How to keep on keeping on when you are doing everything you can and nothing’s happening

Know the feeling? You’re doing all the right things – following up with prospects, responding to market feedback, knocking at least 72 tasks off your to-do list every day. The pedal’s to the metal, and yet you don’t seem to be getting anywhere.

To add insult to injury, it seems as if everyone — everyone! — you talk to is on fire, signing million-dollar deals, making partner or being featured in Fast Company.

If you asked him, martial artist Bruce Lee would say: “There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”

Hmph. Clearly, he doesn’t get it. You don’t have time for a plateau right now. You have people – customers, investors, lenders, partners — breathing down your neck and threatening you with unpleasant consequences. You need to make something happen.

Unfortunately, all you’re going to get from Bruce is an impassive stare and a view of his back as he walks away.

So here’s the answer: if you can’t change your circumstances, you need to change the way you think about the circumstances. (I know, probably not the answer you wanted.)

So grab a pen and pad of paper, this three-point process will take less than 20 minutes and is guaranteed to rekindle motivation (do it alone or as a team).

1. Make a “things I’ve/we’ve done” list. You’ve probably noticed that, as a species, humans are predisposed to notice the negative. No matter where we are in life, we tend to focus on how long it’s taking to get “over there,” where we want to go – totally discounting how far we’ve come.

So step 1 is to acknowledge what you’ve done: the clients you do have, the development progress you have made, the sales/traffic you do have. This helps you regain your equilibrium and reaffirm that you haven’t been doing nothing.

2. Make a “things I/we’ve haven’t tried yet” list. Even though it may feel like you’ve done absolutely everything possible, inevitably there are new angles you haven’t explored, people you haven’t contacted. Making a list of these can actually be encouraging because it helps you see more clearly that there are still things that you can do to impact your results. It’s a reality check.

Oh, by the way, it’s common to look back and discount how hard you worked. So rather than wait until you feel that mounting panic that you’re not doing enough, give yourself a chance to course-correct by checking in with yourself several times a day, and asking: “Am I doing my best in this moment?”

3. Expand your idea of what’s possible. It’s easy to view other people’s success and think it was a smooth ride. Not surprisingly, comparing ourselves with others when we’re already feeling inadequate spirals down into negativity and feeling like “it’s never gonna happen.”

The way to nip this in the bud is to exercise possibility thinking – to go beyond linear thinking and stretch your belief of what’s possible. Look for examples of incredible rejection — Kathryn Stockett’s manuscript for The Help was turned down 60 times — and serendipity — Howard Schulz of Starbucks changed coffee drinking in the US when he went to Milan to source equipment and, visiting an espresso bar, had a flash of insight that, it’s not about the beans, it’s about the communal experience of drinking coffee. Flood your mind with stories and references so they become the new norm.

Immerse your mind with stories and references like this on a regular basis and they will become the new normal.