Being stuck isn’t fun. Immobile. Fastened. Motionless. Unable to move. Staying in one place without progress.
We get to those points in our lives and careers where we feel stuck. It’s normal. It happens. I’ve lived it.
A couple years ago I started honestly evaluating where I was in my career. I liked what I did (although not as much as I once did), and I liked the people I was working with. But, I wasn’t genuinely happy. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep doing this for the next 5/10/20 years. I had a great title, salary, and position, but I came to realize I was stuck.
Thinking about change wouldn’t make it happen. Failure to take action would result in more-of-the-same whether I stayed at the company or looked elsewhere. I needed forces from both inside and outside to make things happen.
As a coach working with professionals in similar situations, I use the metaphor of seeing yourself happily climbing a mountain, eyeing the top of the next ridge, and then realizing you’ve stepped into a bog and you can’t move. You’re stuck. You need two things to get out. The first is the internal motivation to know you want to get to that ridge because there are all sorts of opportunities on the other side. The second is the help you need from someone else. You can’t will yourself out of the bog. You need that person who gives you a branch – or a hand – to help pull you out and continue on to where you know you want to be.
To get out of my bog, I actively sought out colleagues, family and friends who I asked to honestly assess what, in their opinion, I “brought to the table”. So often we can’t see it in ourselves. I read books on how people rediscover passion. I worked with a coach to help me look back as well as forward to uncover my strengths and values and prepare a confident plan to move forward. I invested time and money for the training to prepare me for a new career.
At the same time I had to overcome the internal fears and obstacles (real, but mostly imagined), which were telling me I “can’t” or “shouldn’t” make a change. I had to figure out what it would be like to not have an office, title or a predictable income. I had to figure out how to communicate with my wife about my fears while also remaining confident. I had to figure out how to deal with waking at 4am and thinking “what the #@&% am I doing?!”
It wasn’t about reinventing myself. It was about being honest about my passion, gifts and strengths and using that clarity and confidence to take those next steps.
Going through this process doesn’t necessarily lead to a radical career shift. It might be realigning your current role or situation to be better aligned with your core values.
Being stuck isn’t forever, and wherever you are in your career, getting unstuck requires intentional efforts from the inside and out. And it’s worth it. You owe it to yourself and everyone around you.
Timothy J. Ressmeyer, Ph.D., CPC
Stony Brook, M.A., ‘83
Ressmeyer Partners – Professional Executive and Leadership Coaching
This blog was originally published by the Stony Brook University Alumni Association.
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