One of my clients – let’s call him Mike – felt that he had lost his mojo at work. He said he felt
“stuck in a rut with no way forward”
Previously Mike had felt positive and enthusiastic about his role as a deputy Director. He desperately wanted to progress to director level, but there were no signs of a vacancy cropping up in his organisation.
Like most of us, Mike had bills to pay and a family to support. His children went to good local schools and his wife worked locally, so moving did not seem like a feasible option to him. Leaving his current organisation was not a realistic option for him and getting a promotion was, as he put it, “like waiting to step into dead men’s shoes!”. He described his career as stagnant and stuck.
In my last blog, 7 powerful steps to help you make difficult decisions, I described how to ensure you are at your best and in order to make good decisions. The same steps apply to thinking about and creating options for yourself when you’re feeling stuck. One of the steps is to determine your options/choices. But what if like Mike, you feel you’re stuck or have no choices? Well, coaching can certainly help. But what if, for whatever reason, you don’t have an opportunity to work with a coach?
The good news is that you can help yourself. This short article explains how. With a little self-coaching you can become unstuck and on your way to achieving whatever your heart desires.
Feeling stuck is a remarkably common yet uncomfortable experience.
The role of a coach is to help you to unearth and evaluate your choices. This is achieved by posing open questions. With a little patience and practice, you can use the same technique through self-coaching.It can make you feel anxious and stressed. This is because it closely relates to your sense of choice (or lack of!). Choice is important because it links to freedom, happiness and the feeling of control you have over your life. It therefore follows that the more freedom and choice you have, the happier you become. You feel more empowered and able to shape your life in ways that matter to you.
Work through the following three questions and you will soon be on your way to self-discovery and becoming unstuck.
I have offered a few examples to get you started and I’m sure you’ll think of even more great questions for yourself. So, engage your wisest self (we all have one!), grab a pen and paper, find a quiet space and let’s get started on the first question.
1) What if…?
What if the world was different? What if the barriers you face did not exist? What if…? Use ‘what if?’ questions to create scenarios, possibilities and options relevant to your situation. They will help you to see things differently when you’re feeling stuck. Use your imagination and think of more than one ‘what if?’ question. Then unlock your creativity!
In Mike’s case, we used: what if your current job was re-structured and no-longer existed, what would you do? This question was designed to open his mind to options that he had previously not thought of or had dismissed as not possible. He came up with several new and different ideas and wrote these down. Two important options were the possibility of taking a side-ways move in a different part of the organisation, or asking his boss about a potential secondment opportunity. The benefits of both these options were that they could help Mike develop new skills and experience, create renewed energy and interest in his work, as well as broaden his networks and career opportunities.
Another good example of the ‘what if’ question is: what if nothing could hold you back, what would you do? This type of question helps remove some of the barriers in your mind and encourages you to consider the art of the possible without worrying about constraints.
2) What else?
After working through your ‘what if?’ question(s), it is important to pause and ask yourself ‘what else?’ What else could you do? What other option haven’t you thought of yet? This stops you reaching closure and getting to a solution too quickly. It will stimulate you to think of a few more alternative options, which is always possible. Don’t rush this. Give yourself time to think of at least one more option. If you think you have no more ideas, imagine you are advising a friend what his or her options are – this sometimes makes it easier. Be sure to write down all your ideas, no matter how obscure or difficult they may seem at first glance. You can appraise them later.
In Mike’s case, this is where the secondment opportunity idea cropped up. If he had not pushed himself on the ‘what else?’ question, he would not have come up with this option which later became his preferred choice.
3) What now?
‘What now?’ is an important question designed to ensure that your hard work and good ideas do not go to waste. It is a way of saying, now I have a few good ideas, what am I going to do about my situation? What actions am I going to take? It inspires you to act on one or more of your ideas to help you move forward and become unstuck.
The trick here is to start with small steps that seem eminently doable. Some of the steps Mike wrote down included booking a personal development meeting with his boss to discuss his secondment idea and checking with other directors about possible upcoming opportunities or big projects in their area.
You always have choice. Once you realise this, you will feel more empowered and able to shape your life in ways that matter to you. For Mike, he became more optimistic about his future and developed a renewed sense of what was possible.
It’s just a case of knowing how to expose and appraise your options. So use these three crucial questions: what if…?, what else?, and what now?, to get yourself unstuck. They will help you create choices, new opportunities and move you forward with your life.