“I feel like giving up.
Almost every day, in fact. Not all day, of course, but there are moments.
My bet is that you have those moments, too. If you’re the kind of high—achieving, goal-oriented person who finds herself reading a book like this, you’re probably used to running into obstacles. Professional obstacles, personal obstacles, even obstacles related to personal fitness or winning board games.” —Seth Godin from The Dip
Seth Godin published those words in 2007. His book, The Dip had a big impacted and continues to be read and influence a decade later. I dip into this book frequently for bits of great wisdom.
If you haven’t read it, I’d urge you to grab a copy. It’s a book I strongly recommend my clients read before we begin working together. It’s a short read — less than 100 small pages — a train ride or an evening with a glass of wine.
In the book Godin argues that we all hit walls, obstacles, pain points in any endeavor or project. A moment when we think about quitting. It’s the point where the going gets tough: mile 20 of the marathon, 3 rockets into a new vision for space travel, first draft of that novel or 2 weeks before your project launch.
Successful people, he argues, quit sometimes. Other times they push through the dip. Successful people, he argues know when to quit and when they’re just in a dip. He says successful people understand when they’re in a cul de sac and not going anywhere and when they’re in a dip. It’s tricky, though, because life doesn’t come with a roadmap.
We start stuff all the time. Diets, websites, new habits, on-line courses, coaching sessions. Most of us don’t stick with it. We quit. Sometimes, quitting is good. But often quitting means there is something else going on:
We’re not really committed to the outcome. Often, we don’t have clarity on our vision/mission so we don’t know why we’re doing what we’re doing. We’re just ‘messing around.’
It got a little hard. We’re doing mediocre work and we need to push to get to a higher level — but we’re not willing to make the extra push — we’re not willing to do the hard work and put the hours and dedicated focus in that’s required to get to exceptional work — so we quit.
Seth’s got a lot to say — and I haven’t covered it all here — so I’d urge you to get his book.
But I’d suggest that we don’t just experience big dips — I think we experience daily dips.
What Seth Godin has to say can be used to help you manage the daily dips.
If you get committed to managing the daily dips — you’ll have a better chance of knowing when to quit and when to push through and navigate the big dip!
What does getting through that daily dip look like?
Ideas & Questions to Consider:
Recognize Your Daily Dips
Do you know what your dips look like? Everybody’s dip is different. Learning to recognize your dip will help you save time and energy as you work through it.
Some dips we all recognize:
— feeling tired
— telling yourself you’re hungry — ‘It’s time for lunch!’
— lack of energy
— brain fog
Other dips are a little harder to identify because they come cloaked in activities & behaviors we have learned to conveniently label or find socially acceptable:
— procrastination such as helping others, getting something done, running an errand
— checking social media or ‘the news’ because something might have happened in the world…
— doing something on your to-do list like laundry…. or cleaning up
— conversing with the voice in your head (it’s often a family member’s) that keeps asking, “Are you sure you can do this?”
Generally, dips don’t magically go away. If you don’t learn to manage your daily dips you can get yourself spun into something worse — like a meltdown or bad behavior like overeating or drinking — that might lead to a bigger dip!
Once you recognize your daily dips, how can you manage them?
Personalize, Experiment and Revise the Navigation of Your Daily Dips
Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all answer to managing daily dips — because every one is different and every day is different. My dips are not your dips. And, just when you think you’re on top of your dips — one will sneak up on you and trip you up. Or, you’ll be using all of your ‘dip techniques’ — you exercise, meditate, focus, drink lots of water — and you still have a ’dip day’.
If you personalize how you manage your dips and experiment with process, tools and schedule, you’ll minimize your dips.
For example, a great cup of mushroom coffee can help me manage my dips in the morning — but it’s a disaster to help manage an afternoon dip. If I grab coffee in the afternoon for a dip — it impacts the next day because it messes with my sleep — which then only leads to more dips! So for me — I try to manage my afternoon dips with exercise and movement— a brisk walk or a few yoga poses in an empty conference room.
Lastly, be willing to experiment and revise your dip handling techniques. Over the years as my biology and brain have changed, so have my techniques and tools I use to manage my dips. It used to hate naps. Now, I’ve found a brief 20-30 minute nap can completely change the trajectory of a day that’s heading to a dip. Naps can refocus and reenergize me so I’m on that other end of the dip curve in 30 minutes. We often think, I don’t have time for a nap — but what if that brief 30 minute break got you to the right side of that dip? How awesome would that be?
Questions to consider asking yourself when you’re looking at a dip:
— Is there a piece of today’s project I should quit because it’s not moving me toward my overall mission and vision? We live in a world with constant, endless, pointless distractions — and I don’t just mean TV or social media. There are friends, family and those endless conversations we have in our heads that are taking up space. So, ask yourself multiples times every day — Is what I’m doing right now moving me toward my goal? Or, is it just cluttering and side tracking me?
—Am I engaging in my best work today? Am I showing up as the best me that I can be today? Somedays that means the best you eats bread and only walks on the treadmill rather than runs. Some days it’s writing a crappy draft, producing a mediocre podcast or having ideas that are not fully formed. Some days are better than others — ask Elon Musk! But if you can’t look yourself in the mirror and say I’m doing my best work today — you need to do better work, today.
When you feel a dip coming on or you’re in a dip —
8 practical suggestions to help manage your daily dips.
— Create a Drop List.
This idea comes from a Tim Ferriss interview and initially seemed a little silly to me — but create a Drop List. It’s a list of activities, acquaintances, projects or engagements that you’re going to drop. I created a list and found it helpful. It reminded me — ‘Oh, yeah — I said I was going to stop doing that!” So much of what we do in daily life is on automatic pilot. It’s all that stuff we’re ‘supposed’ to do but isn’t always useful — that drains us and sends us into the dip. Try creating a drop list — and sticking with it — you might experience fewer dips in your day.
— Create a When I’ll Do It Schedule for ‘Black Hole’ Tasks.
Often we hit a dip after we’ve spent copious amounts of time & precious focus on what I call ‘black hole’ tasks — things like email, social media posting & responding. They’re important tools for many who are developing a business — but you’ve got to remember that they’re tools that were developed to be addictive! So here’s a suggestion: schedule those time sink activities to certain times in the day. For example, set a 30-45 minute schedule to check email and social media at 10 am and 4 pm. Not everyone can do this — but don’t fib to yourself and say you can’t do it — when you really can! Just try it for a week — you’ll be surprised how much it helps your focus — which will help you manage those daily dips of frustration because you’re not getting anything done!
— Schedule the most important tasks at the best time in your day.
Do you ever start your day with a list of important items to do — write that blog post, outline that chapter, create a project plan — but find yourself staring at 4:00 pm and you’ve not gotten any of it done? Do you immediately hit a dip when this thought hits you? Happened to me all the time until I took an idea from Rob Hatch at Owner Media — and scheduled my most important tasks for the best part of my day. For me — as for most of us — the best time is first thing in the morning before the day begins. When I stick to this and get 2-3 important things done first thing in the morning — I feel accomplished and less likely to hit a major mid-afternoon dip.
— Keep your life vision in front of you with kinesthetics.
Lots of self-development coaches urge us to keep our vision/mission in front of us to keep us energized. It works. But try one more thing — hand write your vision or mission daily in your planner/journal/day book. There is scientific evidence that the act of writing — with a pen and paper — can help ingrain the idea, information, behavior and focus into your brain. It’s one of the reasons we were encouraged to take notes in school!
— Drink more water.
I heard this statistic the other day from a friend. I’m not sure where she got it but she said — 1% drop in hydration means a 5% drop in cognition. I’m looking for the latest science on this issue (more in another post) but I think its safe to argue that water consumption has an impact on brain function. Here’s a 2012 article from HuffPost UK on a study that was done at the University of Connecticut. Whatever the actual percentages — drink more water.
Meditation — even for 10 minutes can make a difference. But note, this suggestion may take a few days or weeks to become effective. If you’re interested in exploring, I’d urge you to check out the books, podcast, app and many podcast interviews of Dan Harris. (You can do a search on your iPhone podcast icon.) Harris hates woo woo. For those of you resisting the idea of closing your eyes and sitting cross-legged on a pillow — Dan is your man! Harris meditates multiple times a day in between activities and credits it with helping him maintain a busy schedule with focus and energy (and avoid some of the dips!)
— Listen to a podcast.
I’ve written about the power of podcasts in another blog post so I won’t blather on here. You can read it. Think about curating a list of podcasts that you find energizing — to help get you through a daily dip. Everyone’s taste in listening is different, but here are a few of my favorites that lift me out of the dip: Akimbo or Impact Theory or The Kevin Rose Show
— Contact a trusted mentor, coach or join a mastermind group for conversation.
You want to find people who have your back and your best interest at heart — then schedule a conversation. Choose your people wisely and schedule the conversation for a time when you’re in a receptive frame of mind to hear their suggestions. Other people can see what you might be missing and can provide a fresh perspective with practical ideas and suggestions. Everyone has been in a dip.
When do your dips show up? What do they look like? How do you handle them? Leave me a reply. I’d love to hear how you handle those daily dips.