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Stuck in the Mud

Over the past few weeks, maybe months, I’ve been a bit “stuck” with my big projects.

Things kept getting piled on after my daughter was born, and it felt impossible to “keep up” with my prior commitments.

I was expecting a different reality after going from a father of two to a father of three, but I didn’t expect the downward spiral of my motivation.

I didn’t quite realize what was happening until I was reading Steven Kotler’s new book — The Art of Impossible. In it, he describes the intrinsic “stack” of motivators to achieve huge results (including flow states) in our lives. 

It starts with Curiosity, then Passion, to Purpose, then Autonomy and Mastery. These five ingredients lead to flow very reliably, and when executed consistently, create a pattern of growth as a positive feedback loop. Basically — you get better at something, feel good about it, then want to get even better.

I was getting caught on the hill, stuck in the mud at Autonomy and Mastery. According to Kotler, most high-performers see “making progress on meaningful work” as the best motivator there is, which means the inverse is also true.

When I was getting overwhelmed with work that wasn’t very meaningful to me, even if it WAS urgent and important to my family or one of my businesses, I was losing my momentum. 

Administrative work took up more time than I expected. Family health concerns distracted me. Marketing, home repair, errands…it all started adding up and slowing me down.

And, as I lost that momentum, I started slipping into something that felt very much like depression.

No matter how much I WANTED to get to work on the things that mattered to me — the things where I was pursuing mastery — I just couldn’t bring myself to make any meaningful progress. Which  caused a stall in my momentum that made it even harder to make progress on the days when I could have.

All of that to say — if you feel like you’re stuck in the mud and spinning your tires, like I was, sometimes it’s worth it to back up, get a fresh start, and see how you can build up your momentum again.

Start small, focus on the little wins, and stay consistent. Say “no” to the extra commitments. Gracefully back out of commitments that you shouldn’t have pursued. Ask for help when you need it.

It takes effort, but  you can turn a downward spiral into another upward spiral of momentum.

Good luck and good fortitude! Don’t lose focus, don’t lose hope. You’ve got this, and so do I!

Josh Johnson

I'm a husband and a father to three beautiful kiddos. I'm obsessed with philosophy, creativity, learning, and teaching. I want to make the world a more beautiful place by teaching others to embrace creativity.

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