Have you ever had that feeling of being completely stuck? Unable to make choices or move forward. Even though a large part of you wants to and knows it’s the right thing to do.
If you have then you’re not alone.
The general theme of..’I want to do something new with my career but I’m stuck and I don’t know where to start’…is more common than you may think and one I hear regularly.
It’s natural and understandable. And believe me, there are always ways forward 🙂
So, when you are stuck… what does it mean, why are you feeling that way, why does it hold you back and what can you do to get unstuck?
Meaning of Stuck
A fan of a definition or three, I think this one neatly explains it…
stuck: “fixed in a particular position, place or way of thinking”
The stand out word here is ‘fixed’. It’s important to remember, freedom of movement and thinking come from a place of openness and flexibility. More on that a little later.
In his book, Transitions, William Bridges, PhD, explains that any transition from one chapter of your life to another involves endings, the neutral zone and new beginnings.
It is the in-between neutral zone where you can feel conflicted and stuck.
Being at the point of letting go of the ‘old’ and trying to identify what the ‘new’ actually looks like, creates a powerful mix of conflicting emotion and logic; trepidation and excitement.
Holding onto the ‘old’ in some way might feel safer yet the thought of something ‘new’ is exciting. No wonder you can feel well and truly stuck.
Taking this further, in Think Better, Tim Hurson explains that, although you believe you are thinking all the time, the brain is generally engaged in either ‘distraction, reaction or following well-worn patterns’. He brilliantly describes these as monkey mind, gator brain and the elephant tether.
The combination of these instinctive, reactive, distracting and learned responses makes a heady cocktail. One which can…
- stop us from seeing the truth
- make us defensive to change and new ideas
- prevent us from trying new things
- make us feel stuck
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Monkey Mind: The monkey mind makes it hard for you to focus and often stops you from thinking productively. Successful career transitions require creative exploration of options and ideas balanced with the ability to know when to focus and not get distracted by your monkey brain.
Gator Brain: Despite having a highly developed cerebral cortex, you are still at the mercy of the reactive gator brain. Commonly known as the stem brain, this is where your fight and flight reactions originate. According to Hurson, the speed of reactions emanating from this area mean that decisions can come from your gator brain and are then subsequently rationalised by your human thinking.
When making career transition choices it’s important to make sure there is wider exploration and a bit of strategic analysis behind your decisions. This way you reduce the chances of your gator brain leading you down a reactionary, potentially ill-thought out path.
Elephant’s Tether: Hurson’s work explains how most of the brain’s ‘wiring’ is used for ‘recognising, storing and retrieving patterns’. This is obviously an asset when it comes to survival; helping you make judgements on what may happen in certain scenarios. It is also useful when you are trying to learn, remember and do repetitive everyday tasks.
The drawbacks with the elephant tether or patterning when you are wanting to make a career transition arise when you rigidly follow existing ways of thinking and working.
Making decisions based solely on what has happened before yields a pattern-skewed view of what is possible in your new career chapter.
Plus, when you’re at a career crossroads, feeling stuck and frustrated, being rigid in your thinking and staying with old ways of viewing your choices and challenges will only hold you back.
Saying Goodbye to Stuck-ness
Tip 1. ‘Have a word with yourself’ about your mindset. Are you open-minded, open-hearted and open to possibilities? Adopting and investing in a more creative mindset is key (there are some tips on boosting your creativity here...). As Albert Einstein is quoted as saying…“Problems cannot be solved by thinking within the same framework in which they were created.”
Tip 2. When you think about your career transition, don’t be hampered by the ‘how’. That comes further down the line. After all if you don’t know what the ‘new’ is how can you know how to go about it.
Tip 3. Be more visionary and expansive in your approach to the future and your new career chapter. This helps you move away from entrenched patterns or beliefs. Suspend reality, relax, imagine and banish your inner critic.
Feeling stuck is temporary no matter how intense and frustrating it seems. The key is to challenge yourself in different ways; to view your situation from fresh perspectives. Investing in a creative mindset and taking the Innovating Your Career approach will help you keep stuck-ness at bay.
PS… if you would like help making your career transition more effectively and start saying goodbye to stuck-ness then my Career Crossroads session is for you. And if you have any questions please get in touch.