Do you find yourself in a funk when nothing goes right?
It’s one thing to have a bad day. But sometimes we experience entire stretches of time when nothing goes right, even when we try our hardest to stay focused.
Like a row of dominoes, one thing after another comes crashing down.
Overcoming difficult times certainly takes grit, but it also requires self-awareness and recognizing when to pause and reset.
That’s what I want to share in this article — concrete strategies to feel better, recover, and start moving forward again.
First, recognize this happens to everyone
You may feel completely singled out, like a victim. Particularly when things are going wrong due to factors outside of your control.
But this can happen to anyone, even someone as successful as Oprah Winfrey.
During her speech at the 2013 Harvard commencement ceremonies, Oprah told a crowd of graduating students and their friends and family:
“At some point, you are bound to stumble. You will at some point fall, and when you do, I want you to remember this—There is no such thing as failure; failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”
Easy for her to say, right?
After all, what does someone like Oprah know about failure?
More than you might expect, actually.
At the time that she made that speech, Oprah was in the middle of a professional crisis. Her television venture, the Oprah Winfrey Network, was not the success she had envisioned.
Leading up to her speech, in April 2012, Oprah came close to acknowledging failure on CBS This Morning, “Had I known that it was this difficult,” she said of OWN, “I might have done something else.”
Even with her doubts, Oprah accepted the invitation to speak. Afterward, she saw her OWN network grow significantly. Fast forward to now, Oprah says OWN is in its “best place ever”— having finally found its voice among a passionate niche audience.
So when nothing goes right, it’s important to remember, this happens to everyone, even the most successful people you can think of. And you can learn from their stories that failure is a temporary experience,
Allow temporary setbacks to reignite your passion to succeed. I suggest a few strategies to help stay positive and get back on track, no matter what happens.
Be adaptable: When nothing goes right, go left
When we set meaningful goals, we tend to push ourselves full throttle. When nothing goes right, it can disrupt our momentum and throw us off course. This feels extremely discouraging, especially when you’ve already worked so hard toward your goal.
Shouldn’t all that hard work pay off?
We tend to think of life in a linear way. When you put in X amount of work, you get Y results. Having such rigid expectations will ultimately lead you to crash, when your plans don’t work out.
If you struggle with perfectionism, these crashes can hit particularly hard.
The truth is that life doesn’t always go as planned. The road of life winds through all kinds of unexpected twists, turns, and bumps. You may work your hardest and still not reach the target you had in mind.
Sure, it’s good to have a plan. But you have to stop applying linear thinking when life doesn’t go your way.
So when things go off the rails, what do you do?
Just like in a fencing match, you need to understand when to lunge forward and attack, when to take a step back, and when to change direction altogether.
Reset: Recognize when it’s time to pause
It can feel draining when nothing goes right. You feel defeated and backed into a corner. And as I said before, this scenario can happen to anyone, even world champions.
Look at Olympic silver medalist Epee fencer, Ana Maria Popescu from Romania. What does she do if an opponent starts to chip away at her during a match?
She hits the reset button.
When an opponent tries to make a run at her, Popescu wisely signals the director that she needs to lace her shoe or straighten her weapon. This gives her a moment for a mental “reset”. She takes the time to pause and step out of the situation. When she returns to compete, she changes the momentum in a favorable direction.
Numerous studies show that strategic breaks have the power to refresh your brain and to stay motivated when taking on challenging tasks. Sometimes you have to step back in order to make a huge stride forward.
Regroup. Recalibrate. Reevaluate your priorities. Reflect on where you can improve, build some strategies that work. You can always get back into the ring, this time with a clear head.
Surround yourself with supportive people
I recently crashed emotionally. The downer started during a fencing tournament when I didn’t perform as well as I wanted against younger, more experienced fencers.
Moments like that can set off a spiral of disappointment and self-criticism. Unchecked, these thought patterns will trash your confidence and make you stop believing in yourself, and from believing that your goals are even possible.
Sure enough, in my next practice, I received a puncture wound, which I instantly connected to my slipping performance in the tournament.
In the middle of this spiral, I needed to stop that train of thought, and get out of my head. The best way I’ve found to kick-start that process is to get input from supportive people in my life.
Sometimes you need to gain perspective from those who genuinely back you and lift you up. We all need our “cheerleaders” on the sidelines.
So I opened up to my coach and my partner to discuss what was going on with me. In my emotional state, all I could see was that I hadn’t placed as high as I wanted to.
Talking it over with my support crew, I was able to see that this funk was telling me something. It was an opportunity — not a failure. A shift in perspective was all I needed to start looking for a way forward instead of giving up on myself.
When nothing goes right, speak to a coach or mentor, or a close friend who can help you navigate the situation in a constructive way.
Trust the process
During my mini-funk, instead of taking a few laps on a hamster wheel of negative thoughts, I faced the situation. I acknowledged it and I dove in to discover what the funk could teach me.
And here’s the insight: I need to pull myself up.
I need stronger, faster, better, more supportive business coaching and mentoring to meet my goals. In the quiet eye of this storm, I gain peace of mind in knowing what I need to do to move forward. I have a path ahead of me, one that allows me to walk away from this experience, and avoid future pain.
Even more importantly, the way is opening up for me to reach my aspirations. I have a clear understanding of what I want to accomplish, what to do, and what is no longer working.
That is all a part of the learning process.
Keep your wits about you
When everything seems to go south, watch your mental state. It’s easy to panic and react emotionally in ways that will only dig you in deeper.
Instead of lashing out at people or making rash decisions, use what you’ve learned in this article to set a new course. Adapt your expectations, pause to reset, get support, and when you’re ready, get on with a fresh strategy to meet your goals.
Sometimes there’s a perfect storm. Sometimes there’s an avalanche of negativity.
Stay the course. Things will change. And remember that nothing goes on forever.
Keep your wits about you, and ride out the storm knowing the sun will shine again.
Staying Centered When Nothing Goes Right
Remember, even when you try your hardest, things might not go your way. You can’t always predict what will happen, and blaming yourself is not a success strategy.
So if you’re going through a difficult time, and need support, give us a shout.
We’re in the business of courage. We’d be honored to support you.