Career+Life: Stuck | Getting Unstuck

Career+Life: Stuck | Getting Unstuck

Career+Life: Stuck | Getting Unstuck

I pride myself on being an organized person. I clear emails quickly: by replying; deleting; or filing in myriad, tightly organized and clearly-labeled email inboxes. I plot out, prioritize and meet my daily short-term work goals. I carve out action steps to achieve long-term goals, whether it’s for my personal wellness, financial planning, or my business. When things are predictable, I’m on it.

It’s just those darn boomerangs that come from nowhere. The unpredictable. That’s when my best-laid plans go astray. I can get as stuck as LA traffic in the rain. I know I’m not alone: a quick Google Search turned up a ton of articles, how-to books, tips, and even an app–that all promise to get you un-stuck. A lot of these “how-to’s” discuss how to discern your true calling. But what can you do when the reality of your life is that you can’t chuck your current job for a fresh and/or an encore career—when you need to be resilient, and persevere in your present career, your present circumstances?

I think of the parable of the Donkey in the Well – if you don’t know this parable, see the Box at the bottom of the article. Here’s what works for me, when I know I’m the donkey in the well, and I absolutely need to find a way out. Each tactic is tied to a quote that inspires me to take the next right action.

Awareness+Acknowledgment: Realize I’m stuck. In my action-packed life, it’s hard to admit that I don’t have the right strategy to mitigate a problem. I can keep hitting my head against a brick wall. But that doesn’t work. Or I can name it, own it, be aware, acknowledge it. Recovery Programs use this as a starting point: that point of surrender, admitting we have a problem, and that this stuck-place has caused our lives to be de-railed, and in extreme cases, unmanageable.
Quote: This reflection, from Compline, signifies the rest that comes with surrender: “It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done; let it be. From the New Zealand Prayer Book. 

2. Small Change 1: Do One Different (Active) Thing. I have a strategy of changing my energy. When I’m stuck, I’ll go for a brisk walk; exercise; listen to or dance to music. This is my substitution strategy: I get my energy moving where I’m not stuck, with the goal of nudging the stuck-area out of the well. I find that more screen-time doesn’t make me un-stuck – I don’t turn to social media to get me out of a rut.
Quote:Exercise should be regarded as a tribute to the heart.” Gene Tunney, American professional boxer and the world heavyweight champion from 1926– 28

3. Small Change 2: Do One Different (Creative) Thing. I use my creative energy as another substitution strategy. I’m not a “crafty” person, and can barely draw a straight line. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone by participating in creative/artistic endeavors such as: blogging, capturing photographic images for a global project; or attending the Big Draw LA [] Workshop, where participants created artwork, used as a visual-medium for problem-solving.
Quote: “Creativity is always a leap of faith.”Julia Cameron, Author, The Artists’ Way

4. Plug into Something Bigger 1: Meditative I get re-energized when I focus on something bigger: whether it’s the larger goal of providing for my family; gratitude; or meditation. Just the simple act of reading something inspirational can shift my thinking, and help me to attack a problem from a fresh angle.
Quote: “Meditation is the soul’s perspective glass”Owen Feltham, 1602 – February 23, 1668) English writer

5. Plug into Something Bigger 2: Community. When I’m contributing something meaningful to my larger community, that energy infuses me, pushes me out of a rut. I’ve experimented in a lot of areas where I don’t necessarily have the right experience. I volunteered at my child’s local elementary school, working each week with a classroom of enthusiastic kids to garden [with literally zero gardening experience. Believe me, the huge harvest parties we’ve had over the years show that even a novice can plant a seed, watch it grow]. I served as a hospital volunteer. All these community volunteer gigs taught me one thing: when I participate in activities that are meaningful and fulfilling, it feeds those areas in my life that need a boost.
Quote: Everyone can be great because anyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t even have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve… You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

6. Realistic Baby Steps. I’ve always been a believer in baby steps. When I’m stuck, I’ll break down the problem into the small actions I can take to reach my goal. When I knew I needed to lose 30 pounds, I never thought of going on an extreme diet that promised to shed 10 pounds per week. Starvation is not realistic. I take small, meaningful steps: I drink more water. I reduce my food portion size and eat less processed stuff. I move more, add more activity into my day. Even if my weight loss is only 0.5 to 1.0 pounds per week, the weeks add up to a healthier, more sustainable weight loss. When each small step is realistic and achievable, it gives me satisfaction and motivation to keep going.
Quote:The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu.

7. Support System. Beyond sharing the good times, my support system provides me with information, advice, guidance, a fresh perspective. When I outreach to a mentor or a trusted friend—their unique perspective can shed new light on an issue, and can give me the needed push to get un-stuck.
Quote: “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” — Helen Keller

8. Self-Care: Pamper Yourself. I’m usually the girl who rolls her eyes (sarcastically) when I think about getting my nails done, or having a spa day. Who has time for that?! My inner critic sighs that it all seems so frivolous, self-indulgent. And yet…I get a massage, or have my toenails painted cobalt blue, and something shifts. It’s a practice of self-compassion. It’s a tool in my tool-kit, and when all else fails, it’s a tactic that can work.
Quote: I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.”
Kristen Neff [Associate Professor Human Development and Culture Educational Psychology Department University of Texas at Austin]

The Courage to Risk. It takes courage to risk something new. I know that I’ve got to let go of the trapeze bar and be suspended in midair before I can grab hold of the next bar. Sure, I’ll probably fall the first few times. But I’ve got to be willing to let go if I’m ever going to fly. I push myself to be uncomfortable, to try new things. I’ll take a class, pick up a new skill. Research shows that truly novel activity creates new neural pathways in the brain, and tackling a novel activity will help to push me out of a stuck place.
Quote: ”…Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” — Nelson Mandela

Parable: Donkey in the Well
One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out a way to get him out. Finally he decided it was probably impossible and the animal was old and the well was dry anyway, so it just wasn’t worth it to try and retrieve the donkey. So the farmer asked his neighbors to come over and help him cover up the well. They all grabbed shovels and began to shovel dirt into the well.
At first, when the donkey realized what was happening, he cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement, he quieted down and let out some happy brays. A few shovel loads later, the farmer looked down the well to see what was happening and was astonished at what he saw. With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was shaking it off and taking a step up. (Shifting)
As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he continued to shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, to everyone’s amazement, the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off!
Moral: Life is going to shovel dirt on you. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Every adversity can be turned into a stepping stone. The way to get out of the deepest well is by never giving up but by shaking yourself off and taking a step up.
What happens to you isn’t nearly as important as how you react to it.
-Author Unknown

 Photo Credit: James Giordano
*Follow me on Twitter, @debhealthcare

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