Hitting the Wall – Motivation for Small Biz to Reach Your Profit Goals

Number Muncher hits small business wallEvery runner on the planet knows what it’s like to “hit the wall”. Your legs are filled with lead. Your lungs have shrunk to the size of a pea. Visions of cold water dance in your head. All you want to do is just give up.

Every small business owner, entrepreneur, and freelancer hits the wall.

Your new business leads have dried up like the Sahara Desert. Your cash is flowing out, not in. The grass must be greener somewhere, anywhere else. All you want to do is just give up.

Experienced runners know, if you can just hang in a little longer it does get easier.

Here’s how to tear down, scale, or break through that small business wall.

As a long distance runner I’ve learned various tricks and techniques to push through the wall. These lessons translate readily to small business.

Heading Uphill? Focus on your next step, not the summit

When I was on the Cross Country team back in high school there was one summer workout we all dreaded. Running up the local ski hill. The hill was for DOWNHILL skiing. We ran UP it.

The first time I thought it was a joke – they couldn’t really expect us to run up that thing!

They did, and while it still surprises me, I made it to the top courtesy of the assistant coach’s prodding and advice.

Don’t look up. Look straight ahead. Focus on your next step. You can do it. Just a little farther. Don’t look up! Just one more step.

Instead of focusing on this seemingly impossible goal I just thought about the next step. Instead of trying to find the energy to tackle an entire mountain, I focused on tackling just one step.

With each step I became more invested in getting to the top.

If you feel overwhelmed in your business, intimidated by your goals, or just plain tired, focus solely on the next step. What one thing could you do today to keep your momentum? Ask only that of yourself today.

Tomorrow repeat the process. And the day after. With just one more step you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Hydrate and Replenish Your Brain to Unlock Business Solutions

Creativity, brainstorming, and innovative problem-solving are skills that require nurturing and at times a jump-start. Your brain needs creative juice like your body needs water.

Here are a few great tools that can be your creative catalyst.

Caution: Objects May Appear Greener Than They Are

Sometimes the temptation to give up disguises itself as the “rational mind” or a “window of opportunity”. It’s easy to be fooled. Like the mirage of an oasis in the desert, you want to believe the grass is greener elsewhere.

The “rational mind” may argue a salaried position, working as an employee for a large company, would be more secure. It’s not, especially in today’s environment with persistently high unemployment.

Being an employee rather than an entrepreneur may be the right choice for you, but don’t kid yourself that it offers a panacea of safety.

Ever thought you just need a new product offering, new service or new marketing approach to (magically) fix your business? The temptation to keep trying new things, new ideas and new approaches instead of staying the course is strong. Who doesn’t like shiny and new?

You can’t get to the top of a mountain if you keep changing the goal. Two steps up Mountain A plus five steps up Mountain B plus 3 steps up Mountain C will NOT get you to the top of Mountain D.

Final Thoughts

Starting and running your own business, setting your own course, and blazing your own trail is work. Hard work. You will hit the wall. You must overcome it.

What are some business walls you’ve encountered? How have you overcome them?

This post is part of the January Word Carnival. The topic is Beat The Motivation Blues: Reboot, Re-Energize And Learn To Love Your Business Again. This month’s carnival will make you the energizer bunny of small business.


  1. Preach it, Sister! Oh that wall. Its almost adorable the way it sits there all stubborn and unmoving. Yes, I’ve encountered a wall or 5 in my day. Usually shows up at least once a year. You’ve really captured my approach well. Baby steps. Every. single. day.

    • He he – adorable? That’s like when I’m talking about my 4 year old having a tantrum. “Bless her heart”… now QUIT. It’s easy to just take a peek at the top and then suddenly you’re out of the zone.

  2. I love “your brain needs creative juice like your body needs water”, Nicole. You’ve got some good suggestions for jump-starting it. One of the other carnies suggested dressing up in a costume. I was skeptical, but when I had a creative block yesterday I put on a cap sideways. An hour later I have 1200 words. Interesting, isn’t it?

    • It’s easy to pooh pooh things we can’t see – like creativity or the inspiration of it. To me the proof is in the results.

      While I don’t have a costume I do have 8 lightsabers in my office. Taking one out, turning it on and channeling Luke Skywalker is pretty darn powerful.

      • Lightsabers – I love it! I can totally picture you whacking thorny number problems with one!

  3. Great points Nicole.

    I’ve been freelancing for over 20 years. One of the biggest obstacles I’ve had to deal with are the slow times when there is little or no work. When those come I either focus intensely on marketing to quality clients, or I take a vacation.

    • Great points John about the slow times, especially vacation since it makes it easier for me to relax. Another idea for slow times – use it as the space for creating new products, services, approaches or even rethinking and re-approaching your current systems. We can get so wrapped up working in our business we forget to work on it.

  4. OK, I love that hill analogy. What’s the old saw — “how do you eat an elephant?” (Answer: One bite at a time.) I’m going to go check out Free the Genie right this instant.

    • Ha – I’d forgotten that little gem. Tai brought a stack of Free the Genie cards to a blog workshop she ran. We used them for content ideas – basically kick starting the creative juices. They rock.

  5. I love this post, especially this time of year when new year resolutions for your business may be waning!

    • Hi Haralee – great to have you stop by. Yes I think the idea behind this month had been to address that very issue of resolutions waning. Personally I prefer year goals and metrics, but then again I’m a Type A!

  6. Nicole – absolutely.

    Every time I’ve been “stuck” on a project for a client or in my own business it’s because I hadn’t chunked the project out into manageable steps. If I couldn’t see what happened next, I got totally lost. And since most projects I was doing, I hadn’t tried in that exact way before, I stalled.

    It’s an awful feeling, but good to know that there’s other people struggling with the same type of problem.

    • Chunking – yes! I absolutely need to chunk things. Part of it is the baby steps, and part of it is that once my head is into a project it’s waaaay in. Like a deep dive I need time to surface and do something else.

  7. What a great analogy! I didn’t know you were a long distance runner. I’m a pseudo-converted running hater. It was the bane of my existence for so many years as a kid and teenager (gym class. that’s all I’m saying) and just a few years ago I decided screw this, I’m going to run. So for the first time since they “made me do it” in high school, I actually ran a ten minute mile (I know, don’t jump up and down all at once) and then I ran 3 miles in 30 minutes and then I ran 5 miles in 50 minutes. And then I ate brownies. Ok, so the point of that story is that I did exactly what you suggested. Do NOT look up, do NOT think about how much more you have to go, just take a step and then take another step. I have to say it’s great advice for anything that seems overwhelming. Don’t worry about doing that THING, just do SOMETHING. So yeah, love it. Super awesome!

    And I hear you on the “objects may appear greener” thing. I’ve had those moments too where I’d rather do anything than whatever I’m supposed to be doing. It helps to remind yourself why you’re doing it and to have that reality check where you remind yourself that there is really no perfect world. And cotton candy still isn’t free.

    Thanks for such a great pick-me-up!

    • I’m not so speedy anymore with running, but still love it. For me it’s meditation, stress relief and a health boost all in one. Right now I’m pretty frustrated because I prefer to run outside, but with minus 15 on the thermometer that is simply not going to happen.

      I remember that scene in Jurassic Park where they are being chased by the T-Rex and looking in the rear view mirror. I imagine it as a green enhancer and if I turn around I’ll see all things are not as they first seemed.

  8. Caution: Objects May Appear Greener Than They Are really resonates with me. Its so easy and so futile to look on the outside of other lives and businesses and think that should be me instead of focusing on that next step. What a great way to express the need to stay on your own course!

    • As I mentioned in my reply to Carol Lynn I really do imagine a car mirror but it’s showing my business. The reminder to take the time and really look (maybe the grass is spray painted green) before changing course is an important lesson I’ve learned.

  9. I’ve tried running. Seems to rattle my brain and my neck doesn’t like it much, either. LOL! Walking is my speed, Nicole. But the principle is the same … one little step at at time. :)

    Who doesn’t like “shiny and new”? Well, nobody I know! However, looking outside ourselves for motivation rarely works. Now “inspiration” is another story. I continually gain inspiration from “external” sources — people, objects, nature, etc. But I’m only driven by what I’m feeling and experiencing inside of me.

    Kudos to you for running UP that downhill slope! :)

    • Lol – rattle your brain. Maybe my brains likes to be shaken not stirred?

      That’s a great distinction between motivation and inspiration. The assistant coach inspired me to dig deeper, believe in myself, and just take that next step. I had to find the motivation inside myself to make it happen.

  10. With each step you get more invested in getting to the top. This is such a great meme Nicole, we should quote it to ourselves like a mantra every day.

    Each step invests us in what we are doing. What it does too is root us firmly in the present. If you’re concentrating only on the next step, not the massiveness of the future, not the inadequacy of the past, then you are absolutely invested in the moment.

    And by being there you really are living. We so miss that part of our entrepreneurs’ journey, living it. Always so busy scarpering toward or stressing about the future, or the big D dream as Annie said.

    I shall write this large on my wall and read it each day. Every step I take today invests in getting me there.

    • Sandy thanks for reinforcing the statement “With each step you get more invested in getting to the top”. While it’s something I’ve known intuitively for quite some time, I forget to promote that to others.

      I also love how you’ve taken it further and explained it can root us firmly in the present. Spot on! I didn’t even realize that was what happened, but in reflection it’s true. And I find I’m my most productive when on one of my hyper-focused deep dives.

  11. Hi Nicole
    We all hit the wall as it is called now and again and then getting re motivated can be really difficult at times. A little saying someone told me helps me when I am getting down with it all…….. It is to easy not to do something……..
    Just thinking of this is normally enough to get me back on track and stop me feeling sorry for myself. Just thought I would share that.

    Great post thanks lee

    • Love that – It’s easy NOT to do something. Thanks for sharing. I’m putting in my book of sayings.

  12. Hi Nicole,

    Am been freelancing for 3 years and almost gave up – reason – cash flow was not forthcoming. However, I decided to try it again and combine it with blogging, and here I am, trying my best.

    The points you have shared, describe me in my journey to establish a small business
    Good post

    • Hi Peter,

      Freelancing is tough kudos to you for giving it another go. If I may make one suggestion? Create a differentiator and don’t simply call yourself a freeleancer. Often I hear people who self-identify to their clients as freelancer are treated as a commodity, with constant price wrangling.

      Stop by again and keep us posted.


  13. This is a great post in revealing the secret of success for small business owners. In fact, many small business owners make this mistake focus on the summit only to realize that it’s impossible to reach there before they simply give up. In fact, attaining small goals that leads to a bigger goal is the right approach a small business owner should take and this approach yield excellent results over a period of time.

    • George thanks for stopping by. I still use this technique in my running and my business. It keeps me hanging in there on the tough days. And I’ll add one other thing. Sometimes it’s ok to walk up the hill, just like in business if it’s a tough day, do an easier / more entertaining task. You’re still making forward progress.

  14. I am consistently amazed at how seemingly unrelated things make great business metaphors! This one worked really well. I especially resonated with focusing on the next step rather than the peak, and the “so true it’s duh” wisdom that I’ll never reach the top if I keep changing the goal! Some of that is personal and professional evolution and responding to market needs, but that needs to be kept in Reals-ville and not allowed to become a rationalization.

    • I love metaphors! While yes on the one hand “so true it’s duh” is there, on the other it’s easy to be distracted by something over there or there that’s looks cool.

  15. Motivation plays an important role in one’s personal and professional life. Motivation leads you towards success. If you want to get your goals achieved then you have to work hard and get over your mistakes creating hurdles in your success. Small business owners should stick to their motive of achieving success and their dedication will reward them.

    Thanks for sharing the encouraging post.

    • Daniel it is sooo easy to see mistakes as failures. Barriers that can’t be scaled. Once I changed my mindset to see challenges those “mistakes” became so much easier to accept and move past.

  16. This is a very encouraging post. Focusing on the next step is more effective than focusing on the overall goal. The longer it takes to reach the peak as we focus on the overall goal, the easier it is to give up and quit. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, just what I was looking for.

    • Thanks Amelie. Who knew someday I’d be quoting that coach I used to curse under my breath?

  17. Thanks Nicole for such a great article!

    It reminds me of an interesting quote I found in a book I read years ago. “It’s much easier to yield to temptation than to resist it”.

    Apparently, I’m reading this article at a time in my life when pulling the plug on this project I’m working on seems to be the ‘rational thing.’

    I think I’ve got the mantra I really need: ‘Hold on. Just make sure you take the next step.’

    Thanks again Nicole!

    • John-Paul you’re quire welcome. Love that quote “It’s much easier to yield to temptation than to resist it.” Glad you felt inspired, focusing on the next step is all you need to do for now. Hang in there!

  18. Great valuable tips! I’d also like to add that it’s totally fine for goals to change in the process. It could be because your business need to adapt to recent trends in the ever changing business world.

    YouTube is an example. The original plan of its creator was to create a dating site called Tune In Hook Up. But it fizzled out. Then, they were inspired by the fact that they had a hard time finding good videos of stuff online. Thus, YouTube.com.

    You see, business concepts can change but still end up very very successful.

  19. Ah goals! Gotta have ‘em, gotta love ‘em. But where are they – lost, gone, defunct! Hi Nicole, I’m Ross and I am glad I have found your blog. Thank you for sharing this article along with this great resource you have put together.

    I would add that unfortunately a majority of small business operators both online and offline simply do not plan as much as needed or often enough. I think we get caught up in the day to day which is of course necessary. We often do not know what that next step is on the way to that summit and fall into the trap of just going through the motions.

    We don’t know where we are or how we got here. It may not be where we want to be. Get some planning going and make sure we are all on the path we want.

    Regards, and thanks again.
    Ross Freiberg.

  20. For small business or anyone just starting their business is like hitting on the wall – by hitting it eventually it will crack to shut! And it depends on how we bring it all up. Are you going to stay there or to continue?


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