Finding Motivation On Your Darkest Days

It hurts to breathe …

That’s how I felt the day my niece died. She was 4 months old.

I was in the middle of a huge project and still had several classes to teach that week. Along with deadlines and papers to grade, I also had an infant’s obituary to write. I had to pretend to care about my clients, students, and anyone else that wanted my attention.

And truthfully, I couldn’t care less at the time.

Unfortunately, I’m not rich. I still had bills to pay and a business to run. Fortunately, I’d had many dark days and was pretty good at faking it. In fact, I’m very good at pretending everything’s okay and somehow compartmentalizing my personal life so it doesn’t interfere with my business life.

In Can Your Business Survive Your Personal Life?, I wrote:

“No one in business really talks about “feelings”. Instead, we talk about business. We pretend because we don’t want to show our vulnerability and perceived weaknesses. We don’t want to seem like we don’t have EVERYTHING under control. We don’t want them to know the truth.”

But here’s the thing. We all have days when we are horribly distracted, completely stressed out, and feel like we are drowning. No one can escape life.”

We’re all human, even if we want the business world to believe we are perfect. We don’t want anything to tarnish our reputation, brand image or business prospects. Yet, life sneaks in and smacks us right when we’re not expecting it. Whether you’re in the middle of a dark time or not, it’s a good idea to start planning for a rough spell.

Because it will happen eventually.

Create the Right Environment

I’m not great with chaos most of the time. Sure, I can teach a karate class to 15 five-year-olds and not break a sweat. And that’s the definition of chaos.

But when it comes time to concentrate on something like writing or setting up a new contract, I need peace and quiet. I can’t think when my space is noisy or cluttered. That’s why it’s important to consider your environment and create the best culture you can now.

Creating positive work culture has 20% less absenteeism, 15% greater employee productivity, up to 30% greater customer satisfaction levels. And these people still get phone calls from their kid’s teacher saying their darling child just cheated on a test or their dreaded in-laws are coming for a visit. They just work in the kind of environment that lifts them up instead of adding to their stress.

Look around at your current work culture. Change your space to make it more peaceful, energetic, calming or creative. Find supportive peers to talk through problems with or who can offer a kind word when you’re having an issue. Do something now to help you through the inevitable time when you’ll be struggling to make it through the day.

Figure Out How to Handle Daily Stress

Everyone handles stress differently. What works for one person, may not work for you.

In Ancient Meditation Overcomes Modern Day Stress, Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos shares how “meditating in the moment” can break the cycle of stress addiction:

“Yes, stress can be an addiction. A healthy daily dose of yoga and meditation is a natural cure.”

I personally love meditation and attribute much of my ability to process stress to a daily practice. I’ve also tried exercise, holistic remedies, reading, and followed the advice on hundreds of “how to handle stress” articles. I’m pretty good at handling stress these days.

But consider a situation where you’re already stressed out when an emergency hits. It’s much more difficult to process a crisis situation when you’re already on stress overload. That’s why it’s crucial to make a plan for your daily stress so that you’re in better shape to deal with the eventual emergency situation.

Ask for Help if You Need It

As business professionals, we like to pretend we can do it all. We think any sign of weakness will show them just how scared, frustrated, or overwhelmed we really are. But that’s crazy. We are not robots but humans trying to do our jobs. We still have to get our work done on time and deliver a quality product. It just means that we may struggle to get it done.

Instead of struggling day after day, ask for help. Maybe you need professional help and should start seeing a therapist. Maybe you need medication and should talk to your doctor about depression. And maybe you stressed out because you just need someone to help you figure out how what’s wrong but are too nervous to ask.

In Mentoring Can Lead To Profound Discoveries, Eileen Bild explains:

“Sometimes it helps to have another perspective to assist us in moving forward when we feel frustrated and stuck. Through someone else looking at our situation from a different angle, we can find hidden truths that can reveal to us something needing to be changed.”

When you’re in the middle of a dark time, it can feel like you’re the only person on the planet struggling. Except everyone struggles! Regardless of why you’re having a hard time, you’re probably not the first person to have this problem. Ask for help and find someone who can support you through this time.

There is no need to suffer alone.

“You Can Do It” Versus Reality

Perhaps you’re waiting for me to say something like:

You can do anything!


Don’t worry, things will get better!

But no amount of cheering will change your situation. The reality is that many businesses have failed because the owner’s faced a challenge they could not overcome. That’s why it’s crucial that you start planning for the time when life punches you in the gut.

I wish that would never happen to you, but there’s no escaping life’s challenges. Just make a plan that has the best chance of helping you stay motivated through any situation thrown your way.


Liesha Petrovich
Liesha Petrovich
LIESHA is a freelancer by day and Kyokushin Black Belt by night. A late-blooming academic, she's happiest teaching business at UoPeople. Liesha is the author of Killing Rapunzel: Learning How to Save Yourself Through Determination, Grit, and Self-Employment (her mother hates the title - but it's a metaphor mom!). She talks business at Microbusiness Essentials and everything else at Liesha

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  1. I’m I’m down, depressed, or just plain lazy. To get me out of my dark place, I remember. I remember those people that intentionally hurt me. And remembering this doesn’t make me feel worst. Instead I get in such a rage it snaps me out of my dark place. I then get very optimistic that I can take on the whole world and win.