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Stuck? Use This Tool For When You Don't Think You're Making Progress

48, 49, 50… 1, 2, 3….

Counting my kayak strokes in increments of 50 is how I managed to get across Vancouver Lake on my first solo kayaking adventure in my inflatable kayak on a windy day.

I can’t say how long it actually took me to cross the lake and get to shore, but I can tell you that it felt like hours. As I battled the wind, I hoped that the shoreline would appear closer and closer with each stroke, but it didn’t. In fact, it seemed like I wasn’t moving at all.

When I looked behind me, it appeared I was no further from where I started. When I looked ahead of me, the shoreline was still an elusive strip of trees on the horizon. But I knew I had to keep going to get out of this precarious situation, even though my efforts seemed to be fruitless.

Spoiler alert: I made it to shore-- slightly shaken and tired, but otherwise unscathed.

Do you ever feel like you're trying SO hard but not making any progress?

You may have never found yourself alone in an inflatable kayak navigating white caps. But I'd venture to say that you've had a similar experience, where you set out to do something BIG, perhaps out of your comfort zone or something totally new, and it felt that you were not making progress despite your best efforts.

Can you relate to those feelings?

When I finally did reach the shore, filled with playful swimmers, floating flamingos, and barking dogs, I heaved my kayak onto the beach and looked out at the lake, then marveled and celebrated at how far I had actually come.

The process looked and felt very different than I had expected when I set out on that warm, sunny and still day on the lake. I realized in that moment that this unexpected challenge on the lake mirrored other experiences I had in the past.

Now let me be clear: it was not the physical part of the experience that was the same, it was the thought process and perspective that felt similar, where I felt like no matter what I did I was not making progress.

Honestly, it wasn't until I reflected on these experiences did I see my own growth and progress.

Even when you give it your all, growth can be elusive to witness.

Think of a flower you plant. You can check on it every day and you can notice the growth that has happened, but it is a rare moment that you can actually see a flower growing.

Or think of children. At times, they seem to grow and change overnight, but do we actually see their growth? I'd say no.

But when we reflect on what the flower looked like two days ago or the child's height two months ago, we can see growth over time.

If seeing growth in the physical world is this hard, seeing mental, emotional, and spiritual growth and change can be nearly impossible as it's happening.

Yet our thoughts and ideas inform our emotions, and perspectives can have an impact as powerful as any physical experience.

As Robert Frost so astutely stated, “The only way out is through.” John Green added, “And the only good way through is together.”

The only way off the lake is to keep paddling, and there are times when the only way to navigate a challenging emotional situation is to let yourself go through it rather than avoid it. But you don’t have to do that alone.

How You Can Acknowledge Your Growth: My RICE Recipe

When my clients want a clear and accessible process to explore and acknowledge their growth beyond the physical world, I share the RICE Recipe I developed. My hope is that it will provide access to new perspectives for you when you feel “stuck on the lake”.

First, think of a time in your life when you felt like you were alone in the middle of a lake. Every way you turned, you were surrounded by waves and the shoreline was a faint impression, far away.

It could be something you experienced in the past or are in the middle of right now, something in your professional life, your family, or your personal life. Keep your own experience in mind as you read through my Rice Recipe. I hope you'll find something that will help you see your own growth and development.


So often, we feel overwhelmed by what's on our plates. We go from one task to another, from one project to the next, without taking time to reflect. Doing that can feel like you've made no progress or like what you've done seems insignificant because you still have so far to go.

What if you took time to look back? Making a note of how far you've come, your accomplishments, the skills you have learned, the people you met, the obstacles you encountered, and how you overcame them allows you to not only see your growth but feel and internalize the progress you have made.

An important part of the reflective process is to note the challenges you faced, the lessons you learned, and how you make take a different approach next time. When you take this time to reflect, you can truly see how far you have come, especially if you have felt like your efforts have been an upstream struggle. Even if you still have further to go or the course has changed a long way, taking time to reflect can reinvigorate your passion and allow you to make informed choices about your next steps.

Try It Yourself:

  • Make a list of your accomplishments, challenges, and lessons learned

  • Write a journal entry

  • Create a report

  • Draw a timeline to highlight important steps on your journey

  • Compose a letter to yourself


Now that you've taken time to reflect, there is an opportunity to go deeper and identify the impact that your growth has made on your life, professionally, personally for your family, your community, and beyond.

Perhaps you acquired a new skill or met new colleagues that boosted your confidence in the workplace. Maybe you supported your teenager through a challenging situation and now have a more trusting relationship. Possibly you've been exploring setting boundaries with your time and are noticing how you have more energy for your creative efforts.

Ask yourself the questions below to help you understand the impact that your growth has had on your life.

Try It Yourself:

  • How do I feel now?

  • How have my thoughts and perspectives changed?

  • What am I learning about myself?


Whenever I say or write the word "celebrate" I think of cake and confetti! Although a celebration could include cake and confetti, it doesn't have to. The important thing about celebrating is that you find a way to celebrate that resonates with you and allows you to absorb the feelings of accomplishment.

You could take a walk, post on social media, or get yourself a treat like a new book or that special pen you have been eyeing. There are countless ways to celebrate; just make sure you take the time to mark this important moment.

A couple of tips: You don’t have to wait until a project is complete to celebrate; you could plan to celebrate at the end of each day or week! Also, you can, and I would encourage you to, celebrate even when things don't go as planned or take longer than expected. It's all part of the process.

Try It Yourself:

  • Keep a running list of things that bring you joy.

  • When you want to celebrate an accomplishment, big or small, refer to your list to find a celebration that speaks to your heart.

  • Plan to celebrate. In our busy lives, things often don't happen if you haven’t set aside time or put it on your calendar. Celebration is an important part of the process.

  • Share your successes and joys with others. Sometimes, having a conversation with a friend is just what you need to feel a sense of accomplishment.


You reached the shore and celebrated your success, so what’s next? Take the lessons you learned, and apply them in the future.

You might find what’s most important to you has shifted or what you thought would be hard you sailed through. Establishing your next step or new goal could be taking on a new job or a bigger project, but it could also be something more nuanced like taking time to reflect daily or carving out space in your life to celebrate with your family more often. Or even something as simple as kayaking in Vancouver Lake again, but make sure I check the weather first!

Rather than having your time and energy used in ways that are draining and unfulfilling to you, when you take time to choose what’s next for yourself with intentionality, you can use these precious commodities in ways that bring your joy, ease, and freedom!

Try It Yourself:

  • Choose what’s next for you based on what’s important to you and your personal values.

  • Carve out time in your schedule and write it down.

  • Share your intentions and goals with trusted people in your life they will be your champions and help you stay on track.

  • Repeat the RICE Recipe at any point along the way!

Next time you feel marooned and your efforts don't seem to be getting you where you want to go, it might be time to make RICE!


Congratulations, you made it through my RICE Recipe!

You might feel energized and ready to take on this new practice... or you may feel overwhelmed and not even sure where to start. Remember, you don't have to do this alone.

As a coach, I walk alongside my clients as they go through this process. I offer support, guidance, and observations. If you're curious if coaching might be your next step, book a complimentary consultation and let’s explore what’s possible together.


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