How to Stay Encouraged When You Feel Hopeless and Frustrated in Leadership

In my own transitions throughout the years I’ve rarely had one epiphany that snapped me out of frustration or disappointment into vigor and vision again in one moment.  Instead, I’ve more often gone from a daily struggle to a weekly struggle, then felt the struggle diminish more and more over months. I’d like to say that I’ve graduated from the frustration of unrealized goals or unexpected slow downs, but I can’t. I still want to do more my way in my timing for my reasons. (I’m working on it!)  I have found a few ways to shift out of the doubt (overwhelming introspective questioning) that I think can help you too. The following list shouldn’t be saved for the crisis moments. Rather, success is in doing the following things consistently:

1. Be Grateful

For me that means reciting all of the reasons I’m thankful. It’s my way of ‘encouraging myself in the Lord’. Ending each day thanking God for 3-5 things for which you’re grateful is a wonderful way to end the day. I like to also consider all the possibilities of God’s grace in slowing my pace. You’re running late to a meeting? Maybe you dodged a traffic accident. You didn’t hit your sales goal? Maybe God is delaying it until next month when you’ll have an unexpected expense. When we embrace a different perspective, it kicks gratefulness into high gear!

2. Define Success

Revisit your definition of success. When you compare other people’s titles, positions and work to yours, it’s apples to oranges. You may have a different definition of success. The freedom and significance you are scaling toward are on a different ladder than what they are climbing to achieve. You may not be where you want to be in your own definition of success yet, but ‘yet’ is a powerful word. You are working your plan to reach your success…and you will!

3. Trust Him

I’m working on this one right now too. We have to trust His path and plan for us. It’s easier for me to embrace His will, but His way, well that can be more trying for me. Many of us like that well-paved interstate with a fast lane. I’m finding more and more that God takes me on the detour of a scenic dirt road for reasons that I’ll appreciate later. The bumps and dust aren’t always enjoyable in the moment, but when we look back at the photos we realize there was a beautiful mountain view on the journey too. He loves you. He is Sovereign. You can trust Him.

4. Embrace Growth

Seasons of planting and tilling are more painful than the reaping seasons. When my taller, younger sister used to have a growth spurt, it was almost always preceded by terrible leg cramps that would cause her to cry in the night. We couldn’t measure her height changing while she was enduring the sleepless nights of pain, but sure enough, she’d wake up one day, the cramps would be gone and it was as if she grew an inch or two over night. Growth is incremental and sometimes painful, but the end result is worth it. One of my favorite books, Anonymous by Alicia Britt Chole, was a great comfort to me in one particular season of feeling the growing pains of a waiting season. If you’re feeling the loneliness of invisibility while God is doing His great work in you, I hope you’ll give it a read and find encouragement too.

5. Reignite Hope

I had a revelation that perhaps will bring some peace to your soul too. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Prov. 13:12) hit me in a new light. Through my frustration of waiting in the slow pace of progress, I was in a nutshell dealing with hopelessness. When getting discouraged about the lack of time, inability to focus on my dream, going ‘backward’ to a more humble position in my career – even as a catalyst to move forward – felt permanent. Why? Because I was losing hope that it was actually temporary. Doubt sometimes screams to us that ‘it’ won’t happen; Doubt more often slyly whispers that ‘it’ is taking too long, it’s too hard, it ‘may’ not be worth all of the wait and worry and work. But Doubt does not speak Truth. You have to reignite your hope, and you can do that through faith.

Faith is the cure (Hebrews 11:1) to doubting your dreams. I’ve been reigniting my faith with reviewing my ‘why’, my definition of success, and leaning into Him in prayer and sacred scripture. In more practical measures, I’ve downloaded an app ThinkUp which allows you to record inspirational meditations for yourself. I’m working on writing my own daily scripture affirmations to record in the app. I’m using Craig Groeschel’s affirmations as a starting point (see more here). Cindy Trimm also has a great list of daily prayers in Commanding Your Morning Daily Devotional (samples here).


If you’d like to grow your leadership skills, check out this free chart explaining the 5 Essential Distinctives for Leadership Success™ here: Leadership Infographic