Breaking Free! From Discouragement

Do you ever feel discouraged?

I do
a lot.

Or at least a lot more than I should.

In fact, I started writing this post today because I began to feel discouraged. There was no particular reason, just more general feelings and thoughts which attempted to flood my mind and pull me into a discouraged place.

That might come as a surprise to a lot of people who know me personally, because I tend to be very positive and upbeat about life.

But I have a confession to make.

I battle with discouragement a lot.

I often find it creeping up on me, tapping away at my thoughts, attempting to get its claws into me.

A cloud that comes down and brings a foggyness to my outlook. Reminding me about all the obstacles, frustrations & challenges before me. It surrounds me and it’s difficult to break through.

It attacks my confidence, enthusiasm and identity. I can feel:

It sucks away at the energy and life within me attempting to
kill my passion,
steal my joy &
plunder my peace.
Until I feel like I have no energy left to fight it anymore.

But I have learnt I have to fight it early on …. Regardless!

I can’t let it win. I have to break free from discouragement and it’s hold over me before it pulls me into a darker place that I will struggle to get free from.

I have to daily ‘take on’ the thoughts of discouragement and choose to see with more hope and faith. Some days that battle is harder than others, however, it is necessary to see life more positively.

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There are lots of different things and each one of us is affected by it in different ways.
Perhaps someone let you down, broke your trust, walked away.
Maybe your job or school work is harder than you expected and you are not making the progress you wanted.
Perhaps marriage and having children hasn’t been the experience you dreamt of.
Maybe life just seems to be hard and you are struggling to muster up the strength to continue each day.
Perhaps your plans and dreams haven’t worked out, things have gone wrong and you can’t see a way forward.

Discouragement knocks at your door and it’s hard to resist the flood of negative thoughts it brings with it telling you:

You are a failure
A nobody
You are not going to make it
You are not good enough
What you do is not enough
Why not give up
No one cares
You will just get hurt
Why do you bother
Things are never going to get any better.

All this is just too hard!
Life is just too hard!


We can’t let discouragement win!

I believe that discouragement is one of the biggest struggles that leaders, in particular, have to overcome. Until you become a leader, in any setting, you have no idea how hard it is.

You have to find the energy and passion to keep going yourself, plus a load extra to carry everyone else with you. It’s hard. There are a lot of responsibilities & commitments, that you have to shoulder. When everyone else drops out you have to stay standing strong and do it alone if necessary.

It’s in this area that I probably face the most discouragement.

To be a leader you have to have vision. This means that you are constantly seeing what ‘could be.’ Discouragement often takes hold when the ‘could be’ seems miles away from the current reality and the progress you are making seems so slow.

Every leader has days when they feel discouraged, wish they could throw in the towel and ignore their responsibilities. Discouragement comes knocking and it takes all your might to keep the flood gates closed.

This is why we should think about how we can encourage leaders.
Trust me, they need it!

Discouragement often takes hold when the ‘could be’ seems miles away from the current reality and the progress you are making seems so slow.


We have to fight discouragment. We have to push through it.

Discouraged people discourage people.

Negativity spreads like wild fire.

When people are discouraged it spreads. It takes a lot of courage and strength to break through an atmosphere of discouragement and refuse to be part of letting it spread. But it is the only way to stop it in its tracks.

Discouraged people discourage people.

Rick Warren wrote about discouragement:

“Fight back! Discouragement is a choice. If you feel discouraged, it’s because you’ve chosen to feel that way… Hang on! Do what’s right in spite of your feelings. No feeling lasts forever.”

Some people don’t like hearing that our feelings can be a choice. It means we have to accept more responsibility for what we feel, think and how we behave.

But I believe we have a lot more control over our emotions than we might think. I am not talking about hiding them or pretending they are not there, that isn’t healthy. I am talking about learning to not be ruled or defined by them.

Emotions and feelings usually begin with thoughts. We cannot necessarily control the initial thoughts that come into our head but we can choose whether we dwell on them or not, whether to let them draw us into a negative mindset. Which is something I spoke about in Breaking Free! From Worry.

When thoughts of discouragement enter my mind if I do not stop them in their tracks they have the potential to snowball and pull in other thoughts until my perspective becomes overwhelmed and I feel rubbish about everything.

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Be honest with myself.
Trying to ignore discouragement often makes it worse. It can pull us into the dangerous place of pretending and you can only pretend for so long before the reality comes crashing down upon you.

I realise I can’t do it alone.
I am personally grateful for the inner strength that comes from my relationship with God. I talk to him. I listen to his still small voice encouraging me, renewing my strength and vision.

I speak to someone I trust and I know will encourage me.
My husband Matt is great at that. Or a close friend can help. Someone I know who will help me to see with a more positive perspective.

I read words that will help me.
From the bible, good books, articles, or the hundreds of inspiring quotes I store in my phone.

I try to remember everything that I can be thankful for.
Even when other things are going wrong around me.

I look for opportunities to encourage someone else. 
Sometimes getting the focus off me and my problems, being aware of other people’s challenges and choosing to encourage them, helps me to break through my own discouragment.

It can take a lot of courage to choose to be hopeful in the face of discouragement. To keep trusting and believing even when things are a struggle.

But it’s the only way. Despair is not an option.

In this verse from the Bible God encourages Joshua to be strong and courageous not discouraged and afraid, so that he can lead the people.
In this verse from the Bible God encourages Joshua at the start of his leadership journey.

It starts with a choice.

Choose to be encouraged. Learn how to encourage yourself and let others encourage you.

You can then become an encourager rather than a discourager to other people and help to turn the tide away from a culture of criticism and negativity.

There is always something good going on around you that you can celebrate.

We just have to choose to see it. 

I would love to hear what you think:

Do you struggle with discouragement?
What do you do to deal with it?

There are lots of things we can do to fight against discouragement. Carey Nieuwhof gives some good advice in this blog post.

This post is part of my .Breaking Free. series of posts. Click here to see posts on Breaking Free from Fear and Worry.


Is Busyness A Choice?

Just stop and ponder this question for a moment.

Is busyness a choice?

What if we make it personal:

Is how busy I AM a choice?
Or is it an unchangeable fact of my life?

I have been thinking about writing about busyness for a while. At first I thought about adding it to my ‘Breaking Free!’ series and yet the more I thought about it, the more I kept coming back to these questions:

Is busyness actually choice?
How much control do we have over it?
Can I really ‘break free’ from it?
Do I want or need to ‘break free’ from it?

These are the type of questions I have been pondering and have asked myself on numerous occasions, especially since having kids.

Will this overwhelming, exhausting busyness ever stop?
The relentless do, do, do, go, go, go of life.

For years I have both thrived and have been exhausted by busyness.

My husband Matt and I are very driven and passionate about life. We live life with purpose, get involved with a lot of things, connect meaningfully with a lot of people and do not shy away from responsibility.

It’s in our nature to have a full life.
We love living life to the full!

But in at the start of 2015 things changed. I fell off a ladder and sustained a minor brain injury. And busyness began to happen around me rather than to me.

I struggled.

Enforced rest is hard. And it wasn’t fun rest either:
I couldn’t watch that movie.
I couldn’t read my favourite book.
I couldn’t listen to my favourite album.
I couldn’t go out for a meal with friends & family.

For about 3 months.
I mainly just had to lie there in a dark and quiet room feeling unwell.

Comparatively (to normality) I couldn’t DO anything.

Now if you know me personally, you will know I am a DOER. It’s in my nature to DO a lot of different things at the same time.

But suddenly I couldn’t


And it was hard.
Really hard!

And at these moments the question flies around your head:

Who am I when I can’t really DO anything?

An interesting question in itself and something I will come back to later.

Even now, 5 months on from the accident, I am so much better and improving each week, but I still cannot rush about as I did before without feeling the impact. My head begins to get cloudy and dizzy and everything takes much more energy.

I cannot DO busyness, like I used to and it’s a challenge to me.

A couple of months ago, I read an article called ‘Busy Is a Sickness’ by a guy called Scott Dannemiller. It said a lot of what I had been thinking about for a while.

In it Scott discusses two types of busyness.

1. Busyness we can’t control: Which he writes primarily affects the poor because their economic reality simply does not allow for downtime. They have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet.

2. Busyness we can control: Self-created stress. He writes, “Most of the time, I manufacture urgency in the hope that it will create urgency in others. Instead, it only creates anxiety, resentment and spite. Which is absolutely counter-productive. And even in the cases where the urgency is real, it’s often due to a packed schedule I created.”

Why do so many of us get caught up in a cycle of busyness that we can control and yet can often feel out of control?

Scott Dannemiller writes:

“… we are defined by what we do. Our careers. What we produce. It’s the first question asked (of us)…. The implication is that if I am not busy doing something, I am somehow less than. Not worthy. Or at least worth less than those who are producing something.”

He goes on to make the case that many of us can use busyness because ‘we are afraid of ourselves’. True quiet time can be a challenge and also very revealing – as we come face to face with ourselves and our own thoughts.

So busyness is very linked to our identity.
1. It helps us to feel like, and let others know, we are DOING something useful or important.
2. It can keep us distracted from facing ourselves and our thoughts.

Perhaps Busyness is a sickness of epidemic proportions!

“We are defined by what we do.” – Scott Dannemiller

So many of us often feel crazy busy. The irony is, we complain about it and yet we can simultaneously wear it as a badge of honour. We mention it to empathise with others, but it can then quickly become something we compete over.

It can be a reality.
But also an excuse.

Busy, busy, busy…. Rush, Rush, Rush!!

No wonder people want to:
Escape it.
Get away.
Drink it away.
Eat it away.
Medicate it away.
Self medicate it away.
Run away.

The pressure of life.
The realisation that life and responsibility is not easy.
That it involves a lot of hard work.
That it never seems to end.

The stress.
The worry.
The exhaustion.

Of all I need to DO!

The modern world we live in demands more and more of our time and attention as technology invades every part of our lives. Until our lives can feel out of our control.

It can feel overwhelming!

Yet do we have more control over it than we might think?

This is something I have increasingly thought about and my answer is, of course: Yes & No!

After 10 years of having children I know full well that having kids makes life hectic. You have these little people dependent on you 24/7 however tired, exhausted & in need of a break you are. When you have kids busyness is often an inevitability. Even holidays can be exhausting.

But there is still a lot of choices I make each day in how I use and view my time. Often:
I chose it,
I agreed to it.
I took on that job.
Said yes to that appointment.
Agreed to that meet up.
Answered my phone.
Took on that new responsibility.

So I must either accept the consequences of my choices, do it with a humble heart and increase my capacity – which is a good thing to do and something some of us need to learn to do more.

Or I have to decide to somehow change it, whilst maintaining my integrity and honouring my commitments wherever possible.

There is no point in complaining or getting bitter about the choices I have made.

If my busyness is out of control maybe I need to think carefully about my life and make different choices. Change may not be possible over night but there are always ways forward.

What about the times when busyness is not a choice?

Life will always bring seasons that feel uncontrollable. Things happen that we did not expect in our personal lives and jobs and the balance in our life quickly shifts to ‘unbearable’. Sometimes we just have to manage and find a way through a particularly exhausting season.

Matt and I faced this, at the start of the year. We had to quickly make a lot of changes when I was ill. Matt couldn’t DO it all on his own as I wrote about here.

It showed us that we could scale back when we needed to. We can say no and reevaluate what needs to change. Lessons I hope we will apply more in the future.

I have realised that I need to ‘break free’ from a busy mindset and its hold on my identity and discover a rhythm of life that works for me and my family.

Much of our busyness is a choice. We can get frustrated by it and yet we often choose it. Sometimes we can end up blaming others and get angry about it. And yet we have agreed to it or allowed the people around us, or our own mindsets, to influence it.

I know Matt and I will always live a ‘full life’ even amidst challenging seasons. But I have realised that I need to ‘break free’ from a busy mindset and its hold on my identity and discover a rhythm of life that works for me and my family.

A life rhythm that continues to thrive on a ‘full and purposeful life’ which will inevitably include a lot of hard work, generosity of time, sacrifice, commitment and responsibility. But one that does not pull us into a place that is consistently overwhelming and potentially damaging to our health, faith, marriage and family.

Busyness will take everything if we let it!

To end I wanted to again use Scott Dannemiller’s words because he says it so well.

“So my prayer today is this. That I stop defining myself by my doing, and start defining myself by my being. That I stop measuring time by the clock on the wall, and start measuring it by the experiences I share with those around me. And that I stop seeing my life as “busy,” and instead, see it for what it truly is.

Do you think busyness is a choice or do you think of it as an inevitability?
How could you bring a better rhythm to your life and see busyness a different way?

I invite you to discuss or comment below, or on my social media links, I would love to hear what you think.