As founder of the BEGIN WITH YES Facebook community with over two million followers and the author of several motivational books including my newest book, BE AMAZING, people automatically assume I have everything well under control. After all, I’m the expert! There’s no way I could ever feel overwhelmed, or ‘stuck’ or even the slightest bit stressed or off-kilter. I must meet my personal goals with ease and my dreams materialize with little or no effort. Understandably, people who are struggling mightily would welcome any and all easy answers from the motivational gurus of the universe who promise to lay out the roadmap to easily overcome life’s most challenging hurdles.
If that’s what you’re looking for in a mentor or self-help soldier, I hate to break it to you. That’s certainly not my life and it’s definitely not my day-to-day reality. Sure, if I had that magic bullet that would solve all the world’s problems, it would definitely help my book sales! But it just wouldn’t be the truth and let’s face it – that’s no help to either one of us. That being said, because I know what ‘overwhelming’ feels like and because it’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, I have learned some fairly easy strategies to get beyond it that I believe will work for you too.
So, first of all, join the club. You’re in good company! Acknowledging that things are on pause for you is a great place to begin the process of getting unstuck. The pause actually tells us that you have places you want to go and things you want to accomplish and I, for one, think that’s very good news.
And with that good news, let me share a few easy suggestions that will help and some attainable steps you can take to get the train running and back on-track again.
- Take a deep breath and acknowledge you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed. I like to remind myself that a GPS or navigation app on our phones can only help us get to a desired destination when first we establish a clear starting place. And your starting place is exactly where you are right now: overwhelmed.
- Now would be a good time to remember that feeling overwhelmed is a common feeling and especially so for folks who have things – often many things – they want to get done and many dreams they hope to make happen. That’s good news, so be sure to own what your mission is and then take another deep breath. And after that last calming breath, acknowledge that feeling overwhelmed is just that…a feeling. And because overwhelmed is just a feeling rather than an actual place, we can relax even more because feelings, after all, come and go, and this too, will pass.
- I have learned that it’s perfectly okay to sit for a while with the feelings we have. You do not have to solve or resolve that emotional traffic jam today. It’s important to keep it in perspective because you certainly don’t need the added pressure of trying to find a quick-fix. This will only accentuate your anxiety and exacerbate your frustration! So, cut
yourself some slack, and stop trying to push your way through it! Let it ebb and flow all
on its own.
- Now divert your attention to something more mundane. Make the bed, clean out that pesky junk drawer, take your dog for a walk, or meet a friend for a movie or coffee. Stop trying to make something big happen and instead, just do something small and easy for right now.
- When you’ve caught your breath for a moment, try to make a list of all the things you are trying to tackle at once. It could be a short list or a long one, but you’ll soon see that trying to do too much at once is a sure-fire way to short-circuit progress.
- Now it’s time to get focused. Choose one primary goal from your master list. Maybe it’s learning how to speak a new language or how to get a new job or write a book or make a move to a brand-new town. Make this your temporary focus. I totally understand that you have a lot of competing things that must get done or that you want to accomplish, but if you try to bake a cake WHILE folding the laundry AND driving to work…well, you get the point. Feeling overwhelmed soon dissipates when you learn to manage or regulate what you’re trying to accomplish. One-thing-at-a-time works much better than a-million-things-at-once.
- Now ask yourself, “What’s a small, realistic step I can actually take right now to make progress on whatever goal I’m focused on?” Then take that one, small step. Suddenly you’ll realize you’re moving again! And if it feels right, take another small step, and even another.
- Then, depending on what’s on your plate, turn your attention to another reasonable goal and repeat the same “think of a small step and take it” process. Now you’re actually making some real progress! Soon you will happily discover that the cake will get baked, the laundry will get folded and the drive to work can all happen – just not all at once.
Feeling overwhelmed is just like an emotional traffic jam. But with the right strategies in place, you’ll be able to implement some simple traffic controls and rewire your GPS to help you move forward in a logical, reasonable and manageable way.
Take it easy, be gentle with yourself, take plenty of breaths and don’t presume you’ll be able to learn that new language in a single day. Instead celebrate learning a new phrase or two, and then get started on that cake!
Paul S. Boynton is the author of several books including Amazon bestseller Begin with Yes, around which he has built an extraordinarily engaged audience of over two million followers. A true force of nature and popular keynote speaker, Paul is also President and CEO of The Moore Center, an organization serving people with intellectual disabilities. His writing has frequently been featured in the Huffington Post, the NH Business Review and The Good Men’s Project. Paul has degrees in both social work and counseling. He lives with his partner, and their dog Toby in New Hampshire, and spends much of his free time visiting his three adult children and their families. Paul’s latest book, Be Amazing, is available online at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and IndieBound.org.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.