Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you work, or how much you strive to do better, you’re just having a hard time getting forward movement?
The wheels are certainly spinning. The engine’s running and everything seems in order. But if you’re honest, you’re not making the gains you want.
And now your shoes are smoking and wearing down from all that effort.
You’re getting some drag.
In the aerodynamic world, drag is an element that resists and fights the force of flight. Thanks to gravity, staying on the ground is the default state.
Taking flight requires the pilot to have significant skills in overcoming that drag and knowing how to work with it to get past it.
I think there is also probably a lot of math involved in flying.
Three things can create friction and drag in your own journey. See how many are true for you.
Your reluctance to process the past.
You may have suffered terrible abuse, trauma or fractured relationships.
Pain in your past can definitely create drag, or stop you outright, if you don’t take the time to process the events and try to derive some meaning from them.
It won’t fix the past, but processing that pain can help you understand how it’s affected you.
Please know that painful events take a significant amount of your time, energy and commitment to deal with. Healing doesn’t just happen, and certainly not without your permission.
The good news is you can use your past as fuel to push back against the forces resisting your flight.
But did you know your past successes can also create drag? It’s easy to rely on what you’ve always done, what’s always worked for you.
For many of us, when presented with a challenge, we immediately spring into action with what’s gotten us results before. I like to call this “doing a ‘File, Save As…'”
But no two challenges are exactly alike. A new challenge may require that you develop the humility to learn new skills, especially if you want to grow and push past that experience.
Relying on what you’ve always done may have you doing doughnuts on the runway, or it may just keep you grounded.
Your reliance on comforting distractions.
We have a bajillion ways to put something off or escape our anxieties right at our fingertips. We don’t even have to try hard to find a rabbit trail.
We spend so much time on things that aren’t terrible, really. They make us feel good and maybe they help us learn something. Yet they offer no real path toward our goals.
It’s great to be informed about the world, but if reading the news takes time away from writing that article for your blog, maybe not. It’s cool to watch what’s trending on Netflix, but four episodes in and it’s after midnight, well, now you’ve lost the chance to get your good sleep on.
And we all now know the total drag social media can be. Have you ever tried to scroll through a piece of paper? Yeah, you might be on your phone too much.
But distractions go beyond the obvious things, like news, Netflix and social media.
Seemingly worthy efforts can get us to look at something else that’s bright and shiny.
In his book, “Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done,” Jon Acuff refers to these as noble obstacles, “a virtuous-sounding reason for not working toward a finish.”
- Spending all your time designing business cards, brochures and a website for your new business instead of getting leads and referrals.
- Devouring books and podcasts on how to write books and podcasts instead of actually, you know, writing books and podcasts.
- Creating a beautiful, perfectly-row-spaced project planning spreadsheet with a trendy font (and that prints perfectly in .8 margins) instead of starting the first task in the project.
- Browsing Psychology Today profiles ad nauseum looking for a therapist instead of actually calling one (just throwing that out there).
These are distractions at their very finest because they produce something tangible, and convince us that we’re moving forward.
You’re focusing too much on yourself.
Therapy can become narcissistic if you let it.
Obviously in therapy the goal is to improve yourself and change things about your life. It’s exciting to discover what’s been holding you back. And it’s fun to watch other people realize their a-ha moment, where just a little bit of their life now makes more sense.
But there’s a point where too much focus on you means you’re missing things about others. Your experiences may make you uniquely qualified to help someone around you, right now, even in your wounded state.
Serving others in your family, at your job, or in your community takes you outside yourself a little bit and creates connection.
You don’t have to build someone an entire house. You can serve others in all kinds of small ways.
- Offer an ear to a stressed out coworker.
- Volunteer for just one event at your church.
- Ask your barista how their day is going so far.
- Pack a lunch for your spouse before they head out for work so they don’t have to (I’m going to hear about this one).
Taking time for others as you’re working through your own struggles can give you a new perspective. And in order to grow and change, you have to keep challenging your perspectives.
Moving forward can sometimes feel impossible when you see the size of the machine you’re trying to get off the ground.
Don’t be afraid to tackle the areas that may be keeping you from getting off the runway.
Always be learnin’:
More than you may ever want to know about aerodynamic drag:
Here’s some recent research on helping others:
Jon Acuff’s very fine book on how to finish things and his very fine blog:
Lori R. Miller, MS is an owner and therapist at Miller Mental Health Services, LLC in Stuart, Florida. Lori specializes in anxiety, depression, anger, life transitions and marriage and family issues. Learn more about Lori.