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Getting Out from Overwhelm

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I am a photographer and writer passionate about the outdoors, meaningful travel, and living deliberately. I hope to use my platform online to show the beauty and complexity of the world we live in, and to encourage genuine connection to the outdoors, culture, people and wildlife.

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“I just can’t. I’m just stuck.”

I have felt this way more times than I can count.

This week, a writer friend of mine had an assignment. A big assignment. A career-changing assignment that she’s been working toward for years. When she got the assignment, she celebrated– and certainly, she deserved to celebrate. It was a milestone.

But then she had to write it. And that was a different story.

She built it up so much in her head that she felt completely paralyzed when it came to writing the damn thing.

I am sure this has happened to you. Planning a trip, writing a thesis, booking a huge job. It’s all very exciting when you find out you’re going to do it. You think about how great you are, and how great the outcome will be. You think about what it means in the context of your success.

And then you realize that you actually have to do it. You look at the other things on your to-do list. How are you supposed to prioritize? What will happen if you fail? What will happen if you don’t? What does success mean? And what is its place in your life?

I find that the people who really don’t want to be stuck tend to fall into Overwhelm for one of two reasons.

1. WE DON’T KNOW THE “RIGHT” WAY TO GO

You have some idea of your endgame– some idea of where you want to end up. But you have no clue how to get there. If you only knew the right way to go, the right path to take, the right

I hear this one as it relates to travel. People don’t know how much money they need to save, so they don’t save anything at all. Options are overwhelming, so they don’t plan.

We seem to think that successful people are successful because they had a plan. Like they had a magical ability to always make the right decision.

I promise, they didn’t. Everyone is just doing their best.

Most decisions don’t become “right” until after they’re made. There aren’t right decisions– there are creative and intuitive people.

2. WE ARE AFRAID TO FAIL, SO WE AVOID RISKS AT ALL COSTS

Dreaming about booking a huge gig? Awesome. Fantasizing about your dream career? Easy.

Dreaming is easy because it requires no follow-through. It doesn’t require action or risk. But when you actually try something out, you also actually risk failure in a major and often public way. You materialize and admit to your intention, and that’s scary.

Usually, we really care about our dreams. Obviously– they’re our dreams. So, we also really care if they don’t work out like we hoped and planned.

Our big dreams are also tied intimately to our sense of ourselves. Our big dreams are woven delicately with our identities. So it’s totally understandable that fear of failure is a real thing– a real, paralyzing thing at times.

WHAT IS THE SIMPLEST WAY TO GET UNSTUCK FROM OVERWHELM?

Today I’m giving you some tough love.

Do something. Do anything. Momentum is real. Eventually, you’ll find something that works. And when you do, you’ll do more of that thing.

When you are in the process, when you’re distracted by it, you don’t have time to look up and see how far you have to go. You celebrate your accomplishments amongst the failures, because that’s what you have to do in order to keep moving.

Overwhelm happens. It should be celebrated. It means you have big dreams. But in order to change a direction or find one that feels good, you have to be moving. So get moving.

 


 

Feature photo by Elisabeth Brentano.

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  1. Michael says:

    So E, I sense some personal experience here. Maybe you are relating things that worked for you? Yes, they worked ! In my life experience fail did wonders for me. It made me redouble my effort after I realized that my world didn’t end with the failure. I learned and made adjustments that eventually led to accomplishments that surely surprised me which led to confidence. Confidence that I could handle both fail and win. I think you may have had a parallel experience. Confidence comes with time and repeated effort. That doesn’t mean it isn’t challenged, just that the tools in your kit expand with that time and effort. Erin, if you look back at the spirit of your blog, what stands out is an unfailing effort to encourage, educate, entertain and push folks to engage their life as you have yours. I can’t think of a better goal. I hope my words make you proud, happy and encourage you to continue what you do. Some out here comment, many more don’t. You touch their hearts and minds as well. Good job Erin!

    • Thank you for your words, Michael! Love what you said about adjustments leading to accomplishments leading to confidence– sometimes a surprising progression until you look back and realize it all makes sense and falls into place. Really appreciate it.

  2. Michael says:

    I just remembered this ” The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. ” Eleanor Roosevelt

  3. Good advice here, it is just the reminder I needed today. One small step towards your goal every day builds habit and confidence for when The Big Opportunity arrives.

  4. I have been feeling overwhelmed at work a lot lately. It is true that dwelling on the stressors in life does nothing to resolve that feeling – you just have to keep pushing forward. Great advice!

  5. Lynn says:

    Oh, God. Writing the thing. I signed a four book deal (YAY!) based on one book already written. So now I have to write all the other books. Writing book two, which I had really been looking forward to, is the thing I procrastinate most. Paralyzing–that’s exactly how it feels.

    • LYNN! That’s amazing. Huge win. AND I can imagine how “holy shit” this must feel. One step at a time, one word at a time, you will do this. Drop any fear that they won’t be “as good” as you want them to be and just let your work BE– let it exist, live, breathe. I am a total procrastinator and it’s hard for me to take my own advice, but when I decide what is worth my stress and act accordingly, I can let a lot go. I hope you are enjoying this process – you deserve to!

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