Getting unstuck in a career-related rut

Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Stuck in a rut? Careers and personal development coach James Sweetnam shares some strategies for getting 'unstuck'.

I frequently work with clients who say they are ‘stuck,’ or feel ‘there is something missing’ in their lives.

Numbed by the anaesthetic of habit and our daily chores, we can all relate to that sense of being ‘stuck in a rut.’

If you feel that ‘there must be something more to life,’ let me take you through some strategies I share with my personal coaching clients to help them get ‘unstuck.’

What do you want?

This is a powerful question. Asking ‘What do I want?’ focuses the mind on potential solutions.

You will never have a sense of fulfilment, well-being or success, unless you define what these concepts mean to you. Asking and answering the question ‘What do I want?’ is a good place to start.

When we have been conditioned to react to the events life throws at us, answering the question ‘what do I want?’ is difficult. Instead you can start by answering the questions ‘what do I not want?’ and ‘where have I compromised too much?’

Let the ‘how’ look after itself

Too many people don’t answer the question ‘what do I want?’ because they don’t know ‘how’ to implement the changes they seek.

From my personal experience and from the experience of many clients, when you get clear as to ‘what’ it is you want (and why you want it!) the ‘how’ to achieve it will present itself.

But you have to take action.

For those of you who are fans of the Law of Attraction and The Secret, just remember what the last six letters of the word ‘attraction’ spells. Also know that the phrase ‘knowledge is power’ is not really true, you have to act on your knowledge for it to be powerful.

What’s important?

Life is frequently a balancing act – we try to ensure what we value most is not at the mercy of what matters least. When I work with clients who are feeling ‘stuck,’ I often start by asking them to get clear about what’s important to them, honing in on the specific area where they are feeling stuck.

A powerful question that will lead to insightful answers is- ‘What’s important to you about life?’ Or more specifically ‘What’s important to you about your career, your relationships and so on?’

Get moving

This might sound glib, but I’ve found there is a correlation between people who are ‘stuck’ and their lack of physical movement.

It is very difficult to get unstuck, unless you are moving, even if that is just going for a walk.

I’m a firm believer in the body’s wisdom and I know that I get some of my best ideas and insights when I’m walking or exercising. So, part of getting mentally unstuck is getting physically unstuck!

What change is trying to take place?

It is always useful to reframe the feeling of being stuck. Two of my favourite questions to shake up a habit of restricted thinking are –

• What change is trying to take place?

• What does this challenge ask of you that you are still withholding?

There is also the scenario that you know exactly what you need to do, but you are afraid to do it. If this is the case, it is not a question of being ‘stuck,’ the issue is, how can you courageously combat your feelings of anxiousness and uncertainty?

Use your internal guidance system

We have a device that tells us when we are on the right track and when we have drifted off course. This device is our emotions. Think about it, if you are involved in a pursuit that you enjoy, you feel uplifted, time flies and you are happy.

Equally, if you are in a role that is not allowing you to tap into your potential; you know this because of how it makes you feel. Every client I work with is an intelligent person.

They come to me because they have tried to move forward themselves, but now feel they need some external assistance. In most cases, I’ve found the key to getting unstuck, for opening the door to greater fulfilment, is to become more aware of your emotions and to use them, and your gut instinct, at least as much as you use your intellect.

What’s my purpose in life?

For many people this is the big question, the one that is at the heart of their perceived lack of fulfilment. I believe that we detect our purpose in life by paying attention to our emotions. Activities, pursuits, interests that give you pleasure and make you feel good, are usually big signposts.

As I see it, the key to fulfilment and meaning in life, is encapsulated in the quote by Joy J. Golliver;- ‘The meaning of life is to find your gift; the purpose of life is to give it away.’

You will never experience true fulfilment or success unless your attention turns outwards. The challenge I often pose to clients when I work with them in this area is – what can you do today to be of service to others? We are not talking about dramatic gestures, merely a change of focus and attitude. When our attention turns to others, feelings of ‘stuckness’ dissolve and we lose ourselves in small, but frequently significant gestures of kindness.

James Sweetman is a Business and Personal Coach, specialising in assisting individuals and firms to be more effective at what they do. He works both on a one-2-one basis with individual clients as well as delivering tailored training workshops on a range of topics including Confidence Building and Presentation Skills.

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