Does it feel like it’s been a long time since you’ve had a major win at work? While there will always be ups and downs, nothing is permanent, even if it might feel that way. Sometimes you’re on top and things are running smoothly; other times, you struggle to stay afloat. If you’re having a hard time believing that the slump will ever end and need to hear it from someone else, contact a friend or mentor who can give your perspective. If you feel like you can’t catch a win or move ahead on a project, it’s time to adjust your mindset. Celebrate even the smallest of wins. Remember that the tiniest win can catapult you ahead. Lean on your mentors and colleagues and keep the naysayers at bay. Over time, the cumulative effect of these positive actions will move you forward, and those tiny wins will add up to big wins. Remember that this will reverse, even if you’re not sure when.
Social media makes it easy to see everyone’s wins. But if you’re in a period where you’re grinding away and it feels like it’s been a while since you had any wins of your own, seeing happy LinkedIn announcements from friends and colleagues can feel painful. Perhaps you’ve had success in the past doing what you’re doing — but now nothing is landing. If you feel like you’re not moving forward with your work, it’s time to recalibrate, check your mindset, and focus on activities that make you happy, rather than on comparing yourself to others. Here are tips for moving forward when you really need a win.
Remember that this is a season.
There will always be ups and downs; nothing is permanent, even if it feels that way. Sometimes you’re on top and things are running smoothly; other times, you struggle to stay afloat. There is no one “right” season. Remember that this period is only a bump and won’t last forever. If you’re having a hard time believing that the slump will ever end and need to hear it from someone else, contact a friend or mentor who can give your perspective. Remember that this will reverse, even if you’re not sure when.
One client of mine kept pitching ideas to her client, but never seemed to get traction. Everything she pitched was passed upon. My client felt frustrated because it felt like she would never get an idea approved; yet she kept taking action. My client decided that this was a “grind season”; she learned to detach from the results and just keep moving.
Celebrate a (tiny) win.
You’ve probably heard it before: “celebrate the small wins.” But what if you feel like you don’t have any wins, however small? In their article “The Power of Small Wins,” Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer share this: “When we think about progress, we often imagine how good it feels to achieve a long-term goal or experience a major breakthrough.” These big wins are great — but they are relatively rare. If you’re searching for a small win and coming up short, try this: go even smaller. List out every detail that went into a recent work project. Which of those went off without a hitch? Which went better than expected? Recognizing even a tiny victory can change the trajectory of the work and lift your spirits. One former colleague decided to keep track of his micro-wins. Over time, he saw how tiny wins built up. The net result was that he felt more powerful and capable in his role.
Set firm boundaries around whom you allow into your space.
Even colleagues and friends with the best of intentions can cause you to doubt yourself. Consider who among your colleagues makes you feel good? Who takes the wind out of your sails? Set boundaries and be ruthless about avoiding the people who bring you down. In his article “The Emotional Boundaries You Need at Work,” Greg McKeown creates a matrix by which people can determine their boundaries. McKeown writes: “To develop meaningful and mature relationships at work or at home we need to develop two filters. The first filter protects you from other people. The second filter protects other people from you.” This doesn’t mean you turn into a hermit; rather, it means you only spend time with people who make you feel good (even if it’s just one person). Remember — you don’t have to have such hard boundaries forever. While you’re getting back on your feet, though, ruthlessly avoid people who knock you down a peg. That may also mean staying off social media for a bit.
Forget being grateful; look at your strengths.
Practicing gratitude makes you feel better and expands your view of what’s going right. However, if your spirits are down, “being grateful” may feel like too much of a stretch. Instead of making gratitude lists, try this; at the end of the day, review your actions and appreciate what you did well. This could be something as simple as “I smiled at the barista today”; or, “I shared a valuable insight in the senior leadership meeting.” Write at least three things a day. Over time, seeing your positive actions accumulate will bolster your sense of self-confidence and help to propel you forward.
Appreciate what’s going right.
If you’re feeling ineffective, you may think you need to do something. Yet often, action isn’t required. If you feel driven to do, check the impulse; instead, try sitting and doing nothing. I coach many clients to block off time on their calendars to do nothing. “Nothing” may mean sitting and reading a fashion magazine to clear their mind. Or it might mean sitting and thinking about a meeting that went well last week.
The key is to let your mind get quiet and try to notice at least one thing that’s going right. If you’re not looking for the good, you’ll miss it and stay in the negative belief that “nothing is working out for me.” Throughout the day, it’s easy notice the “dings,” or things that don’t seem to be moving in the right direction. Likewise, it’s easy to overlook the quiet hum of everything that’s working as it should. Get in the practice of noticing — and writing down — three things that are going right, every day.
Look at other people’s wins, but never to shame yourself.
Sometimes you need to look outside yourself at other people’s wins. You needn’t compare yourself and create a measuring stick for where you want to be; rather, use other people’s wins to catapult yourself ahead. Adopt this mindset: “If that person can do that thing well, then I can, too.”
I worked with a client who likes to watch motivational YouTube videos. He watches Tom Brady montages on YouTube when he needs to “win” (i.e., close sales). My client uses Tom Brady’s drive, motivation, and hard work to lift himself up and signal to himself: “I can win, too.”
Expand your horizons.
If you’re feeling low, you may be inclined to hunker down and do the least amount possible. A better idea is to look for paradigm-shifting ways to challenge yourself. Nathan and Susannah Furr, authors of The Upside of Uncertainty, share in their book the big ups and downs they experienced when they moved to France and learned to thrive in a new context, and how it’s important to stop attempting to control risks. Instead, consider how you can create the conditions for positive change. When the Furrs faced seemingly insurmountable challenges, they kept moving forward and looking for new possibilities.
If you feel like you can’t catch a win or move ahead on a project, it’s time to adjust your mindset. Remember that the tiniest win can catapult you ahead. Lean on your mentors and colleagues and keep the naysayers at bay. Over time, the cumulative effect of these positive actions will move you forward, and those tiny wins will add up to big wins.