You know that feeling…You’ve been so focused, so “in the zone,” and sacrificing nearly everything to hit that ever looming deadline. You’ve put in weekends, evenings, nearly every waking moment to meet it. Your family has felt it. Your stress level has skyrocketed. But you put your head down and barreled forward, knowing that it would be all worth it. The sacrifices justified by the end result, that shining beacon on the horizon and growing steadily brighter with every step you’ve taken. You’ve had your cheerleaders, with their pom poms and their chanting encouragement. Your friends, family, and peers all on the sideline with words of support.
And then it hits you….
You’re not going to make it. The deadline was moved up, or you hit an unexpected snag along the way that pushed back your possible delivery date by another week, another month.
Pffffff………the wind instantly escapes your sails, and you feel dead in the water. Discouraged. Disappointed. Dejected.
I’ve been there for the past several days, just really down. I had a very ambitious project that I’ve been working on, with the expectation that I’d have it done by a particular date. And I suddenly realized I couldn’t make it to that finish line. Well, I can (and will) make the finish line, just not by the deadline I’d set for it. What a deflating feeling…and even as I’ve continued plodding forward over the past several days, I truly have felt dead in the water.
But you know, that’s really just an illusion of stagnation. It’s sort of like getting catapulted off the end of an aircraft carrier, you know.
“No, I don’t know. What the heck are you talking about?”
Let me explain…
As a cryptolinguist in the Navy in the late ‘90s, I had several opportunities to fly off carriers. Not the pilot, mind you, but a rear-seater strapped in for the ride of a lifetime! Trust me, you have not lived until you’ve been shot off the bow of an aircraft carrier!
You see, when that steam catapult is released, it’s like a 300-pound man just landed on your chest. You’re compressed back into your ejection seat with the g-forces against which no rollercoaster can compete. You’re just holding on, and hoping for a good “cat shot.” In actuality, if you don’t feel that 300-pound man on your chest, you’ve got a problem (the catapult will slowly pull your airplane over the bow and into Davey Jones’s Locker!). So, you breathlessly rejoice when you feel that incredible thrust, but it only lasts a few seconds. Immediately after your jet is propelled off the end of the ship, the propulsion seems to stop. It’s like you’re floating in space, with no forward motion at all.
Now, anyone who’s even seen a video clip of this experience knows that the jet continues forward and climbing once it clears the bow, so what we experienced in the backseat was merely an illusion. It only FELT like we weren’t moving forward.
What’s important to realize (particularly for the pilot) is that just because your body suddenly feels like it’s stationary, you’ve still got enough forward momentum for the plane to remain flying. It’s not the time (typically) to eject, but to ease the power forward and to nose up into the clouds.
So, although this week has felt very much like those first moments after catapult, I have needed to remind myself that although I’m feeling “dead in the water,” in actuality I’m still aloft and climbing. Don’t eject! Keep the elevators in place, and let the momentum take me further.
In actuality, while I will miss the deadline I had set, I’m still miles ahead of where I’d been if I’d not accelerated as I have in the past several months. I may come in a week or two beyond my goal, but I will come in. I will reach that finish line…and in the end, it will matter little that the goal had to be pushed back slightly.