For the past couple of months, I’ve been working away on a couple of projects, and it seems I keep  encountering one setback after another. Either that, or progress is just slower than I’d like. That could very well be the case since this whole thing has been a terrific test of my (lack of) patience.

Today has been particularly depressing. I got sick on the weekend, which set me back, and I’ve been wrestling with a chapter for what seems like weeks, which just refuses to be submitted. Whenever I think I’ve got it nailed, another little piece suddenly pops up, which means having to rewrite other sections.

And when things go poorly in one area, there seems to be a bleed through effect. Everything feels sluggish and slow.

It’s not all hopeless though. There are a couple of things I’ve discovered in this miserable process.

  1. There are a lot of cheesy quotes about setbacks
  2. Most of them involve pictures of mountains and people jumping
  3. Setbacks easily become fodder for the inner critic who is always on the lookout for more ammo to use against me. It takes a lot of energy to not take setbacks personally, as a sign that something’s wrong with me.
  4. It’s also seductive to interpret events magically, as if the setback is a sign that ‘it’s not meant to be.’ A setback is not feedback. Turning setbacks into tea leaves is just another trick of the inner critic. It might momentarily relieve me of the struggle, but it’s just a way to throw in the towel.
  5. It’s helpful to ask myself whether I’m truly encountering setbacks or did I just set my deadlines unrealistically? In other words, I set up the feeling of failure by defining progress through my arbitrary and self-imposed deadlines.
  6. It’s also helpful to remind myself of my love for endurance sports. How can I love slogging along for a hundred miles on my bike, uphill, on chip seal, in a headwind, and yet experience acute frustration when I’m stuck for 10 minutes formulating a paragraph? How can the human mind be so compartmentalized?
  7. I’ve also found it helpful to connect, talk to people, share what I’m working on, as well as the difficulties I’m having.
  8. And finally, try not to globalize it. There’s a huge temptation to throw in the towel, to decide it’s just not happening, so why not take the day off, and drop everything, even things that are going fine. I’ve learned that is the devil whispering in my ear, making it sound like some kind of earned reward when actually it is a very, very bad thing to do.

Oh wait, that’s only 8. And I wanted to write 10 tips. I’ve done it again. See, just one of those days!