surfersI have to admit that I have been struggling for motivation over the past couple of weeks. This is my first blog post for a while and this morning I ran for the first time in over a week.

I have just had a week off my from day job and had big plans to get some of the barefoot course written but in the end didn’t even switch the computer on. I had plans to run every other day but in the end didn’t run a step.

What is going on?

People often call me driven but I don’t recognise that term about myself. I don’t think that I am driven. I just think that I work hard. I think that the term ‘driven’ is sometimes used to describe people who work hard by people who don’t as a sort of cop out. Maybe I am wrong.

Last week, I felt that I couldn’t run and that I couldn’t clear my head and write. It seems to part of my natural cycle and it no longer worries me. I go in waves. I had spent some time riding a big wave of enthusiasm and had worked very hard for a sustained period. I had very little downtime and I produced quite a lot of good stuff. I had laid down the basics for our online barefoot course and set up our new forum. I had blocked out the academic work that I am doing on coaching and mentoring.

I had ridden the wave for all it was worth and about 2 weeks ago felt the energy starting to dissipate. Eventually, I was just worn out and needed to stop. I stepped away from almost everything and did things that I haven’t done for a while. I slept in longer, walked in the woods with my family, read books for fun and watched junk TV programmes. I felt like I needed to stop.

Read Steven Sashen’s Guide to Barefoot Walking here

I think that many people would just see this as a holiday, as a way of recharging my batteries but I think there is a difference. For me, holidays are planned. They are something you look forward to. You plan to work hard for a sustained period and then have a rest.

This feels more like you pick a wave and ride it until the energy dissipates. Then you go into a lull until the next one comes along. The problem is that if you don’t understand and recognise the cycle, you can end up feeling low and dispondent. You wonder why your energy has gone and what on earth you are going to do get out of it. When I look back on my life, I have always done this. I catch waves of enthusiasm and ride them for all they are worth and then if I am not careful can fall into a period of lethargy that lasts longer than I would like. It becomes hard to get out of. Eventually, I pick up a new wave and go again but it I can see that there have been period where I have slipped too far.

It has taken me many years (in fact decades) to recognise and accept that this is the way I work. I saw myself as someone who jumped from one idea to another and didn’t stick with anything for long. I saw this as a major character flaw but now I don’t see it that way. I am now learning that many successful people are just the same. They are addicted to the steep part of the learning curve. I just sit in the ocean and wait for another wave or do I start to paddle gently and build up a bit of my own momentum? I think that I have learned that I have times when I need to just stop. Then after a little while, I need to paddle gently and keep my forward momentum going. If I don’t, I can slide away for longer than is really needed.

So what can I do about this. How can I remain happy and productive and not be hard on myself?

  • I accept that this is the way I work and that it is OK. My productive spells more than make up for my lulls. So much so that people call me ‘driven’ even though it is a word that I don’t like. I am riding the wave not driving it. The more I understand that I do this, the more selective I will become. Life is too short to try and ride every wave in the ocean.
  • Accept that although planning for the long term is useful, things change. What I want to achieve may not be the same as in 6 weeks time. I accept that I need to ride the wave and when it dissipates re-evaluate where I am heading. The next wave might take me in a slightly different direction.
  • Have a way of dumping the things swirling round in my head. In these periods, I often have so much swirling around that I am not sure where to start or which wave to catch. Sometimes, I free write. I just start writing about where I am upto and let it come. Sometimes I draw. Rough plans of what I would like things to be like. I can then look at one aspect and focus on it. It can take me a little time before I am ready to comtemplate doing that but it helps every time.
  • Have a very simple skeleton plan for when I am in the lull between waves. Something that keeps me moving forward inch by inch. It needs to be easy to do and understand. The chances are that I won’t use the plan at first but when I feel ready then I can start in a low gear. I know enough about myself that the next wave will come along soon enough.
  • Separate each aspect of my life. The wave will catch me and before I know it, I will be riding it and if I am not careful, the other parts of my life will suffer. I need to make sure that this doesn’t happen.

I am just paddling at the moment but I can feel a wave coming. I have had a couple of weeks where I felt exhausted and unable to do much. Now I am on my way back. I have a basic structure. I am up early either running or writing. I am at the point where I am ready to dump my ideas on paper. They are bursting out of my head. This will help me choose the right wave for the next adventure. I am working during the day and focussed on my day job. I come home and spend time with my family with the computer off. A little later, I spend time in the Barefoot Beginner community. It takes longer than you might think.

I know that my big tasks like the barefoot course will come along in due course. I have time built in for those. I am a parent of teenage children. I spend alot of time waiting outside places in the car whilst they do sport or music. I love the peace that these times give me to concentrate on longer, deeper pieces of work. I know that when the wave catches, I will end up being very productive in a short period of time. For now, I am just going to paddle along and keep writing each day. A little bit of forward motion that gradually gathers speed until the wave comes along.

I used to be worried about it but I am not any longer. I know that it will arrive. Barefoot running is teaching alot about life. I am happy with that and feel so much more comfortable in my own skin. It is OK to work like this. I am finding that listen to my body more and not just my feet. It was telling me to stop, that the way I was working was unsustainable and that I needed a rest. I feel so much better for it.


I would love to hear your thoughts on the ways in which we operate. I have started a thread in our forum here. Join in.


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6 thoughts on “The low point between waves”

  1. Hi Greg – A race always helps me too. It is a bit of a Catch 22 for me because I also end up doing things that I shouldn’t because a race is coming up and end up on the sidelines. I find that booking a series of events helps because I don’t focus on one and if I miss one it isn’t such a big deal. Bad for the bank balance though. I think that is why parkruns are so useful.

  2. I recognise some of this in myself chris, especially the ‘lots of action, then slow phase’. It really helps to hear it from outside though as I don’t always notice when it’s happening. I, too, can go into a prolonged ‘lull’ if i don’t pick up after a slow phase (with 2 young kids, I have times when we’re all ill, etc), and I have found it hard to get back out sometimes after this. will have to book more races I think (although, again, can be tricky to plan these things with em young..)

    Keep em coming anyhow- great to hear these thoughts. Hope all well.

    oh, and login thing seemed to work ok! good idea

  3. Hi Sep – Just spotting when we are in that phase can help but we need to go easy on ourselves and accept it. One of the biggest blocks to getting out of the lull is that I have so much going round in my head. After writing the post, i sat and drew pictures, mindmapped and then listed the things that I wanted to get done. Then I just stared at the the page and drew circles around the things that I was drawn towards, the ones I couldn’t ignored. I started on those and I am away again.
    I couple of weeks ago, I ended sat next to a cognitive behaviour therapist and we were having a chat. He helps his clients see their lives as a complex but beautiful garden. He then helps them identify which bit of their garden needs some nurturung and love at that moment and then helps them work out ways of doing that. I think that I am doing something similar.

  4. Hi Chris
    I’ve been in a very similar place for a couple of months, loads to do but find it really hard to get on with it. Thinking I may have overtrained but then not sure. There seem to be too many things to do and the time seems to vanish. I guess for me it’s about prioritising and keeping it simple. I can really relate to the wave idea.

  5. Hi John – It certainly helps me to dump it all on paper and then work on the things I am drawn to. The last time I felt like this I used the analogy of a clearing in the woods. I had making my way through the forest and had to sit down and rest for a while before deciding which path to take next. It took me a while to be able to get to the point where I was ready to even empty my head. I was worn out. Keeping it simple and focussing on only one big thing at a time seems to help.

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