Figuring out how to move forward when life and business are hard can be an incredible challenge.  However, it’s an especially important problem for small business owners and solopreneurs to tackle.

If you don’t work to stay grounded and keep moving, you risk getting stuck, backsliding, or getting in your own way.  Today, I’m sharing 5 steps to move forward when you’re facing challenges in business or in life.

How to move forward when life and business are hard:  Introduction

For many, their goal in business and life is to be happy and successful.  That makes sense.  However, life is 50/50 overall in terms of positive and negative emotion.  Inevitably, you will experience challenges as a small business owner, both in your personal and professional life.

In short, challenges, failures, and setbacks are going to happen.  How you choose to respond is what makes the difference between getting stuck or moving forward.  Below, I’ve outlined 5 steps you can take in the face of a challenge or setback, whether it’s in your personal or professional life.

These are suggestions only, and are not meant to be prescriptive.  Take what helps you, and leave the rest.  It’s also important to recognize that you may be facing challenges that require the help of a caring mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychologist.  These steps are not intended to replace mental health treatment if and when it is needed.

Now that the red tape is out of the way, let’s talk about 5 ways to move forward in the face of challenges.

Practice self-compassion

When you’re facing tough times, the last thing you need is extra stress, criticism, and pressure coming from yourself.

As humans, our typical tendency may to criticize ourselves.  That can turn into blaming, belittling, or even berating ourselves.  That behavior may seem normal, but it can have devastating psychological consequences.

When you’re facing a difficult situation, self-criticism adds an unnecessary layer of suffering on top of an already-tough emotional state.  You’re already stressed, and on top of it, you’re mad or resentful toward yourself.

What can you do instead?

The answer is two-fold.  First, approach yourself with kindness and compassion. Treat yourself the way you might treat a close friend or loved one going through something similar.  Have compassion for the fact that you’re a human being facing a challenge.  Be kind and gentle with yourself, rather than mean and harsh.

Having self-compassion doesn’t mean you’re giving yourself a pass or letting yourself off the hook, though.  The second part to this answer is to give yourself compassionate, constructive feedback.  A simple way to do this is to be honest with yourself about:

  • What went well
  • What didn’t go well
  • What changes you want to make going forward

A big dose of self-compassion mixed with gentle but frank feedback will help you move forward in the midst of a personal or professional challenge.

Take care of your neurological system

Stress can wreak havoc on the human body, especially the neurological system.  When you’re facing a hard period in your business or your life, it can be tempting to try and outwork the problem.  However, demanding more and more of an already taxed brain and body almost never solves the issue.

What’s the answer, then?  I’m not suggesting that you kick back and watch your life or business metaphorically burn down.  Rather, it’s about giving your mind and body time and space to decompress and recover, whenever possible.  The human neurological system wasn’t designed to go nonstop for long periods without consequences, especially during times of stress.

Taking care of your neurological system will look a little different for everyone.  However, here are a few suggestions.  See which ones resonate the most with you:

  • Spend time relaxing alone
  • Skip non-essential events and activities that feel draining to you
  • Spend time with a supportive loved one
  • Engage in activities that you enjoy (and that don’t drain you)
  • Spend time away from screens
  • Do some light exercise
  • Take time to process your emotions
  • Practice yoga
  • Meditate
  • Spend time volunteering (in a way that doesn’t drain you)
  • Watch a funny movie or read a good book
  • Spend time in nature
  • Schedule time to do nothing

If you don’t already know which activities help you to decompress and recover physically, mentally, and emotionally, try a few things and find what works for you.  During stressful times, the human neurological system often needs extra time and space for recovery.  Making it a priority is a gift of compassion to yourself. Not to mention, it will help you feel more rested and recharged to address business and life issues that come up.

Embrace the long-term perspective

The next step in determining how to move forward in the midst of difficulty is to embrace the long-term perspective.

Hard times in your business or professional life almost always include uncomfortable emotions.  Fear, stress, worry, overwhelm, lack of control, uncertainty… any or all could pop up, depending on what you’re facing.

When humans are faced with uncomfortable emotions in the moment, they can be tempted to make decisions that provide immediate emotional relief.  That might mean quitting, giving in, or making another decision that doesn’t serve your long-term best interest.

One nugget I frequently offer clients is to avoid making long-term decisions based on short-term emotions.  Quitting and giving in are not “wrong,” and you get to decide what you do.  However, if you quit an important, long-term goal due to temporary stress or pressure, you might regret it later.

Sometimes, quitting is the best choice.  Other times, it’s a quick and easy way out of emotional discomfort that costs you the progress and growth you desire long-term.

To counteract this, Don’t just focus on how difficult things are right now.  Instead, consider the long-term perspective:

  • How consequential will this period in time be a year from now?  Five years from now?
  • What outcome do you want to create, and why is it important to you?
  • How can you take care of yourself and make sure that you and your family will be okay in the long run?
  • Knowing that the stress of the current situation is temporary, how do you want to think and feel about it to help yourself get through it?

When you’re experiencing strong negative emotions as part of a stressful period, remembering that there will be life after this particular stressor can be helpful.

Take one step forward at a time

When figuring out how to move forward during a difficult time in business or life, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed.  You might even see the solution to the problem, but the solution can seem so complex or difficult that you start feeling stuck or helpless.

When my clients have these experiences, I encourage them to focus on taking one step forward at a time.  Stress can make problem-solving and critical thinking more difficult, and taking baby steps can help alleviate that issue.

Whether it’s an issue in your business or personal life, ask yourself:  What’s the very next thing I can do to move forward in this situation?

This can be helpful because the human brain, especially in times of stress, can easily feel overwhelmed when faced with the perceived enormity of a solution, or the need to create a solution.  By focusing on one step at a time, you can eliminate some of that overwhelm, while also moving forward.

You might be wondering, “What if I make the wrong choice?”  If the step you take doesn’t turn out as planned, that’s another opportunity for self-compassion and constructive feedback, adjustment, and trying again.

Seek support

Finally, moving forward during a difficult period can also include seeking support from others.  Talking out tough situations with a supportive loved one, friend, mental health professional, coach, or mentor can be incredibly helpful.

It can help you process your thoughts and feelings, assess different perspectives, and gain some objectivity around the situation.  Supportive social contact can also help you feel less alone, ease stress, and build relationships.

For small business owners and solopreneurs, it may be helpful to talk with another small business owner (whom you trust) about what you’re struggling with.  No matter the situation, sometimes it can be helpful to talk with someone who has been through what you’re experiencing, or something similar.

If you do choose to seek support, it can help to let the other person know what you’re looking for specifically (if anything).  If you just need to vent and aren’t looking for advice, that might be worth mentioning.  Or, if you ARE looking for advice, asking someone directly for their insights could be helpful.

How to move forward when life and business are hard:  Conclusion

As I said at the top of the article, hard situations and periods will happen.  The response you choose will dictate your path forward – or keep you stuck or backsliding.  While some challenges may necessitate the help of a mental health professional, there are plenty of others that won’t.  Here’s a quick recap of how to move forward when you’re facing a hard, but manageable situation in business or life:

  • Practice self-compassion (and constructive feedback)
  • Take care of your neurological system
  • Embrace the long-term perspective
  • Take one step forward at a time
  • Seek support

If you’re a small business owner or solopreneur facing a difficult situation in your business or personal life, here are a few things to know:

  • Hardships are normal
  • There is a path forward
  • You don’t have to do it alone

As a time management and mindset coach for small business owners, I help my clients navigate the mental and emotional side of business, so they can get more done and move forward.  If that kind of support sounds amazing to you, schedule a free call with me.  We’ll talk about what’s happening in your life and business, the results you want to create, and how you can get there.

About the Author Amy Schield

Amy Schield, MBA is a time management and productivity coach for small business owners. Using a mix of simple tactics and neuroscience-based strategies, she helps clients manage their time successfully, set and achieve goals for business growth, and navigate the mental and emotional side of owning and running a small business. Acting as a personal trainer for the brain, she teaches clients how to get out of their own way, so they can finally build the business they want.

Follow me