How to Power Through Tough Times in Your Career

My daughter is a competitive swimmer. When I’m not helping clients, I spend the majority of my time “Ubering” her around to practices and meets. Meets are usually an all-weekend event. Swimming is a demanding sport from a time, dedication and physical perspective. She loves it—most of the time. Lately, it’s been a grind for her more than a pleasure. You can see it in her eyes and her ability to race.

Even though she doesn’t feel great, hasn’t swam up to her potential and is probably ready for a break, I admire her ability to push through and do the best she can.

Our work lives are a lot like swimming—the effort will be there but the outcomes are not always what we want and sometimes even out of our control. Sometimes at work we feel overwhelmed, stuck in a rut and unable to see the big picture. Sometimes the business doesn’t grow like you want or you lose a key customer or deal. How you handle these ruts is key to your long-term success in your job or in your business. Here is what I told my daughter and what I think we all can do when we feel like this: reflect, reset and push through. (For related reading, see: Keeping a Small Business Afloat During Hard Times.)

Reflect on Your Career or Business

  • Try to put things in perspective. Look at how you got in the current position. Where does your business or career stand? Is it due to things out of your control or things that are in your control? How can you get better at running the business, doing your job or swimming the 200 meter fly? 
  • Look at the longer term, have you made progress? Despite my daughter’s recent grind, she’s had a great year cutting time across all strokes. Take a look at the key metrics of your job or business and find the positive outcomes that have occurred to build on.

Reset by Getting Away

  • Take a vacation – getting away can help with reflection and clearing the mind. Lily’s three weeks off will certainly help her get her groove back. This can help anyone. Americans often forget the value of vacation to health and productivity. (For related reading, see: How to Find a Cheap, Last-Minute Vacation.)
  • Get more rest and exercise – extra sleep and a better health regimen can revitalize us and give us the stamina to work through our ruts. 
  • Set new goals – Sometimes just setting a new list of goals can go a long way in getting you out of a rut. Make them measurable so you can track progress.

Push Through the Tough Times

  • Focus on the little things – the smallest of things in swimming can go a long way in making great strides and cutting lots of time. For my daughter, it could be limiting breaths during a sprint race or not taking breaths before or after a turn. Those two minor adjustments could shave seconds in a race, which is huge! In business, it could mean blocking time to make sales calls or focusing on the key accounts to deepen relationships and better understand their needs. 
  • Control your activity – this is simply being disciplined in the above approaches. Make the practices. Make the calls. Take care of the relationships.
  • Get coaching or a mentor – guidance from an outside unbiased person can help you stick to the new plan of action and keep you focused. Lily’s coaches are great at this and I think everyone should have a mentor or coach. It’s been so valuable to me over the years. 
  • Just keep swimming – And when all fails, sometimes we just have to keep doing the best that we can because this too shall pass, and for those who continue to grind every day, things do eventually turn around.

(For more from this author, see: Investing in Yourself is Most Important.)