Are you stuck in the doldrums? How to jumpstart your ultimate destiny.: Life is like riding a bicycle. To maintain your balance you must keep moving.

John Cousins
February 7, 2023
4 min read

There have been many times in my life where I felt like I was aimless, spinning my wheels, and just plain stuck. I had lost sight of my ultimate goals and didn’t know what to do. I was in the doldrums.

The doldrums is an old sailing phrase. It is a region around the equator where the trade winds meet and can cancel each other out in stillness. The wind in the equatorial region of the ocean can be stagnant for long periods.

The doldrums were notorious in the days of sailing ships. In this region, a boat risked stranding for weeks on end. With limited provisions, getting through this area of ocean ASAP was a matter of life and death.

Nowadays, we think of the doldrums as that listless, purposeless, feeling of drifting. It’s not pleasant, and it’s not productive. Distracting ourselves from the discomfort with TV, partying, and indulging other poor habits is the easy way out. But that doesn’t make it go away.

For us, modern non-sailors, getting out of the doldrums may not be an immediate life or death issue, but it is undoubtedly a matter of quality of life. The doldrums are the shadows that keep us from realizing our dreams. Between the idea and the act lies the shadow.

There is the constant tension between action and avoidance that we navigate. It is tempting to avoid hard decisions and difficult choices. We choose avoidance because we fear making bad or wrong decision. No action is usually the worst choice.

Oliver Wendell Holmes put it wisely,

To reach port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. But we must not drift or lie at anchor.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To maintain your balance you must keep moving.

Jump Start

Here are some tips for ways I found to beat the doldrums and get back on track.

Successful people understand the power of creating bite-size chunks of activity that lead toward the ultimate goal. It’s called chunking. I know of a Fortune 50 company that works on projects with five-year timelines to completion. They create granular plans where the detail drills down to what needs to be done each day to get from here to there. Every day they measure their progress against the daily chunk.

Think of achieving your goals as managing a project. The tools and techniques of Project Management describe this process. Project management is a skill set well worth learning. Search and check it out. Adopt the methods that resonate with you.

You don’t need to do project management in any formal way on your life goals. Just be aware that these ideas are out there and well documented. They can help you plan and achieve your goals.

Project management methods can spark ideas to help you get unstuck and moving forward. I have found them incredibly valuable.

Plan the work and work the plan.

When you have a plan, you will know what you need to do and if you are on track. It doesn’t need to be formal and detailed at first. Just start thinking in this way. These steps are the basis of putting one foot in front of the other on your path.

Another framework I have found potent for charting a life course is SMART.

SMART is a planning acronym that stands for:

· Specific

· Measurable

· Achievable

· Realistic

· Time-related

A SMART framework is a powerful tool for ensuring your sub-goals are feasible and that you will learn from the feedback. It is crucial when planning to align sub-goals with your ultimate goal. You end up with a pyramid-like structure with tiers of sub-goals feeding into the next level up to your ultimate goal.

Sub-goals are dependent on your ultimate goal and should be flexible. Sub-goals are where you experiment. If a sub-goal doesn’t pan out, modify it, or create a different one. Just keep moving. In entrepreneurship, it’s called iterating and pivoting.

Set up your sub-goals and prepare to celebrate the achievement of each small step. This process is key to building momentum and developing the habits that will turn your dreams into reality. The small steps are significant accomplishments when applied consistently.

Having a course charted, and monitoring daily progress provides a powerful sense of agency. You will feel in more control of your life and your direction. A path will increase your feeling of agency.

Psychology research supports that when we take action, we tend not to feel as though we are at the mercy of events. Instead, we feel as though we are in charge. A sense of agency refers to this feeling of being in the driving seat when it comes to our actions.

I have noticed that I end up feeling more energized when I take on a task rather than opt for mindless activity because I feel tired and unmotivated. I gain energy in the process.

“Shutting off the thought process is not rejuvenating; the mind is like a car battery — it recharges by running.”

Bill Watterson

We are more motivated when we have a purpose and know where we are heading.

“I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.”

From Invictus by William Ernest Henley

It’s up to you. Start setting your goals now. Adjust your course and trim your sails as you go along. Learn to navigate the doldrums. Get excited about the destination you are heading: your future.

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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