‘May the force be with you!'

By tutor and life coach Muriel McClymont

“I’ve run out of steam,” wailed a new client the other day. “I sit at home staring at the same four walls, the phone is silently stalking me, and the dog is wondering, if I have so much free time, why I’m not taking him out walking!”

This had an uncomfortable ring of familiarity about it to me. I have definitely experienced a similar frame of mind in the past and I suspect many of you have too.

The problem when you reach this point is you come face-to-face with the force of inertia. You know, that science thing, where it takes enormous amounts of energy to get a train moving from standstill, and equally enormous amounts of energy to stop one that is going at full tilt!

When you’re stationary, getting going can feel like you are trying to drag the 9.20am to Edinburgh out of Kings Cross with your teeth!

If you are steaming ahead, then keep up the good work, and remember how important it is to maintain the force that keeps us in forward motion. But, if you’ve run out of steam and are parked in a siding somewhere, it’s time to rally all your energies and get back onto the main line.

But how do you get up to speed again? The answer is to take action, and take it now.  Sounds easy, and it can be, as long as you take lots of small steps and build up your momentum slowly. Remember that the train doesn’t pull out of the station at 60mph. It builds up gradually making progress with each small turn of the engine until it is eventually racing along on the open tracks.

Here are some ideas I use to take action:

  • Update your online profiles, Linked In, Spotlight, Website and anywhere else you have a presence. Also, register your details on new sites.
  • Make contact with the outside world. For example, phone someone, arrange a coffee with a colleague, stay in touch with what is going on in your industry. If you have friends in the same situation, arrange fortnightly or monthly meetings and arrange to do things together to keep yourself informed.
  • Search the relevant publications or websites for opportunities you can apply for. Check if you have any contacts in that area, if you do, get in touch with them.
  • Refresh your enthusiasm for what you do. Go and see something that inspires you. It doesn’t have to cost money as there are a range of free ‘inspiration’ avenues available in a range of venues across the UK, e.g., London’s South Bank Centre, Gateshead’s Baltic Centre and Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall all have plenty of creative events on now so check out your local area for what’s on near you.
  • Physically moving can shift things for you mentally too and go a long way towards helping you to feel re-energised. Go for that walk now – it doesn’t have to be a marathon just a short jaunt to put the colour back into your cheeks.
  • Consider volunteering. I became a school governor and have been amazed at the weight this carries with a lot of people. Also, I have gained some really useful knowledge and have made great contacts.
  • Consider taking work that is not directly relevant to your career plan but is in the right area. One job I took on which was not on my career plan has allowed me to learn from the best and has given me great contacts for the future.
  • Filing and tidying can really loosen mental stodge and make your work environment a more pleasant place to be. Get rid of the things that have piling up for ages. Honestly assess if there is any benefit to keeping them.
  • Make sure you have sorted your online filing too. If you struggle to find an e-mail someone sent you a month ago, you need to improve how you manage your e-mail filing.
  • Make a plan, set some goals and identify some actions. You’ll find help with this on the FEU goal forum, which can be found when you click 'ning network' on the front page of the FEU training website.
  • Plan rewards for action taken and congratulate yourself on each step taken towards your success. Many of us are excellent at identifying all the tasks that have still to be done and how far we are away from our overall target. However, if that’s all you focus on, you can get discouraged by the seemingly endless struggle ahead . It is so important to stop and recognize how far you have come and how well you are doing. If you schedule in treats to celebrate every step in the journey towards your goal, you start to associate progress with nice experiences. You also make the progress of working towards your goal an even more pleasant one

What’s stopping you?

What is vital is that you do something, anything. And if it doesn’t work, do something else!

Sometimes we get so anxious about doing the ‘right’ thing, we don’t do anything at all and this creates a negative spiral of anxiety and inertia. We give that first minor step major significance then feel too pressured by it to give it a try. If you are stuck in this loop, within reason, any action that gets you back in circulation is the ‘right’ one. Even if it’s ‘wrong’, you will learn more about what you don’t want!

If worrying about other people’s reactions (e.g., if they will hire you or not) stops you from moving forward, remember it’s better to find out and move on (after all, the answer might be yes) rather than continue to build up negative possibilities in your head.

The less we do, the more fearful we often get about doing anything. If this is something you have experienced, check out the book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. This book gives great advice and tips and exercises for getting back out there, when there is nothing standing in your way but yourself. I have certainly used it and I know many others who have been inspired to action after reading it.

So, commit to taking action now. It only takes one small step to get back on track again. You may even be surprised how quickly you build momentum and become a positive force to be reckoned with.

More info and inspiration

For networking opportunities and more inspiration from the FEU team and other creative freelances, check out FEU Training's free workshops, online advice and networking forums on this website.

Business skills training
for creative freelances