The snowball effect of getting your sh*t together

snowball

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Have you ever been in one of those phases of life where it feels like literally none of your shit is together?

It probably sounds something like:

I hate my job. I need to figure out my career direction. I need to make more money. Ugh, money! I haven’t invested in my 401K. What’s going to happen when I retire? But I have student loans to pay off! I need to do that first, right? Oh, and I want to buy a house. THAT’S gonna be expensive. Maybe I need to figure that out first. Ugh, speaking of my living situation, I haven’t cleaned my house in 2 weeks. Also, I haven’t worked out in a month. And I’m also dealing with a chronic health issue that I can’t figure out, which is partially why I have zero energy TO work out. I should eat healthier! That would probably help with the energy. Oh, and my dog just got sick. My dog should probably eat healthier, too!”

When I get to this point, my go-to move is to hide under a blanket on my couch, numbing my brain with Netflix and hoping that if I’m very still and make no sudden moves, my anxiety won’t find me.

The Netflix-and-numb method isn’t ideal, I know. But when everything feels so out of control, unfocused, and nebulous, shutting down is like a basic form of self-protection.

It’s a Catch-22. We can’t get un-stuck until we know where to start, but we can’t figure out where to start, so we stay stuck. And no amount of thinking seems to help.

Which leads me to a big existential question: How does one get one’s shit together?

NOT TO BE DRAMATIC, BUT…

One of humanity’s greatest downfalls is our unhealthy obsession with logic. We worship at the altar of “doing what makes sense.”

Logically, most people assume that when your life is in disarray, you should focus on tackling the biggest, most important things first.

Which is why a lot of people come to me assuming that the answer to getting their life back on track must be getting clear on their career direction or finding a new job. They assume that if they can figure out their passion or their life’s purpose, everything else will fall into place.

Maybe that’s true for some people. But that’s also a pretty HUGE item to try to tackle first.

And if there are a million other things in your life draining your energy and pulling at your seams, then focusing on such a monumental task might actually set you back further, rather than propel you forward.

Just because something seems logical or “makes sense” doesn’t mean it’s the ideal place for you to start. Instead …

EXPEND THE LEAST AMOUNT OF ENERGY

I only passed high school physics because I had friends who basically carried me through the year, so don’t take it from me, but … I’m pretty sure the whole point of momentum is that it starts really small and grows bigger and faster as it gets going.

Which is why starting with the “biggest boulder” in your life, so to speak, may or may not be smart — how are you going to push it up the hill in the first place?

Instead, start where your energy is LEAST drained, and work your way up.

Your logical brain may strain against this (“How is getting my house cleaned going to help me find career direction?”), but go with me here.

If you pick something that’s draining you, but not the biggest or most difficult challenge, and take care of it — whether it’s a one-time thing or a pattern you slowly master over time — then you’ve built up a little bit of momentum.

Which means that after that, you can turn your attention to something slightly more cumbersome, but again, not the hugest problem you have.

And once you’ve aced that, your momentum is flowing to the point where it becomes easier and easier to focus on the biggest and most challenging conundrums.

For some, that might look like: “OK, I’m going to focus on cleaning up my diet. My #1 priority is going to be caring for my physical body. And once I feel better, I’ll have more energy to focus on what kind of career transition I want to make. I’ll be more clear-headed and ready to devote energy to applying for jobs.”

For others, that could be: “I’m going to hire a house cleaning service twice a month, rather than spend hours every week cleaning. And with that extra time, I’ll go to the gym twice a week. And with THAT extra energy, I’ll feel more motivated to get rid of a bunch of stuff and move to a new place.”

There are endless possibilities. There’s no right or wrong place to start. As long as you have a bit of patience — focusing on one thing at a time can be a challenge, I know — momentum can’t fail but be on your side.

JUST PICK SOMETHING

If you’re overthinking and don’t know what the easiest point of entry is, then just pick something.

Seriously, it’s that easy. The reason a LOT of people are stuck is because they keep debating where the “right” place to start is, and therefore never actually do anything or make any progress.

It’s better to pick a focal point at random and commit to it than continue to hem and haw and do nothing.

Also, it REALLY doesn’t matter where you start, because in the end, all branches of this tree lead to the same root system.

In other words — momentum leads to more momentum, which leads to more momentum. If you start one place, eventually the momentum will reach the other places. The order doesn’t matter all that much, so long as you’re actually moving.

YES, THERE IS A “CHEAT CODE”

I’ll insert one major caveat into this: Everything I’ve just said particularly applies to you if you’re trying to build momentum on your own.

There is a way to knock your biggest problems out in record time, without having to inch your way toward them. And it almost always involves having help.

Whether that means getting a personal trainer, hiring a professional organizer, finding a good therapist, or working with a life/career coach … bringing in a third party expert who’s unbiased, holds you accountable for doing what you say you want to do, and can see your blind spots is HUGELY helpful.

Yes, I’m biased because I’m a coach. But you can’t really argue with results. And it’s irrefutable that you make WAY more progress (in a lot less time, with higher-quality results) with support and accountability than you do on your own.

Either way, whether solo or with support, getting your shit together IS possible. It’s just a matter of momentum. Get the ball rolling somewhere, and eventually that ball will knock everything else out.

So, what are YOU going to start with? What’s the easiest point of entry for you? Come share with me in the comments!

IF YOU LIKED THIS, THEN YOU’LL ALSO LOVE …

How to deal when life feels totally out of control

When everything’s about to go downhill

How to escape procrastination purgatory

Much Love,

Rachel (& Kristen)

10 Comments // ADD COMMENT

10 comments

  • Mandy

    I love this!! It can definitely feel like I’m never going to feel better if I’m not working on solving the “biggest” problem, so what’s the point? But, I have noticed a difference when I start chipping away at the smaller things. It’s easy to forget that a small start can get things moving. Thanks for the reminder, bookmarking this one for sure! 🙂

  • Michael

    This is definitely true…I just had never articulated it this way before. Man this is super helpful. Over the last few years I’ve been guilty of neglecting the little things because I was obsessed with fixing the big problem, but I’ve found that the little things being taken care of better does help with the big problem. Thanks for this one, it was great.

    • Rachel East

      You’re welcome! Yeah, I find that often it’s the more counter-intuitive solution that usually works best. It’s funny that what seems “obvious” and “logical” is rarely the best path!

  • Tiffany

    This made me feel so much better! I’ve been tackling getting rid of all the excess in my apartment/life. I feel like I can’t move forward until this is taken care of and now I understand why. Thanks!

    • Rachel East

      I’m glad this helped you connect the dots, Tiffany! Yes, totally go with your desire to clean out your apartment/life. I’m sure that the space you’re creating will fill up with new and better things (tangibly and intangibly) this year!

  • Grace

    So applicable to my life right now! Netflix-and-numb is my go-to but it also makes me feel even more UGH than I already did. But this approach makes total sense – I already know that I work better when my desk is uncluttered and organized, so taking the time to clear it off will give me some momentum toward my “real” work. Filing this post away as a reminder. Thanks!

    • Rachel East

      It’s weird that we don’t give ourselves permission to do the small things first, but often it makes the most sense! Glad you’re leaning in to this strategy now! 🙂

  • Sarah

    YES, THIS IS ME!!! Haha, sorry for the all caps, but this is SO me that it’s almost not even funny. I’ve been feeling so stuck lately, and it comes out in all these existential worries and in feeling like I have nothing but HUGE problems, and only in tackling those HUGE problems will I go anywhere. Buuuut I gotta admit, I like your thinking. I’m going to have to try this way now. 😀

  • Victoria

    I find this advice interesting. I have been in a rut for three years now. About two months before reading this blog post, I had made a decision to focus on my mental and spiritual health instead of just on money. Money drives me insane! I have been applying for jobs for three years to figure out that I have no idea what I want to do next. I have taken two job offers to decline them later. This week I noticed that while focusing on yoga and using mandalas to help focus my mind, I feel closer to being able to make a decision concerning my career. I am not saying I have it all figured out because I don’t. I just feel more at peace which is creating a sense of clarity that I didn’t have before.