When things snowball, and it seems unbearable, be heroic

by Laura Patton-Van Buskirk, PsyD

So there is no question that we all have made and will make mistakes, experience mishaps, have lapses in judgment. After all, we are alive, growing, living beings.

That said, there can be occasions on which we don’t have the best options to manage the outcome of life’s errors. Sometimes it is a lost friendship, or perhaps taxes, or keeping a secret that gets more blown up the longer you keep it. You get the idea.

Many times, such things can snowball. While this can be the material for a good sitcom episode, in real life it is quite stressful and even painful. So much so that we often delay. Procrastination is rationalized in infinite ways: that we need the energy to deal, we haven’t gotten enough info, it’s not the right time, or perhaps even being distracted by other fires that need putting out immediately, and, of course, more. The snowball gets bigger.

However we got there, being human, we are there. What to do?

It is important you understand that you are undertaking something heroic. Whether or not recognized by other people, this will be hard, and your efforts are courageous as you face something difficult for you to do. Frankly, most people would find it difficult too, and do, with their own challenges. Minimally give yourself credit for the hard task you are undertaking.

As a hero in this challenging situation, we need to figure out how to proceed on our journey.

  1. Take an inventory of your Awesomeness. Personally, I am a fan of recognizing, that despite bad luck or other circumstances, it is in part my fault, and the good news, therefore, in part within my control. We can start shrinking the snowball. We have some control.
  2. Make an honest assessment of the situation—perhaps involving a phone call to debtors, or determining all the damage done by a kept secret—set a goal(s). Your quest is… to be completed by… Along the way, the tasks needed to complete the quest are… Do note that this may include having to wait weeks between steps for information, court dates, etc. Heroic journeys are often epic and long.
  3. As you continue on the journey, gather resources and skills. Perhaps you will thrive from a team of sidekicks, practice, strategy, or research—just like any hero. You pick that which will help you make headway. This can be anything: a new workout partner to ice cream to a good cry to a new accountant… Repeat step 3 as often as necessary.
  4. AND GIVE YOURSELF CREDIT FOR ALL HEADWAY YOU MAKE! Even if it is just leaving a message on a phone call that was difficult to make. Make hash marks in a book, cross things off a list, celebrate every five notches in your belt. Whatever works. (After all, as we all know, many heroes fail to give themselves credit, and that is not healthy.)
  5. Plan for lost momentum. At times, we all become directed to, or focus on, other tasks. Set calendar reminders to check on the progress of things, remind someone to remind you on a given date. Be sure you are reasonably keeping the course.
  6. Finally, throughout it is very important not to judge yourself harshly. It is helpful and healthy to make an honest evaluation of your oops-es and weaknesses, but then, similarly, to benefit from consideration of your efforts and strengths as well. Keep balance.

Everyone makes mistakes, some are admittedly compounded by inordinately bad circumstances or luck. Nonetheless, we always want to move forward and give ourselves a good chance at a better life. Melting the snowballs helps. Find your hairdryer and get to it. And give yourself credit as you do so.

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