the things we may have liked about working from home, spending more time with our family, or slowing down this past year. A book that “the fairy godmother of life coaching,” Barbara Sher, wrote, Refuse to Choose, offers a delightful array of approaches to this type of uncertainty. It includes all the philosophy, psychology, anecdotes, and commonsense you need.
Many times, the problem you’re having is not that you’re stuck, but that you’re simply in the middle of it — and this is what it’s like to be already underway in terms of your goal.
Multiple strategies from coaching and business can be applied in any situation where you may be stuck; in an ongoing thing with no end; or part way through a challenge with more ahead to conquer.
These devices include: coaching yourself through walking; brainstorming; just starting; scheduling what’s tough and showing up to deal with it; allowing rather than resisting; finding answers and forward motion through decluttering and tackling the busy work; refining the rules, systems, and habits of excellence that support you; incorporating the 80/20 rule into the lesson of 30 to 40; making yourself right, right now and savoring that; and refusing to choose.
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