The number one comment I hear from readers and workshop participants is that they feel stuck.
“I feel like I really don’t know what I’m doing anymore.”
“It’s like nothing ever changes.”
“I don’t even know what I want.”
They’re not sure where to go next in their story.
They’re doing what they’ve always done, waiting for someone to tell them what’s going to happen.
Which is exactly how they found themselves in a place they don’t want to be.
Now, paralyzed by fear or burned out from overwork, they have a hard time both accurately self-assessing their skills and their worth and visualizing what their next chapter might include.
They’re so afraid of making the wrong choice that they don’t make any choice at all.
It reminds me of the Waiting Place in Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted but mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin.
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
You know the saying, “Good things come to those who wait”?
I call B.S.
Good things come to those who GO OUT AND MAKE IT HAPPEN.
Move on from the Waiting Place.
I get it. Change is scary.
What if you choose the wrong thing? And it’s even worse than before?
People figure it’s better to stay with the devil they know than the one they don’t. Even if their particular devil is a boss from hell / soul-sucking job / dead-end relationship / depths of dissatisfaction.
They try to just be happy with what they have.
But the story – and the conflict or boredom or malaise – keeps repeating itself.
It’s a merry-go-round of misery.
You convince yourself that’s safer than a roller coaster ride.
Contrary to what you might fear, actively authoring your next career chapter doesn’t have to mean an entirely new story.
You don’t need to abandon your career, end your relationships, move across the country and completely start anew.
It starts small, with the space to consider what might come next and the daily actions to get there.
We make the mistake of putting off even the smallest of steps forward until we believe the time is right.
Know what are the 3 biggest goal-stopping words? “As soon as.”
“As soon as I have time / figure it out / know what I want / have enough money / am 10 lbs. thinner…”
Tim Herrera, editor of the New York Times’s “Smarter Living” column suggests creating micro-goals and using micro-actions to create micro-progress.
“For any task you have to complete,” Herrera writes, “Break it down into the smallest possible units of progress and attack them one at a time.”
Herrera cites Newton’s laws of motion: “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.”
Value yourself enough to give yourself the gift of movement. And no matter what happens, keep moving.
Sometimes the step you take might be backward. You may find you need to adjust your sails to accommodate a headwind.
And when there’s no wind, row. You’re not going to get to that distant shore lounging on a dinghy.
So… what are you waiting for?
Grant it to yourself. You have the power to do this.
Make it. If it’s important enough to you, you will.
For when you figure it out?
That’s part of the journey.
Title this current chapter “Figuring it Out” and then make the plot points necessary to actually figure it out (you know, what you said you were going to do) so that the title of the story of your life is worthy of the life you’d like to live.
Still not sure how to get started? I like lists, so here’s one called “Things to Take Stock Of”:
– What’s working and what’s not
– Who inspires you and who doesn’t
– What you notice and have always been curious about
– What people say you’re good at (and what they say you’re not!)
– What your true needs are, not just your wants
– What “success” and “happiness” look like to you
Then you create the plan: What do I need to do next to get a little closer to where I want to be?
You weren’t meant to ride in circles. You were meant to lead the pack!
Let micro-goals lead to micro-actions to create micro-progress. All that progress adds up.
What do you want? How are you going to get there?
One step at a time.
You are not stuck.
In the words of Dr. Seuss, think about Oh, All Those Places You’ll Go!
Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
with banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Start today. Today is your day. Make every day a day that counts.
Valerie Gordon is a former Emmy-winning television producer, author, and founder of career and communications firm The Storytelling Strategist. She speaks at conferences and partners with corporations helping high achievers capitalize on the power of story to ascend the leadership ladder, build strong teams, and communicate with impact and influence.