Square Your Shoulders, Take a Breath

We all go through periods when each day is a tough one.  At times like this, it’s easy to question our resolve, give up on our dreams and retreat to what is safe and known.

It’s at these times you need to take a breath, square your shoulders and just put one foot in front of the other.

When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.
— Harriet Beecher Stowe

As entrepreneurs and leaders we all face times like this.  Times when it would be easier to opt for a simpler life – any many do every day.  The business exit rate in Australia stands at 48% - there are a lot of broken dreams wrecked on the reef of entrepreneurship. 

I’ve known many times like this myself.  Times in my career when I’ve been up against the wall.  Times at sea, when it was tough, exhausting and heart breaking. Times as an entrepreneur when I didn’t know how I was going to pay the rent next month. 

But to accomplish extraordinary things you have to, by definition, be capable of extra ordinary (beyond ordinary) efforts.  It takes resilience, fortitude and commitment.

Touching the Void

A great example of this is the story of New Zealand mountaineer Joe Simpson who fell 150 feet into a crevasse and broke his leg.  Badly injured, lost without food or water and unable to climb out, it would have been easy to give up. Instead, he lowered himself deeper into the crevasse, found another way out and then spent 3 days dragging his broken body 5 miles until he reached base camp.

Thankfully, few of the challenges we face are so extreme but the lesson still holds.  When you find yourself in a tough place, the only way out is to pick yourself up and put one foot in front of the other until you come out the other side.

Finding a way forward

When in places like this, here are a couple of things I’ve found that help:

  • Expect (and accept) the setbacks.  Knowing this is a normal state – that success requires renewal and growth, helps me keep things in perspective.
  • Visualise.  I take a deep breath, see my shoulders lifting and squaring up.  My back and torso lift and strengthen.  Mentally, I lean forward into the problem and then resolve to just put one foot in front of the other.
  • Know your purpose.  Knowing why I’m doing what I’m doing each day, why I’m getting out of bed, helps me see the bigger the picture.  It gives me energy and strengthens my resolve.
  • Faith that it will all work out.  I’ve been through a lot of adversity…and yet I’m still here and life is good.  Experience tells me that these times are temporary (and often necessary).  I know with the benefit of hindsight, I’ll be a better person when I reach the other side.

You Only Have 3 Options

At the end of the day, you only ever have three choices:

  1. Give up
  2. Stay in the dark places
  3. Walk yourself out

I’m not willing to stay in the dark. I’m not prepared to give up.  That only leaves one option.  To keep putting one foot in front of the other.  The sooner I start, the more consistently I do it, the sooner I come out on the other side.