Sunday, October 04, 2009

How to pull yourself out of a slump

Several years ago, I fell into a slump immediately upon receiving the results of my CPA exam; I had passed only one section, meaning I had to take the entire exam over again. Fortunately soon afterwards, I came across an Ask E. Jean advice column in Elle Magazine that went something like this:

Dear E. Jean,
I am miserable. I don’t have a boyfriend. The apartment I live in is a dump; I have a lousy job and rarely go out. I spend all of my free time reading romance novels and dreaming of the life I will someday have. A life where my "night in shining armor" will swoop down and rescue me from my miserable life. He will be a romantic who enjoys eating dinner by candlelight and sending me flowers. Eventually we will marry and live happily ever after with our two kids in a house with a big yard and a white picket fence. What can I do to make this life happen?

Dear Miserable,
Take a lesson from single men. How many of them sit home reading romance novels? Instead they, along with their single buddies, spend their free time participating in competitive sports. Get moving. Join a softball or volleyball league. And read difficult books. Men don’t read romance novels; they read difficult books. Read Jane Austen and Emily Bronte. Instead of pining for a man to buy you flowers buy yourself a plant and put it in your apartment window. Stop dreaming about life and start living it. Your dreams will follow.

Miserable’s circumstances may have been different than mine, but I still found E. Jean’s advice motivating. I had a couple of months before I needed to begin the daunting task of studying for the exam again, to break out of my slump I decided to just do something. I signed up for golf and tennis lessons; I read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudiceand planted a container herb garden that I placed in my apartment window. It worked. When the time came to begin studying I felt refreshed and able to take on the task.

Now once again, I find myself in a slump, the economy has taken a toll on the company where I work; I received a pay cut. Home and auto repair have put a dent in my savings. Dreams of travel, plans of early retirement or pursuing a different line of work have all been placed on hold. Suddenly, finding a new job in a more stable industry has taken precedence over finding the right job and getting my ducks in a row. My not quite right resume continues to go out unnoticed. My favorite recruiter resigned. I used to complain about everything always being the same; now everything is the same only worse than the same. How do I pull myself out of this slump?

Here are a couple of inspirational blog posts I’ve found offering ideas on breaking out of a slump:

John at Pick the Brain wrote an informative post explaining why we lose motivation. He writes:

There are 3 primary reasons we lose motivation.
Lack of confidence – If you don’t believe you can succeed, what’s the point in trying?
Lack of focus – If you don’t know what you want, do you really want anything?
Lack of direction – If you don’t know what to do, how can you be motivated to do it?
(This pretty much sums up how I've been feeling)

When his motivation starts to wane he:
Regains direction by creating a plan that contains two positive actions. The first one should be a small task you’ve been meaning to do, while the second should be a long-term goal. I immediately do the smaller task. This creates positive momentum. After that I take the first step towards achieving the long-term goal. Doing this periodically is great for getting out of a slump, creating positive reinforcement, and getting long-term plans moving.

Gretchen Rubin author of the Happiness Project provides some quick ways to boost happiness in her interview with CBS:

Get enough sleep.
Go for a walk.

Make your bed each day. (This is a great suggestion when you need to just do something)

Morrison at the former blog All Doors Considered believes “The Great Recession” is over. Business at her small company has picked up and her DH's friends are back to work (at lower paying jobs of course, but at least they are working). She has decided to rebuild herself and offers these steps:

#1. Start on yourself. When you look good, you feel good about yourself and life improves.
#2. Put your house in order. When you live well, you feel well and you start to live better.
#3. Rebuild your finances. With banks paying 1.5%, The Feds paying 0% on most bonds and Wall Street still without new regulations, this is going to be most difficult.

Janie at How I got out of $26,000 debt before getting married offers a 100 day challenge. She realized as of September 23rd there are only 100 days left in 2009 and thought it would be amazing to see how much she could accomplish in the last 100 days of the year. Starting on September 23, 2009 she gives everyone a little financial knowledge building challenge to complete each day. A daily challenge for 100 days is guaranteed to offer a couple of inspirational ideas.

It is sometimes easier to see what others need to do than for me to see what I need to do myself. My friend Alyssa has been talking about going back to school forever, but has never enrolled in even one class. When I asked her why, she said she didn’t want to take a class until she knew exactly what area of study she was going to pursue. It is easy for me to see she needs to take a class (any class) and see what happens from there.

For myself, I was telling a peer in my professional organization about my company’s dismal outlook. She recommended I contact every member I talk to regularly; tell them I’ve begun a job search and ask them to keep there eyes open. There, perhaps I have step one.

The message I take from all of this is the first step in breaking out of a slump is to just do something. It may not be the right thing or the perfect thing, but you need to start somewhere.

How do you pull yourself out of a slump?

If you like this post you may also like:
Tips for getting motivated

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for talking about my blog. You are the best!

    Best wishes,