5 Steps to Defeating Despair

That debilitating sense of hopelessness? The listless feeling of a man powerless to control his future? It’s called despair, and it can crush your spirit.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with despair. I wish it were a “these are the times that try men’s souls” kind of despair. The simple fact is that despair attacks us in more intimate ways: career situations, home life, friendships are all targets.

Career trajectory may be the most desperate topic for most young people. Whether it’s the paralyzing plethora of opportunities (merely perceived or more realistic) presented to most of us or the constant depression dogma of down-economy prognoses, many young people will find themselves stuck in a funk– a state of despair.

I’ve found myself exactly there. Even with a seemingly perfect prospective future, despair creeps in. Here’s how I’m dealing with it (and how you can, too):

  1. Chart Your Course. You’ve got to know where you’re going if you’re going to get there. This doesn’t mean you have to sit down and write out every single detail. It also doesn’t mean you have to stick to your current circumstances. Chart out the course you want to take. What are your dreams and passions? What are your strengths? Where the two intersect, jot out a rough plan on how to get where you want to go.
  2. Consult Your Inner Circle. To be successful and climb out of the funk of despair, you’re going to need the advice and help of those closest to you. For me, this would mean my wife and a few friends. If you’re married or in a serious relationship, your partner’s buy-in is essential; securing it may require some re-charting. Don’t let physical connections be your limit, though. As a Christian, I would also spend time in prayer and reflection, desiring those tiny internal revelations that God uses to set us in motion.
  3. Commit. Perhaps the most important step, committing is often the hardest thing for people to do. These days, the buzzword seems to be “opportunity cost”. What opportunities do you have to give up in order to take advantage of the one you want to pursue? Toss it out with the garbage! You’ve charted a course and got the buy-in of those who matter to you. Commit to your course and your emotional health. Commit to those one or two things you need to pursue to get where you want to be.
  4. Confront Uncertainty. Uncertainty can be paralyzing. Whether it’s in your head or in the minds of your colleagues or superiors, you’ve got to confront it. Once you’ve committed, you need to know that those upon whom your plan depends are not going to rip the carpet out from under you. I have experienced this numerous times; uncertainty or a lack of commitment from a superior can sabotage your efforts and plunge you into deeper despair.
  5. Change It Up When You Must. No plan is perfect. Along the way, you will run into obstacles that threaten derailment. Rather than putting your head down and plowing right of the bridge, alter course when appropriate. Progress is about learning and growth! As you discover strengths or weaknesses, adjust to take advantage of them or find a partner who can come alongside and complement you.

Defeating despair is no small task. If I told you I had the perfect formula for preventing despair I’d be lying; it will creep up on you. But marinating in that place is not an option for those hoping to live a happy and productive life. Chart, Consult, Commit, Confront, and Change to defeat despair and take responsibility for your sense of fulfillment.


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