There are few experiences in life that have the potential to be quite as soul-crushing and demoralizing as the realization that you’re not where you want to be, are riddled with destructive habits and flaws, and can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

For those who are driven, orderly, and have all their ducks in a row, there are many potentially fruitful paths ahead. Online identity verification services, SEO toolkits, and mailing list services can all help an aspiring entrepreneur get on their feet in a hurry.

But when we’re held back by our own poor habits and lack of focus or discipline, the world can look truly bleak.

Luckily, no matter how deep a pit you think you’re in, there are always things you can do to improve yourself and progress towards a brighter future.

Here are some powerful tips to get you started.

Take a deep breath and start from the beginning as small as possible.

When we’re in a bad place and want to overhaul our lives completely, there’s an ever-present temptation to try and make a series of dramatic change all at once.

From zero-to-one-hundred, we decide that we’re going to begin an intense workout routine. And wake up at 5:00 am each morning and put in 5 hours of work a day on our side-hustle (while naturally working a full-time day job as well), and so on, and so on.

But this is a recipe for rapid failure and shattered self-esteem, and nothing more.

Real progress has to be made incrementally, in small stages.

If you routinely fail to motivate yourself to do 10 minutes of professional reading a day, set yourself a goal to do 5-minutes, and track your daily progress.

After a week or two, increase the time you spend. Then increase again. And again.

Start small, be consistent.

Adopt a philosophy of life that can help to push you through the mental resistance.

At times, we all feel completely disheartened and have to dig deep for the willpower to force ourselves through a productive day, rather than giving up and watching TV.

One of the best ways of coping with these difficult times is to adopt a philosophy of life that motivates you to move forward continuously.

Stoic philosophy is a useful tool for many high-flying individuals with high-pressure jobs and lives. It emphasizes that all struggle is just training to make you better, and that virtue is the most important thing in life.

Identify your dream life, and your nightmare life.

Part of your inability to work productively is likely due to a failure of imagination. You may not have really envisioned how good your perfect life could be (if you do everything right) and how horrible your nightmare life could be (if you do everything wrong).

Spend a while visualizing how brilliantly things might turn out if you got yourself under control. This will motivate you to move forward.

Now visualize how horribly everything might turn out if you don’t address your shortcomings. This will motivate you not to stray from the path.

Maybe you dream of getting paid for your skills with the written word, or even becoming a great novelist, or maybe you want to be a business tycoon.

In any case, you have to envision your goal before you can move towards it.