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How to Maintain Your Enthusiasm When Things Get Tough

My post on 5 Reasons Why Enthusiasm is Better than Confidence has turned out to be the most popular piece I’ve written on Wishful Thinking. It’s been very encouraging to receive the comments, links and e-mails from people who say it resonates with their experience and they find it helpful in igniting their enthusiasm.

And of course, there are times when it’s not so easy to feel enthusiastic. Yesterday Ludivine raised a very good question in the comments:

what about when worrying about practical & financial issues stifles enthusiasm ?

I’ve worked with lots of clients facing exactly this issue. Plus I’ve faced a fair share of ‘practical and financial issues’ myself. It’s a situation most of us face at some point in our lives, and the artistic/creative disciplines have a particularly strong tradition of financial hardship on the way to success. So I think it’s worth taking some time to consider it and offer some suggestions.

I’m going to assume there’s no quick fix for the practical and financial issues, and concentrate on how to minimize worry and maximise your enthusiasm in the face of such difficulties in order to overcome them.

In this post, I’ll cover two key points:

1. Enthusiasm offers you a way out of your difficulties

2. To release your enthusiasm, you need to find a way to stop worrying (even before the difficulties are resolved)

Then in my next two posts I’ll offer some Practical Tips to Stop Worrying and Ways to Tap into your Enthusiasm.

1. Enthusiasm offers you a way out of your difficulties

Your enthusiasm is one of your most valuable assets – financially as well as emotionally. If you look at the description in my original post, you can see that enthusiasm is a state you achieve when you’re at your most energetic, engaging and productive. Work done with enthusiasm doesn’t seem like work – it’s something we do for the sheer joy of it. And I’m not talking about self-indulgence – if you look at the post above you can see that enthusiasm isn’t about being focused on yourself, but on the task and on other people.If you consider enthusiasm in blunt practical terms, when you focus on a task and its impact on others, and do it with the maximum energy and commitment, that’s when you deliver the greatest value in your work. Which of course is when others are most likely to sit up, take notice and reward you financially (and in other ways).

If you are working in a creative profession, then enthusiasm is even more important – it’s not just a ‘nice to have’ or added extra, it’s absolutely vital to inspired – and inspiring – work. That’s the pressure that comes from being a professional – you are expected to perform to a certain standard. If you don’t, you can expect sympathy from your friends, but not from the critics, the audience or your clients. So it’s vital that you maintain your enthusiasm for your work – as it’s only when you inspire others that you can reap the financial rewards.

So you need to be enthusiastic to give yourself a chance of earning enough to solve financial problems. But how do you do that when these very challenges threaten to overwhelm you?

2. To release your enthusiasm, you need to stop worrying

OK this looks like a no-brainer, but it’s much easier said than done. I should know – worrying has been one of my Achilles heels (come to think of it I’ve probably got more heels than feet!). Whenever I see a client consumed with worry, I get flashbacks to my time as a professional worrier. As a self-employed person trying to do something creative with my life, I quickly discovered that the safety net for people like me has quite a few holes in it. Looking at my own situation and that of other creative professionals, I’ve come to the conclusion that financial challenges and insecurity are part of the deal for most creatives – at least for a while. And of course, they are not the exclusive preserve of ‘creative types’.

As I’ve said, it’s obvious (to an outsider) that worry blocks enthusiasm – which means it’s killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. But it’s much harder to stop worrying when it’s your life – all those problems and demands go round and round in your mind, snatching away your attention and making it hard to muster any kind of optimism or enthusiasm.

So how can you stop worrying and give your enthusiasm a chance?

The first step is to separate out the situation from your response to the situation – i.e. to recognise that there is no necessary connection between “practical and financial difficulties” (the situation) and “worrying” (your response). If you find this hard to believe, think of someone you know whom ‘nothing seems to faze’ – we’ve all met people who seem much less prone to worry than the rest of us, so that problems are like ‘water off a duck’s back’ to them. Yes, in some cases it’s the bliss of ignorance, but I’m thinking more of those people who can stay calm in a crisis, maintain a clear head and take effective steps to solve the problem in hand.

You could say “That’s just the way they’re made – I’m different to them”. While there may be some truth in this, I would encourage you to let go of that thought. For example, my brother is naturally much more laid back than me, and less prone to worrying about life’s problems. A few years ago, while working hard on my ‘personal development’, I realised how much effort I wasted on worry – and I was faced with the horrible thought that (whisper it) I really needed to become more like my little brother. It took a bit of patience (not to mention helpings of humble pie) but I learned to stop my worries running amok and find ways to tap into my enthusiasm under pressure when I needed to.

My next posts in this series look at 7 Ways to Stop Worrying When You’re Under Pressure and 7 Ways to Tap into Enthusiasm.

Comments

  1. Found this whole “series” very inspiring. We all have good days and bad days, days when we feel more confident than others. Simply knowing that there are things we can do to tap into positive feelings is a reminder that we can be in control, that we are the ones that ultimately dictate how we react to situations. We are not machines, but we do have the power to shift our mood, as hard as it may be to do.

  2. Thanks CM, glad you found the series helpful. Yes, things become a lot more manageable when we focus on little things we can do to influence the situation and our mood.

  3. Hi there, I really enjoyed reading this, and I’d love to share it with some of my readers – think they’d find it useful in their journey. Hoping I can have your permission to do that?

    Jonathan’s last blog post..48 Ways To Get Life Coaching Clients

  4. Hi Jonathan, thanks for the feedback. Yes I’d be happy for you to share with your readers — I would just ask you not to republish the entire article, just a short extract with a link to this page.

  5. Great article Mark (one of many I might add!)

    Here’s my supporting train of thought… If you’re enthusiastic, you’ll be in a positive frame of mind. If you’re in a positive frame of mind, you’re more likely to be productive. Then you’re more likely to achieve your goals or results. And that’s the whole point isn’t it? Obviously, life isn’t as positively linear as this but I believe it provides a valid framework to operate from.

    Secondly, most of the time people are consumed (and therefore hindered by) Unproductive Worry. My advice? Stop worrying and start thinking. Seek to resolve the issue you’re thinking (were worrying) about; then set about doing so (subject to what, how, when, where etc). If you can’t resolve the issue, worrying about it won’t produce any results. Worrying will only cause undue stress and misery and block any possibility of enthusiasm – energy and motivation – to your address goals. So stop worrying. Put your worries in a ‘box’ and hop on a productive Train of Thought!

  6. That helped me ! , Right article for right situation .
    God blessed you.

  7. Wow, I just posted something similar to your post this morning on my blog. I got to thinking about this yesterday when I was working with my daughter on her math homework. Discipline didn’t seem to be the problem as much as enthusiasm (in her case, the complete lack thereof). It reminded me of when I was a kid and constantly told I needed to practice discipline, but in reality I just needed to find my enthusiasm for the subject. Great series!

Trackbacks

  1. […] I’m answering this question with a short series of posts: How to Maintain Your Enthusiasm When Things Get Tough, 7 Ways to Stop Worrying When You’re Under Pressure and I’ll finish up with some Ways to Tap into Your Enthusiasm. […]

  2. […] Following on from my earlier posts about Enthusiasm v Confidence, Ludivine’s question about How to Maintain Enthusiasm When Things Get Tough and Ways to Stop Worrying When You’re Under Pressure, I’ll finish off this mini-series with a few tips for tapping into your natural enthusiasm. You’ll be pleased to know that you don’t need to be stressed out to use these tips – they work equally well if you’re just looking for a boost of enthusiasm to get you started (or restarted) on a project that matters to you. […]

  3. […] Mark McGuinness — How to Maintain Your Enthusiasm When Things Get Tough […]

  4. […] – How to Maintain Your Enthusiasm When Things Get Tough – here’s a great post from the Wishful Thinking blog dealing with these very issues, nothing new for ma y artists and always a challenge to overcome. […]