Personal Development

5 Tools to Use When You Are Easily Discouraged

*There are affiliate links in this post. If you use them we earn a small commission which supports us as we continue to create great content for you. Thank you! Please read our Commercial Affiliation in our Privacy Policy.

Writing this piece was discouraging… how ironic.

Man seeing something negative on his laptop and getting discouraged.
Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

Writing this piece was hard! The hair-pulling, cursing, giving up kind of hard. How ironic!

Why? Well, because this piece is about being discouraged and how to recover from it.

And I gotta tell you that when I sat down to start writing this… I felt all of the discouragement.

Discouragement isn’t a problem

Here’s the thing: discouragement isn’t a problem (no seriously) unless it is sustained for long periods or results in quitting on a goal that is important to you. And I don’t mean taking a break and revisiting your goal later… I mean quitting that results in complete disengagement from the task.

Discouragement, fear, doubt, lack of self-confidence, are the germs which have killed the prosperity and happiness of tens of thousands of people.

Orison Swett Marden

Everyone feels discouraged at points in their life but it is what we do with the discouragement that makes the difference. We can let it destroy our happiness and prosperity, or we can channel it into deeper commitments and increased learning opportunities… until we finally succeed. The workplace is riddled with discouragement, and this affects all generations (not just the “soft” millennials that people speak of)! 

When it comes to long-term success at work, learning to overcome moments of discouragement will propel you forwards (and likely elevate you above your peers) creating more long term success.

So what is discouragement, really?

Discouragement occurs when our expectations do not match reality. 

It is similar to disappointment but is tied to a feeling of personal lack. You are disappointed if your friend forgets to wish you a happy birthday, but you are discouraged if none of your friends wish you a happy birthday. In the first scenario, the cause has an external factor to blame (your friend forgot). In the second, it is more likely to be a factor of something internal (maybe your friends don’t care about you because you are unlovable). 

Feeling unlovable, unworthy, and incapable (amongst other beliefs about yourself) are at the root of discouragement.

Going back to me writing this piece, when I struggled to get words on the page, my thought turns to “I’m a bad communicator”, “a real writer wouldn’t find this so hard”, and “I’m never going to get this to sound right”! 

Lies… all lies! 

And if you have heard this from your internal dialogue before you need to get it to Shut. The. F. Up.

How to stop discouragement from getting in the way of your success

Are you tired of hearing “positive self-talk” and “affirmations” as the fix-all solution to negative feelings? Me too. I’ve had good experiences with using both, but there is more that we can do to overcome feelings of discouragement.


Please, please, please… if you are in a constant state of discouragement, seek the help of a therapist who can provide you with more in-depth support and tools. I have a fair amount of psychology and mindfulness training, but I am not a psychologist. So these are recommendations to be applied for one-off feelings of discouragement. Please get help if you need it!

Here are 5 proven strategies to overcome moments of discouragement:

  1. Curiosity

This is my favorite and most used method. Since curiosity is my most important value, it also comes the most naturally to me!

My favourite definition of curiosity is “interest leading to inquiry.” It has two critical steps when used as a tool:

Step 1 is to show interest in the feeling of discouragement. Do not numb them or to avoid the feeling. Pay attention to it. Notice the sensation it provides.

Step 2 is to inquire about the feeling. Ask yourself how it physically makes you feel. What thoughts come to mind when you feel discouraged? What root beliefs are exposed by this feeling? Are they true?

Through questioning your discouragement, you begin to become more resilient to the feeling. The power that the feeling has over your actions begins to fade, and you are less likely to experience it in the future. 

2. Take action

Any action is better than none! Step away from the situation or task and do something else. When writing this piece was getting the better of me, overcoming discouragement involved watching an hour of YouTube videos and playing with my dog. You may want to read a book (or Medium article), move to a new physical environment, or eat some food. Think about something else for a while and allow your subconscious brain to work on the problem in the meantime.

3. Seek a mentor (not a peer)

If you are like me, you have a tendency to go to your friends and vent when you are discouraged. Maybe you turn to your spouse or colleagues. But unless they have had a similar experience, they may not be able to elevate you out of your discouragement.

The great thing about mentors is that they will question the thinking patterns that put you in your current mood. They won’t just sympathize. They will empathize and elevate. Friends and family care for us and feel a physical response to our discomfort. Their default is to try to remove it for you. And this can result in them convincing you to quit whatever is causing you discouragement (because why would you keep doing something uncomfortable?). Although seeking a mentor’s perspective is way harder to do, it will result in a better outcome in the long term. 

4. Get rooted in your values

If you have read any of my other pieces, you know how important values are to me. We hear a lot about brand values, but your personal values are just as important. Reflect on how the task that you are trying to complete will push you closer to living within your values (if you haven’t determined these yet, now is a great time to do Brene Brown’s value determination exercise). 

One of my key values is “responsibility”. So when I was writing this piece, I reflected on the fact that publishing high-quality content for ambitious people like you is my responsibility. And this helps you to take responsibility for creating an incredible career. And writing allows me to do that (even when it is really difficult). Refocusing on my “why” helps me to refocus my efforts, decide if the task is important enough to continue with, and push me with a little extra motivation to overcome the discouragement.

5. Think about what you can control, and what you can’t

Is the thing that you are discouraged by within your control? Can you impact it in a specific and tangible way? 

If you are discouraged by the feedback you received on a project at work, think about which aspects of the project are in your control. If it’s a team effort, you can take responsibility for some aspects of the project, but not all. Don’t let the work of your other team members discourage you from the effort you are putting in. 

There are very few things that we have complete control over, and we feel more motivated to perform well in the areas in which we have greater autonomy (check out Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, for more about that). So if you are feeling discouraged by something out of your control, bring some curiosity (my favourite technique) to the situation and let go of the things outside of your control.

Resilience is a predictor of success

Can you control your feelings of discouragement? No, probably not. 

Can you overcome them? Yes.

Learning to identify and overcome discouragement is a key aspect of resilience that will help you achieve personal, financial, and career success. Separating yourself from discouragement and learning to walk through disappointment will allow you to take steps towards your goals every day.

And that, my friends, is worth it!

Knowlejoble BBB Business Review