How To Get Out of a Slump



“My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.” — Hank Aaron

How do you get out of a slump?

A common cause of getting in a slump is low confidence.

To get out of a slump, stop focusing on what can go wrong. Instead, focus on what to do right and take action.

In Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance, John Eliot, Ph.D., writes about getting out of a slump.

The Real Problem is Low Confidence

According to Eliot, low-confidence is a common cause of slumps.

John Eliot writes:

“Clients come to me with all sorts of problems.  They’re in a ‘slump,’ they’re choking under pressure, they’re not performing as well as they ought to or want to. 

Often, their real problem is low-confidence. 

Long before they make an important sales call or meet with their boss or the board, they begin thinking about what might go astray, and end up doubting their ability.  They actually are rehearsing potential disasters rather than programming their heads for success and developing confident solutions to roadblocks.”

Focus on the Steps and Why They’re Good Ones

According to Eliot, the key is that you need to change your focus.  Focus on the steps you’re going to take, not the outcome.

John Eliot writes:

I’m often amazed at how quickly people forget what got them where they are in the first place

The person who is frozen with anxiety over meeting with the board to discuss the financial condition of the company has managed to ignore the simplest fact of the situation: He’s being called in to solve a problem, to help move the company forward, to give knowledge or defend viable strategic moves. 

Instead of thinking about how he might screw up, he ought to be focusing on the steps he’s going to take and why they’re good ones.

Action is the Fundamental Aspect of Confidence

According to Eliot, action is a cornerstone of confidence.

John Eliot writes:

“Lynn Katen already knew more about regulations around the country than anyone else at the bank. 

Once she started acting on that fact, her confidence grew, and so did the bank’s confidence in her. 

This underscores what I think is a fundamental aspect of confidence: Action.”

Key Take Aways

Here are my key take aways:

  • Low-confidence is a common cause of slumps.   When you lose your confidence, you start to focus on the wrong thing and you interfere with your performance.
  • Action helps restore confidence.   Taking action helps you break out of a slump.   It’s a chance for you to build small wins over the things you can control.  This will help you find your groove again.
  • Focus on your steps.  Focus on the right steps over focusing on what can go wrong.   Focus on the things you can control and do them well.

The key to building confidence is taking action and moving forward despite the setbacks.

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  1. Based on the book Feeling Good, yes. On a very practical level, we all like to feel successful. When people on my team get down on themselves, I tell them to make a list each day of what they learned or did well. This shifts the focus from whatever they feel stuck on and it’s more balanced. This simple listing technique builds momentum and helps defeat low confidence. This is particularly helpful when you’re learning something new. It’s all too easy to focus on what you aren’t doing well at the moment.

  2. Hey Meier, it’s interesting how Eliot connected slumps with low confidence – I had never thought of it that way. I was reading another article which linked slumps with losing touch with what drives us in life, which made sense as well. I’d like to share another take, that slumps are due to lack of rest. I was in a slump a few months ago (I wrote about it my blog ( and I found it was because I had not given myself proper rest. Many of us have the tendency to go on and on without resting which leads us to fall into a slump. It’s like driving a car without stopping for fuel – in time to come it’s going to splutter and stop on the road. In a way it’s also linked to Stephen Covey’s 7 Habit, on sharpening the saw.

  3. @ Celestine

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Beautiful points and I agree. I heard Deepak Chopra say in an interview that children sleep like a baby because of their dynamic activity throughout the day. To know great rest, we need to know great activity and vice-versa.

    I know for myself that if I don’t get my downtime, I go into a slump. I’m a fan of giving my all while I’m driving a project, and then taking a break after I ship.

    Really, I like the ups and downs and cycles of things.

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