Have you ever had an opportunity and you honestly didn’t know if it was worth pursuing? A place where your mind runs through all sorts of paths that could result from what’s before you, yet nothing. It’s just not clear. So you sit, wait and wonder if you’ll regret doing…or not doing. It can be confusing. Sound familiar?
I recently sat down with a friend who’s stuck. He’s been at the same company for the past eight years and he’s hit a career ceiling. While the job meets his family’s financial needs…barely…it’s comfortable and he’s relatively happy…except he’s not really happy.
We talked for a long time about his job and it’s challenges, as well as other opportunities, but nothing seemed to excite him…like at all. He was stuck. Really stuck.
What Do You Want?
I asked a simple question: “What do you want?” His face remained emotionless as he said, “I don’t know.”
Nothing will inhibit progress faster than the words, “I don’t know.”
Maybe you can relate to a few of these examples:
You’re desperately pleading with your screaming toddler, “What do you want?” The child doesn’t mutter a word, only more screams.
Your girlfriend isn’t happy so you delicately ask, “What do you want?” She looks back at you and says, “I don’t know.”
Your boss is putting massive pressure on you to perform. Nothing you’re doing seems to be enough. You finally get the courage to ask him, “What do you want?” He looks at you and says, “more.” “More of what?” you ask.
While all of these examples are unique, they all have something in common: hopelessness.
When there’s no direction or clarity on what to do or where to go, there’s no hope.
Find Something To Hope For
I began to ask him question to see if I could find something that would make him perk up. I threw out hopes and dreams that should resonate with a dad and husband of 13 years:
“Would you like to get out of your condo and buy a nice house with your own yard and driveway so your three kids can have their own place to play?” I asked. He smiled a bit.
“Would you like to take your wife on an exotic vacation for your 15 or 20 year anniversary? Is that something you want?” I pleaded. A smile finally broke through as he began to imagine the experience.
Our conversation dove deeper into the desires of his heart and about two hours in, we finally came to a place of realization: he had stopped dreaming about what his life could be. Because he hadn’t allowed himself to dream and wonder, he had nothing to strive for.
Identifying what’s important to you and setting goals to achieve what’s important gives you a mission and purpose. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a promotion, new job, losing weight, a spouse or a new car, having a goal gives you the drive you need to go after what you want. Furthermore, once you’ve defined what you want, you’ll also be able to identify what you don’t want.
We continued the conversation a bit while longer and concluded that he had some work to be done. We drew up these:
Six Steps to Getting Unstuck
- Stop believing you can’t, because you can’t imagine how you could - This is the key to dreaming. You have to remove the boundaries of what’s possible and really dream big.
- Start imagining the life you want to live, not the one that you could live - The key to doing this is getting specific. You may want a new house, but I would challenge you to define what that literally looks like. For example, I’d like a house on an acre that’s about 3000-3500 square feet with a wrap around porch, huge backyard entertainment area with an outdoor kitchen, pool and lounge area. I’d like a three car garage so I can put away my two daily drivers and have a special place for my 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback and an in laws apartment atop. I could get more specific, but I think you get the idea.
- Identify and write down your goals - Setting goals isn’t something you should do flippantly. It’s one of the most challenging, yet rewarding disciplines you’ll ever participate in. Psychologists tell us that we’re more likely to achieve our goals if we simply write them down. How’s that for momentum? All you have to do is write them down.
- Identify what needs to change in your life in order to achieve those goals - This step requires you to look at everything with a “nothing is sacred” perspective and question everything.
“If you don’t ask the big questions, you won’t get the big answers” —Dale Evrist
- Begin adjusting your life to position yourself to achieve those goals - This may require quitting, moving, connecting with some people you don’t know or asking for the promotion that’s about to pass you by because you haven’t spoken up about it…yet. The driver of this step is taking risks.
“Those who take the most risk, get the most return.” —Author unknown
- Do the work now! Don’t wait until it’s too late – One of the symptoms of being stuck is the inability to accept change. The last thing you want to do is get to a place where you’re forced to change. Setting goals and living your life in their pursuit will help you identify when you’re getting stuck and when it’s time to move on.
“We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.” —Dr. Henry Cloud
Do you want to know what’s beautiful? You don’t have to wait until the need for change is painful. You can start by making a change today. Start with Step 1 and see what happens.What are you waiting for?