What To Do When You’re Making Little Progress In Your Work?

duck flapping its wings
Do you ever feel like you’re flapping your wings but going nowhere in your work?

The Feeling of No Real Progress

The feeling of not making progress can come up while doing The Work of Byron Katie, as it can in any other kind of situation. What do you do if this happens to you?

Let’s say you’re working on a big issue for you. Maybe it’s a relationship, maybe it’s money, or maybe there is some other big stressor in your life. You know that The Work is a process, but you can easily reach the limits of your patience.

What can you do if this happens to you?

The First Thing to Do Is Stop

If I feel stress, even about doing The Work, it means that something isn’t working for me. I need to stop and check it out. My tendency is to keep on keeping on, pushing forward, and trying to make things happen. 

But that doesn’t work when doing The Work. The Work is about questioning stressful thoughts and seeing if any of them happen to unravel. But you can’t force that. Stressful thoughts let go on their own, or not. All I can do is open the invitation for this.

If I push in any way to get results, the whole system backfires. Stressful thoughts are like two-year-olds who are actually in a position of power. They’re not going to relinquish that power just because I tell them to. 

They have to be invited, honored, and listened to. They have to be given the choice and feel like they are in control to discover why it’s in their best interest. Then, if they like what they see, they might let go. 

If I’m getting impatient with this process, I simply need to stop for a moment because pushing is not going to get me anywhere. 

The Value of a Break

If the big topic I keep working on and getting nowhere with is causing me frustration, one simple solution is to take a break from that topic for a while. I like to vary my topics. Sometimes switching to a less charged topic can give me the feeling of making progress again. 

Ironically, insights gained doing some other unrelated work often cross-pollinate and inform my other work that sits dormant. I’ve had very cool insights and breakthroughs when I’ve switched to other topics. All topics are related to each other.

The Real Cause of the Impatience

Taking a break is an action that takes the pressure away from pushing to break through in one issue. But a shift in how I see my work on this issue can be equally valuable in reducing my impatience. 

Impatience comes from the non-fulfillment or slow fulfillment of a desire. If I feel impatience when doing my work on any topic, I look for the hidden desire in myself. What is the want? What is the need that I see here? Why am I so desperate to fix this problem? 

Answering these questions will reveal the motives I have for doing The Work on the issue. For example, if I am doing The Work on money, my motives might be:

I want to be free of money stress.
I want to be able to be peaceful even when money is low.
I want to be like someone I know who doesn’t stress about money.
I want to get over the stress of money so I can make more money.
I want my money work to be over.

These are the wants that make me push myself to “breakthrough” and “find insights” from my work. These thoughts cause impatience in me when I do The Work on money. And this impatience and pushiness make The Work less effective. It’s a downward spiral.

The solution is simple: question these motives for doing The Work on money before returning to that work. This can lessen the inner push and allow The Work to work more freely. This makes the process more enjoyable and increases the experience of patience.

Join Us for a Virtual Retreat in June

Another way to find inspiration for doing The Work again is to do a weekend retreat. Having many hours to work on a topic in a group can help. 

The next virtual retreat is June 25-26. 

Have a great week,
Todd

“She is detached from all things in the sense that when they come, that’s what she wants, and when they go, that’s what she wants.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

Further reading: It’s Hard Not to Have a Motive When You Do The Work

About the author 

Todd

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.

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