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How To Keep Moving Forward

This article was originally published November 22, 2017.

I was about 22-years-old when I really started to feel “old.” I was feeling worn out and had nothing to look forward to.

There were a lot of factors that contributed to this. I was done with college, felt like I needed to commit to a full-time job in one field for the rest of my life, and I saw many friends moving out of their parents’ homes into the real world. My social life had become a disaster, and I felt like my life of adventures was coming to an end. How was I to keep moving forward?

Essentially, my spontaneous life would have to dissolve into the adult life of work and more work. It was figuratively the end of my youth. But finding a job wasn’t as easy as I was led to believe either. And suddenly, what should have been the next dull chapter of my life became pretty much nothing at all.

I found work doing odd jobs just to stay busy and to keep an income going. It wasn’t what I dreamed my life would be after college, but there were many opportunities to learn more about myself. I was very fortunate in my internship and work opportunities when I was in college. But I had mixed feelings continuing in each field, and by the time I graduated, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do, and trying to do what was expected of me was paralyzing.

On top of that, my social life was an absolute disaster. I had no friends for a variety of reasons, no one to count on, and nowhere near a real relationship.

So it felt like I was moving backwards. At best, I was standing still. But time was running without me, so I felt like I was moving backwards.

Every step felt like a step away what I should be doing. And I was nowhere near where I wanted to be when I graduated college.

Chances are that most all of us have felt like we were going nowhere. Whether it’s because your career isn’t working out the way you want to, or your social life is dying. Or like me, both at the same time with no end in sight. But life takes time.

Success doesn’t happen overnight. The most important thing you can do is just keep moving forward. Here are some tips to help you do so:

1. Name your blessings.

Specifically, count three blessings. Think of three things you are grateful for. They can be people you’re thankful for, events that you appreciate, or material items.

Think about someone in your life that you’re thankful for. Think about something you like doing, and count your blessings that you can do it at all. Anything at all. Just name three things you’re grateful for. Do this every day for 3-4 weeks.

Related: 10 Thoughtful and Reflective Journal Prompts

Naming your blessings will help you strengthen the pathways in your brain that help you focus on the positive things in your life. It can be challenging to be faced with negativity everywhere we turn, but we all still have a lot to be grateful for.

2. Name two positives for every negative.

We’re not perfect. Negative thoughts are poison in our mind. So for every negative thought, think of two positives. When you’re in a bad mood and just hate everything around you, find two positive things.

Start with the weather if it’s nice. Anything that’s positive. Even if you’re wearing your favorite socks, or it could simply be that the sunset is beautiful. Just name two positive thoughts for every negative thought.

3. Pick up a long-term hobby or project.

Working with your hands is calming, so pick up a craft or woodworking. Make something. Learn to knit or pick up a latch-hook kit — something simple and mindless to keep your hands busy and calm your mind. 

But the best part is that these projects also help your perspective. These are not overnight projects. Knitting a scarf sounds exhausting. It’ll take a thousand little knots. It would be a lot easier to just buy a scarf.

But the process of knitting a single knot after another is a reminder that it takes time and slow progress, just like life is going to take time and slow progress.

Seeing the scarf or whatever project you choose completed will give you a sense of accomplishment and help remind you that there is accomplishment and success in the end. You can’t see it yet, but keep working towards it, and it will take shape.

4. Remind yourself what you love about yourself.

In such a negative world, it’s easy to look at mass media pictures and feel inadequate. We always will be. We cannot humanly compete with Photo-shopped models. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t amazing. If anything, we are even more so.

Look in the mirror, and remind yourself of your favorite features. Appreciate your own beautiful qualities, physically and emotionally. Remind yourself that your hardships make you who you are, and you are beautiful, talented, and well-deserving. Because you are.

Because no matter what, time will continue to march forward at its own pace. It’s exhausting, and sometimes it feels like we can’t keep up. But we have so much potential, we’re all probably doing better than we think.

Just remember to keep moving forward.

About the Author

Lindsey Zawila

Lindsey graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015 with a B.A. in Global Studies and Communications. She studied abroad in Austria (Summer 2013), Switzerland (Spring 2014), and India (Winter 2014). Her previous internships include the World YWCA in Geneva, Switzerland, the Foreign Service Institute at the U.S State Department in Washington, D.C., and CNN International in Atlanta, GA. In her free time, you'll find her reading, writing, making jewelry or friendship bracelets, sewing or refining her photography skills.