Have you ever set a goal or wanted to improve something in your life, but it got to be so challenging that you wanted to give up?   Or have there been times when you were trying to make something better in your personal or professional life, and it felt too overwhelming?

I’m going to bet that every one of us has had various situations where it just seemed too hard, and we wanted to give up.  Whether it was a career goal, considering becoming your own boss, trying to lose weight, or possibly the idea of getting a divorce, we’ve all had struggles in one form or another trying to go from where we are to where we want to be.

The truth is that it’s perfectly natural to want to grow and improve our lives because it’s how humans were designed; we were designed to evolve.  In fact, every single species of plant and animal alive on the planet today evolved to reach its current state.

Unfortunately, evolving can also be challenging.  Typically, when we stop working on something or have thoughts of wanting to quit, it’s because things are not going according to plan or it’s getting more uncomfortable than we expected. 

Honestly, it’s not our fault when we want to give up on something because, although we’re hard-wired to evolve, it’s also human nature to avoid pain and discomfort. Our brains are programmed to alert us when something is making us uncomfortable and will try to tell us to stop because our brain’s job is to keep us “safe” and comfortable. 

This is helpful when we are in physical danger; however, that is not the experience for most of us today.  Instead of highlighting physical danger, our human brain highlights anything that causes us to feel difficult emotions, that challenges us in new ways, that may cause us to be embarrassed, to be bored, or that may be emotionally challenging.

While many of us want more out of life, we want to achieve things, set goals, make resolutions, provide the best life we can for our families, and we’re excited about possibilities, unfortunately, when we realize it’s going to be hard, we want to give up.  We hit our first few obstacles. and we want to postpone the journey.

We were excited about the prospect of what we wanted to improve or go after, but we often aren’t prepared for the bumpy road ahead.  We might have been told that what we wanted would be challenging, but we didn’t believe it until we experienced it, and now we want to go back to what’s familiar.

The issue is that this then keeps us stuck.  It keeps us in mediocrity.  It keeps us settling for less. It keeps us year after year complaining about the same things.

Thankfully, there is a way to have what we want and not give up before we get it.  But first, we have to go through the River of Misery.  

This week I’m going to discuss what the River of Misery is and how you can use the concept for your journey.   



The River of Misery


So what is the River of Misery?  I want you to imagine that what you want, whether it’s to be your own boss, get a new job, make more money, improve your health, or improve your relationships, are all on the other side of a river.

In order to get to the other side, you have to cross that river by getting in and feeling discomfort, shame, anger, frustration, humiliation, and inadequacy.  You have to face failure, impossibility, judgment, obstacles, and hardships.

But here’s the key – what’s on the other side is so worth it.  it’s worth all the discomfort and doubt, but in order to get to the other side, you just have to commit, have courage, and build your capabilities.

You have to cross the River of Misery if you want to get to the other side and not stay stuck on the side that you’re on.  You have to acknowledge that if you want something new, your old ways of doing and being will not get you new results.  

The truth is that your life does not get better by chance; it gets better by change.  You have to be willing to get into the River of Misery, the place where it’s difficult and uncomfortable for a little while.

What many of my coaching clients need to hear is that it’s totally normal when they’re in the River of Misery, and things are hard.  Change is supposed to be challenging; it’s not supposed to be easy.

Remember what I’ve shared on the podcast about our lower brain being motivated by three things – to seek pleasure, to avoid pain, and to conserve energy.  Going after a goal, trying to achieve something, or making a change takes effort and energy, which your brain is not on board with.

Your brain equates effort as dangerous and will do what it can to keep you the same.  But as I shared before, we all have an evolutionary impulse to grow and evolve as well.

In other words, there’s a natural instinct to change and a natural instinct to resist change.  It’s no wonder so many of us give up when the going gets tough.

So often, we’re in the middle of going after a goal, and we stop and think it shouldn’t be this hard.  When this happens, the issue is that when we’re being challenged and stretched in some way, we think something has gone wrong.

The truth is that it’s okay to struggle.  It’s okay for it to be hard.  It’s why so many people don’t achieve what they want because the effort is uncomfortable.

I’m not going to lie – being in the River of Misery is uncomfortable, sometimes super uncomfortable, but it’s also necessary.  It’s unfamiliar territory for most of us, and things that are unfamiliar are dangerous to our brains.

Here’s the reason why the analogy of a river is so powerful – a river is always moving.  In other words, you might be having a difficult time in the River of Misery, but you’re always moving towards what you want.

Think about the current of a river and how it’s much easier to get where you want to go by not trying to fight against the current or paddling upstream.  A river will carry you if you let it.

For a lot of us, we panic when we’re in the River of Misery and want to grab onto the first large rock we see and climb on.  The issue is that now you’re stuck in between; you’re not where you were or where you want to be.

I was once doing white water rafting on the Delaware River, and as we were traveling down the river, a nasty storm rolled in quickly.  One minute it was sunny, warm, and beautiful, and the next minute it was cold and downpouring.

Our knee-jerk reaction was to get onto a flat boulder nearby in order to get out of the water, but that would have been a temporary fix that still kept us exposed to the storm.  We quickly realized that just allowing the river to take us a little further downstream, there were some shelters on the other side of the river that we could go to.

We were cold, wet, and miserable, so it’s no wonder we wanted the quickest way out.  But the smartest way out was staying in the river and letting it take us to where we wanted to go.

That’s why the River of Misery is important to understand and accept – it’s moving you towards what you most want.

Think of it this way – if you’re traveling from NY to Florida, you wouldn’t stop and turn around in Washington, DC because you hit traffic; you’d keep going even if it’s uncomfortable sitting in traffic.  You have to be okay with the obstacles on the route, even if you don’t like them.


How you can use the River of Misery


When I work with coaching clients and teach them the powerful tool, The Model, they learn exactly how to handle any situation, how to feel however they want to feel, and how to get any result that they want.  They learn how powerful their brain is and how to use it for their betterment.

They learn that their thoughts cause their feelings, their feelings drive their actions and reactions, and that those actions create their results.  They get very good at learning how to manage their minds so that they can manage everything else.

But once they learn and start implementing this powerful tool, they have a hard time feeling negative emotions because they know the secret to switching their thoughts and feeling better.  They don’t see why they should stay with a negative emotion when they’re able to easily get out of it.

Honestly, I’ve struggled with this myself.  Once I discovered The Model and applied it to my accounting career and my life, everything improved so dramatically that I had less of a tolerance for times when things were difficult or challenging.

I had the secret to feeling better all the time, so I thought that was the goal – to feel better all the time.  But that’s actually wrong.  I needed to learn how to get better at allowing the feelings of frustration, embarrassment, and disappointment; to set bigger goals and be in the River of Misery on my way to achieving that goal.

For example, creating this podcast was incredibly challenging; there were many times in the first year that I wanted to give up.  It takes a lot of time and effort to create a podcast episode every week, and I’ve been doing it now for 237 weeks or 4 ½ years.

This podcast started out as The Female Accountant Moms Podcast, and there were times when I was frustrated because I had no idea if what I was talking about was making a difference for anyone.  I was disappointed when the downloads of an episode weren’t what I thought they would be or when I’d see the statistics of someone else’s podcast.

I was in the River of Misery most of that first year, questioning whether this was worth it and whether accountant moms would resonate with what I was teaching.  At one point, I gave myself 6 months, and if I didn’t see something change, I would stop doing it.

A month later, someone from CPA MOMS reached out to me and said they were interested in working with me and having me do the podcast under their umbrella, as well as working as a coach for them.  The truth is that if I wasn’t willing to stay in the River of Misery for a while, I would have missed the opportunity because they wouldn’t have heard the podcast.

I’ve now spoken to so many accountant moms who tell me that this podcast has been incredibly impactful or that it’s changed their lives.  I would never have gotten to this point in my journey if I hadn’t gone through the River of Misery.

I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and not giving up.  I needed to allow the negative emotions that I was feeling at the time to be okay because at least I was on a moving river going somewhere and not stuck on a rock watching the water rush by me.

The truth is that acceptance actually does create change.  It’s resistance that doesn’t.  My willingness to be on the River of Misery helped get me to where I wanted to go, to continue doing this podcast, to coach accountant moms, and to make a difference in other people’s lives.

What I’ve seen over the years is that, unfortunately, we have such an intolerance for discomfort because we live in a time of immediate gratification in everything.  We have instant gratification in things like food, alcohol, technology, shopping, and social media.  

We want a quick fix to our problems and don’t want to do the uncomfortable, hard work required.  We’re often like our toddlers who want what they want when they want it.

But don’t let discomfort be a reason to give up.  Don’t make being in the River of Misery mean something is wrong.  Find a rock to sit on for a bit, but then get back into the water.

By allowing myself to be okay in the River of Misery many different times in my life, I’ve gone after even bigger goals.  For example, I got an advanced coaching certification in the middle of tax season, and then I wrote and published a book, all while swimming in that river.

But truthfully, I also couldn’t have done it without having a coach to lean on as I swam.  If you are in the River of Misery or considering getting in, in order to achieve a goal or make a change, I’m here for you.

In the words of Dory from Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming.  Just keep swimming.” 





While many of us want more out of life, we want to achieve things, set goals, make resolutions, provide the best life we can for our families, and we’re excited about possibilities, unfortunately, when we realize it’s going to be hard, we want to give up. 


In order to get to the other side of The River of Misery, you have to cross that river by getting in and feeling discomfort, shame, anger, frustration, humiliation, and inadequacy.  You have to face failure, impossibility, judgment, obstacles, and hardships.