Sep 23, 2021 • Podcast

How do I remain hopeful when I’m struggling?

Paul shares some impactful ways to remain hopeful through tough times.

Show Notes: 

“The true test of your mental strength is when you have the ability to keep moving forward, even when you do feel hopeless.”

Shrink your time horizon. Focus on what you have to achieve immediately.

How would the mentally toughest person you know handle the tough times you’re facing?

“Don’t compare your progress to the progress of others. The only person you are competing with is yourself.”

“Filter your focus to look for the good, the positive.”

“Even on the toughest days, remain hopeful that what you’re going through will be a defining moment in your life.”


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Mentioned in this episode: Good to Great, by Jim Collins


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How do I remain hopeful when I’m struggling?

(Transcribed from podcast)

Here we are. We’re getting closer and closer to the 200th episode of the podcast. It is hard to believe. So, we’re going to talk about something important today. I was talking with a sales leader just the other day, and they had a salesperson that was deeply struggling. Their performance was just off; they’re struggling mentally. And in fact, Jason Bader and I recently had a conversation; I was on his podcast, and he talked about this term languish—how many of the salespeople out there, many of the professionals out there are just languishing. It’s just, we’re exhausted mentally and struggling. I had an interesting question from this sales leader. He just flat out asked me, “How do you motivate a salesperson to remain hopeful when they seem hopeless? How do you help them remain hopeful when they are really struggling?” What an important question. And we’re going to answer that question on today’s podcast.

Now, before we answer that question, a quick note for Andrea over at The Creative Impostor Studios. Her team does a wonderful job. You’ve heard me say it several times. And I continue to think about how this podcast really got started. And, you know, anytime you start something new, you really have a baseline, and the goal is to continue to improve on that. And that’s one thing Andrea has been extremely helpful with is sharing her insights, ideas, support, really anything. If you need help, give her a call. You send her an email and she responds. Andrea does a wonderful job. So if you’re thinking of starting a podcast or you already have one and you need to make a change, change over to Andrea and her team at The Creative Impostor Studios. We’re going to have a link to her website on this episode’s webpage.

Also, as we begin today’s episode and we answer that question, “How do you remain hopeful when there is no hope, when you are struggling?” And when I’m thinking about this conversation, when I’m thinking about remaining hopeful, I can’t help but think of my new book coming out, Selling Through Tough Times, and I’m going to read one passage from the new book. This is in the final chapter of the new book, and here we go:

Eventually, everyone feels broken through tough times. At those broken moments, find the motivation to piece things back together. Your mental strength is not determined by your optimism and tough times, it’s measured by your perseverance when you feel hopeless. Those are the moments that matter. At those broken moments, keep going.

When I think about that, you know, we think about the true measure of mental strength and what that means, and really, it’s easy to be optimistic when things are going well. It truly is. The true test of your mental strength is when you have the ability to keep moving forward even when you do feel hopeless. So, as we answer today’s question, I want you to think about that. Selling Through Tough Times is going to be available probably right as this episode is launching. Either way, we’re going to have a link over to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Wherever you want to buy the book, check it out. It’s available for Audible in the Audible app by Amazon, also the Kindle edition. So, we’ve got a few different ways for you to access the book. And the method I like, the old hard-back paper copy. We’re going to have that available. There is a slight delay, but you can pre-order your copy just by following that link.

Okay, let’s get back to answering that question: How do I remain hopeful when I am struggling? I know that all of you listening to this episode, you have faced some struggle. Whether it’s professionally, whether it’s in your personal life, you have faced some struggle. And I know sometimes the struggle that we face, the struggle that is weighing on us, can weigh heavier than the hope that we have. And when that happens, we need to remember that this is going to pass. And as we get past that, as we move past this struggle, I’m going to share a couple of ideas and tips to help you through these tough times.

Tip number one: shrink your time horizon. I want you to think about this for a moment. You know, on this show, we’ve talked about extending the time horizon when we’re talking to customers, we want them to think long term. But when you are facing a struggling point in time, and you feel almost hopeless, it’s important to shrink your time horizon. You need to focus on what you have to achieve immediately. Don’t think about all the things that have to go right to get you out of the slump you’re facing.

For example, let’s say you’re out of work right now and you’re stressed out. The bills are piling up. Don’t think about all the things that you have to fix over the next two months, three months, four months, whatever it may be. That is too overwhelming. Instead, all you need to think about is what you need to achieve today. What can you do today that is going to help you be in a better spot tomorrow than you are right now? Shrink your time horizon. Because when we look at that, when we look at the long term when we’re struggling and what we have to go through to get where we want to be, that can be a bit overwhelming. Think about it. If you were to climb Mount Everest, you don’t need to focus on the, oh, I don’t know, 10,000, 11,000 steps you need to take. If you are struggling at a moment in time, all you need to focus on is the one step right in front of you. Focus on that one step. That one step can make all the difference, because once you complete that one step, it’s going to encourage you to complete another step. Shrink that time horizon.

I think about this. A couple of years ago, I was working with a, with like a wood manufacturing company out in California. The business owner was a real dynamic guy. Man, I just got so much energy when I would talk to him. And we were talking about a business that he recently purchased. He bought this business, and one of the employees from the company that he just purchased, went up to him and said, “I don’t know why on earth you bought this company. You just bought 50 problems: fifty problems indicating that there’s 50 things we need to fix in this business.” And the business owner just looked at him and said, “You know what? There’s 52 weeks in a year. Let’s tackle one problem every week, and by the end of the year, we’re going to be in a much better spot.” That’s an example of shrinking the time horizon. He didn’t look at what he had to do in the next two to three years to fix the business, he looked at it one week at a time.

So, when you are struggling, when you feel hopeless, when you feel like you can’t get out of the slump that you’re in, just focus on one thing you need to do today or in the next hour, that will keep you moving forward.

Second tip: imagine that the struggle you are facing is a story. It’s a story. Think about it. As you are going to reflect on this time in your life, some point in, hopefully, brighter future days, and you were going to look back and reflect on this time. Imagine that what you were experiencing right now is a story. But rather than you blame the main character, who’s the individual going through this struggle, I want you to imagine—imagine the mentally toughest person you know. Ask yourself, ‘How would they handle this situation? What would they do? How would they do it differently?’ When I think about this, I call this stepping outside of yourself. It gives you a little more perspective. You can view things a little more objectively. Whenever you’re facing a tough moment in your life, imagine that the person going through this tough time is not you, but the mentally toughest person you know.

For me, it’s my dad. I’ve got to say, he is the mentally toughest guy I know for a number of reasons that I just don’t have time to go into, frankly, on this episode. But if I ever face a tough moment, I always asked myself, ‘Okay. What would he do in this situation?’ That provides clarity. It helps provide guidance. When you’re going through tough times, you need a mentally tough role model. I don’t care what struggle you’re going through—if it is professionally, if it’s personally—in your life, you’re dealing with something that is just mounting on you, imagine the mentally toughest person facing the same circumstance. What would they do? How would they respond? Just by doing it, it’s going to help you. So, imagine that mentally tough person.

Tip number three: don’t compare your progress to the progress of others. I’ve blown out both of my ACLs playing basketball, which is kind of ironic, ‘cause I kind of suck at basketball, but I enjoy the exercise. I’m not going to play anymore. But I remember going through rehab and, last time I blew out my ACL, I went to rehab. Day one, day one of rehab, where I’m barely able to move still, you know, I’m still on crutches after the surgery. And as I’m sitting there waiting to meet my therapist, I look at an individual, and this guy is doing ladder drills. He’s jumping back and forth. He’s pivoting. He’s doing all the things that I was able to do right before I blew out my ACL. And I asked him, (he was a young kid, in high school), I said, “Hey, so what are you in recovery for?” He said, “Oh, I tore my ACL five months ago.” So, he was on the tail-end of his recovery, and I was just beginning the journey. Now, as I sat there, I thought to myself, ‘Geez, man, I got five months of this. Five months before I can even move slightly as quick as this 18-year-old high schooler,’ whoever it was at the time. But I was comparing myself to the progress that he has already made. And the only thing that is going to do is set you up for failure.

Never compare yourself to other people. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday. Compare the progress that you’re making today to the baby steps that you took the day before. The only person you are really competing with in this world is yourself. And every day that you become better than who you were yesterday, you are winning; you are becoming stronger. That’s how you build resilience is you don’t compare yourself to other people, you compare yourself to who you were the day before.

Find a way to get better. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if that improvement is minuscule, if it’s barely noticeable by anyone. Sometimes you are going to win just by getting up and trying that day, because maybe yesterday you struggled. The key is moving on every single day, finding a way to progress forward. Don’t compare yourself to the progress of others.

Tip number four: as you go through a struggling time, filter your focus to look for the good, the positive, and avoid the negative. When you are struggling, when you’re in a slump, whether it’s professionally, whether it’s personally, there’s negativity all around you. And if you’re already feeling like garbage, if you’re already feeling like crap, it’s going to be easier to find all those negative things as well. If a hundred negative things happened, but one positive thing that day, focus your time and your attention on that one positive thing. And if you constantly have that head trash that’s floating around, and you’re seeing the negativity—you’re talking trash to yourself and all you can think about as the negative events—take some time and get those thoughts out of your mind.

I was talking to a business owner one time who gave me a great tip. He said, “Whenever I’m filled with negativity, I need to have some sort of outlet.” So what he would do is write down the negative thoughts on paper, (and I believe that the simple act of putting pen to paper can vacate those thoughts from your mind). And then, once he had the negativity out, he’d throw away the paper. Do something similar. Have that outlet. But regardless of all the negative events that happen throughout the day, focus on the one or two positive events. Focus on those events and just filter out the rest; filter out the noise.

Now it’s also important—tip number five—when you are facing a struggling time, whether it is a sales slump, whether it’s your professional or whether it’s your personal life and you’re facing troubles. When you start to rebound, when you start to get better, when you show signs of improvement, treat yourself. Give yourself a treat. I don’t care if it’s going online, buying some new clothes, buying a new product, treating yourself to ice cream. Whatever it may be, find some sort of reward for yourself as you make progress. That’s going to encourage you to keep going. It’s going to put you in a good mood. Find a way to treat yourself along the path through struggle. And by doing that, it’s going to encourage you to keep going. It’s going to give you something to look forward to as well. So keep moving forward.

And one final thought. And I’m just going to call this the Stockdale Paradox, ‘cause that’s what it is. It’s actually taken from a great book, Jim Collins, Good to Great. If you have not read this book, I’d highly recommended. We’re going to have a link over to it on this episode’s webpage. But remember the Stockdale Paradox. That’s tip number six.

So, to give you a little background, Admiral Jim Stockdale, he was captured during the Vietnam war, and he was tortured a number of times throughout his capture as he was a prisoner of war. And he was asked in interviews how he was able to make it through. And he said, “You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties. And at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

The way I read this is that Stockdale, yes, he remained optimistic and hopeful, but he also acknowledged the reality, the tough times, that he was facing. He looked at the facts. And when he was asked by the reporter, “You know, looking back at those prison camps, who were the ones who didn’t make it home?” And he said it was the optimists, the ones who would say, “We’ll be out by Christmas” and Christmas would come and go. And they’d say, “Well, we’ll be out by Easter.” “We’ll be out by the Spring.” They kept setting these deadlines, and every time another deadline was missed, their hope was completely crushed. And you think about what Stockdale probably did. He probably just thought to himself, ‘You know what? There’s no way I know when this is going to be finished. There’s no way to know when the actual end is going to be, but I know that I’m going to maintain that wavering faith.’ The big challenge when we go through a struggling tough time is we typically don’t know when the end date is. We just don’t know when it is, when it will get better. So, take a tip from Stockdale. Don’t worry about the deadline. Just worry about maintaining that wavering faith. And even on the toughest days, we remain hopeful knowing that what we’re going to go through is going to be a defining moment in our life.

As you struggle, it’s important to remain hopeful. I hope these six tips have helped you find that hope.

So just a quick recap, before we finish up the show. Number one: shrink your time horizon. When you are facing a struggle, don’t worry about the month or two months or three months or a year from now. Worry about today. Worry about the next day. Worry about this week. Shrink your time horizon.

Number two: step outside of yourself. Ask yourself, ‘Who is the mentally toughest person I know, and how would they respond to what I’m experiencing right now?’ It’s a way to give you perspective.

Tip number three: don’t compare your progress to the progress of others. The only thing you are comparing yourself to is who you were yesterday. That’s where we focus.

Number four: filter your focus. Focus on the positive versus the negative. There could be a hundred negative things that happen throughout the day, but if there’s one thing positive, focus on that. And if you have too much negativity in your mind, get pen to paper and vacate those negative thoughts.

Number five: treat yourself. When you hit your goals, when you hit those small benchmarks, treat yourself. Buy yourself a gift. Treat yourself to dinner. Whatever it may be, just give yourself some sort of reward.

And then finally, remember to ditch the deadlines when it comes to your struggle. There is no expiration date on struggle that we’re aware of, at least, and so we have to push through it. That means we’ve got to maintain that unwavering faith, just like Admiral Jim Stockdale.

Make it a big day.

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