Starting Over: 4 Things to Do When You Are Discouraged



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by Tamara Paton in How to get on board, Motivation

A friend and I have been training together for a half marathon. Next week, we will toe the start line for her first attempt at the distance. And although I have lost count of my races, the sound of the starter’s pistol turns everyone into a novice, unsure of how the coming hours will unfold.

The first few miles pass with excitement and surges of energy. There is a point in every race, however, where runners feel discouraged. Did I train sufficiently? Am I strong enough? What possessed me to think I am cut out for this?

The brain does us no favours at this point. It wants to preserve energy and stop firing so many synapses. It prefers the comfort and safety of a reclining chair and a bag of chips. Quite simply, our grey matter wants us to conclude that we don’t have what it takes to succeed.

The same forces work against us in our careers too. And if we believe our self-destructive monologue, we give its risk-averse message far too much power.

Fortunately, we can resist our inner critic by taking action. In short, nothing beats hustle. If you are feeling uncertain about your prospects, consider the following ways to reset your path.

Refresh your offer

When discouraged, the first thing to go is our ability to communicate our potential. If you are lucky, you find yourself speaking in generalities that feel safe and unoffending. If you are like me on the other hand, you ramble.

To snap out of this funk, my first priority is a refreshed summary of my background, expertise and interests. It’s no coincidence that these darker days typically arise months after I last updated my BoardScore Assessment. Revisiting these foundational elements of board career strategy refocus attention on our strengths and make our story compelling again.

Invest in thought leadership

If successful directors are known for knowing something, what is your calling card? Your expertise alone will not translate into a board role. It’s up to you to land your personal brand on the gatekeepers’ radar screens.

Small steps taken frequently are the key. Brainstorm five blog post topics. Develop and share one of those ideas on LinkedIn. Draft themes for presentations to an upcoming conference. Propose three potential articles to journalists and online contributors in your field. It doesn’t matter if you are taking the “right” steps, so much as you are moving forward consistently.

Expand your network

Admittedly, building a board career takes time. And you aren’t twiddling your thumbs, wondering how to fill your days. But I know you have time for coffee with a new contact. (If you don’t, then you don’t have time for board service.) After that, you have time to do a five-minute favour for someone in your network.

And with a sufficiently long time horizon, you have time to collaborate with someone on a project. When I recently felt my own momentum slip, I connected with three leaders in adjacent fields and suggested a research topic we could explore together. The resulting article I’m imagining won’t materialize for months, but the partnership boosted my energy and optimism immediately.

Take steps towards a real board role

With all of this momentum supporting you, it’s time to take a leap. Review director job boards and apply to three postings. Make contact with three board recruiters and ask for 10 minutes of their time. Connect with the founder of a start-up you admire and offer to advise her free of charge.

Ignore the excuses that surface about why you aren’t qualified. Your brain is trying to sabotage you. Provided you target opportunities that align with your board offer, this is a simple matter of nothing ventured, nothing gained.


In short, I encourage you to act as if you are fearless. Act as if your board career is on a tear, giving you nothing but time to support others and explore new opportunities. Taking action will silence your lingering doubts and bring you several steps closer to your goal.

Question: What do you do to break out of a funk? Has taking action played a role in slingshotting you forward?

Please share your response via Twitter, LinkedIn or e-mail.

Thank you for reading! If you found this post useful, please click the “like” button on LinkedIn and/or share it with others in your network. Doing so helps my work reach others and would mean so much to me.




Starting Over: 4 Things to Do When You Are Discouraged

by Tamara time to read: 3 min