How to move forward when you cannot (but have to)

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We’ve all been there.  We have to do something but we do not want to.  We want to move forward and just the idea of the next step brings a terrible pain to our stomach.  Our throat closes.  Our chest tightens.  We would rather do anything but this.  

It’s kind of like the first day of school for kids. 

Recently, I was being interviewed on Univision and was asked if I had any wellness advice on how to handle kids that may not be motivated to go back to school.

My answer was surprising and did not include any of the common advice we often hear (e.g. use distractions until they forget about their complaints). 

Yet the answer is a lesson that will allow ALL of us, kids and adults, to move forward when we do not want to, but have to.  

What was my answer?

It is OK for your kid not to be motivated to go back to school. 

Now do not misunderstand me.  I am a passionate about education (I graduated #5 in my high school, and attended the Wharton School at UPenn as well as Stanford’s Graduate School of Business).  Education changes lives and can be a great equalizer. 

Yet this was not about education or school.

This is about learning to live with uncomfortable emotions. 

I asked my interviewer: How often have you not wanted to do something?

As an adult, there have been plenty of times I have not been motivated to do something. 

Actually, I have had moments where I have not been motivated to do REALLY important tasks!

But guess what?  I have had to move forward and do them anyways. 

A great opportunity could exists for these kids, especially the teenagers, to learn to be OK with what is. 

It is OK for your child to not be motivated to go back to school these first days back.  The reality is that it is tough to let go of summer and get back into exams and homework.  For anyone. 

One of the best things I have ever done has been to learn to move forward despite feeling an uncomfortable emotion.  

And guess what? They will.  My very first meditation teacher says it best here:

“If you can sit quietly after difficult news;

if in financial downturns you remain perfectly calm;

if you can see your neighbors travel to fantastic places without a twinge of jealousy;

if you can happily eat whatever is put on your plate;

if you can always find contentment just where you are…

you are probably a dog.”

Jack Kornfield 

So uncomfortable emotions are going to come up.  You are going to have choose to move forward despite and with them. 

And the best gift you can teach your child is how to move forward while having an uncomfortable emotion.

Because as we all know “This too, shall pass”.  In the meantime, let’s not get paralyzed into dysfunction and productively move forward so we can continue creating the life we want to live. 

There are 4 steps I take to move forward despite having an uncomfortable emotion.  Here they are:

1. Do not make the emotion “wrong”

Like Jack Kornfield stated, being human means that we will experience a range of emotions. 

Some we will classify as “positive” and others we will classify as “negative”. 

The reality is that until emotions cross over to the level of “toxic”, they are just transitory feelings that will come and go.

A problem we experience is when we make the emotion “wrong” and then freak out at all of the imaginary outcomes that could occur. 

Our kid is unmotivated to go back to school after a fun summer.  This means that he will not do his homework, flunk out of school, not be able to get a job, end up poor, and live on the street. 

Do you think going here is helpful or unhelpful?


When speaking to this at Univision, I stated that the most important thing to do is to treat your child like a human being, who will experience all of the range of emotions human beings experience.  This is OK. 

The second most important thing, is not to make the emotion “wrong”, especially to the point that you panic and bring an unnecessary level of anxiety to the situation (and end up traumatizing your child!).

Don’t make it “right” or “wrong”. It just is. 

2. Anchor yourself in past examples of “This too shall pass”

The second thing I do when I need to move forward despite having an uncomfortable emotion is remember times when I have felt this way and despite this, have succeeded in moving forward and have actually seen and lived how “This too shall pass”

What happens if you have not had a similar situation in the past? Look at someone else who has and is a good example of “This too shall pass”.

A simple Google search will help you find these stories.  They are just a fingertip away.

You can help your kid remember the previous times they felt unmotivated and how the emotion eventually did indeed pass with time (especially when their favorite school activity began).  You can Google examples together and make it into an activity where you show your support and validate their emotions. 

3. Expect moving forward to be uncomfortable

Knowing that an emotion is OK and remembering past successes of it passing will not be enough to make the emotion less uncomfortable.

Yet, if you expect things to be uncomfortable, you may be surprised at how much better you can move forward despite this. 

It’s like being aware that you will be carrying a 10 pound bag all day vs. being surprised by it and having to lug it around.  There’s something great about mental preparation.

4. Meditate on the emotion

When I have an uncomfortable emotion, I sit in meditation with it. 

Sooner than I expect it, the emotion transforms into something lighter and easier to deal with.

When we run away from an emotion it controls us and runs our life.  When we confront the emotion and are brave enough to look at it and what may be underneath it, we transform it. 

Here’s a meditation that always helps me shift from one emotional state to a better one.  I hope you enjoy it!

I hope this article was of service to you.  I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment or question below. 

Do you know someone who has to move forward but can’t?  Share this article with them, or share it with your friends and family so they can move forward despite feeling uncomfortable.