I’m going to start by asking you three seemingly innocuous questions:
How are you feeling about your job?
How are you feeling about your career?
Why are you feeling that way?
If reading these questions makes you feel uncomfortable or triggered some unexpected thoughts, you’re very likely onto something important and ready for real positive personal growth.
Does that interest you?
If work were unimportant, you wouldn’t worry so much about that dimension of your life. But of course it’s important. In a 2017 study by Gallup, when asked to describe the myriad of things that give their lives meaning, “career” was the second most frequently cited dimension (“family” is first). “Money,” a factor that’s related to work, was third. Moreover, a majority of people agree that having a sense of purpose and day-to-day enjoyment at work ranked higher in importance than the level of pay.
So work, where we spend almost half of our waking lives, strongly impacts the way we feel about how our lives are going. And it’s not just about finances.
The more I engage with my clients, the more I realize that one of the biggest barriers to finding a rewarding career is the fear of the journey. Perhaps even a fear of discovering that who we genuinely are is at variance with who we’re trying to be. These feelings, or what Gestalt theory calls “resistance” are important to recognize and explore. Meditating on them and engaging in an exchange about what you are resisting and why opens the door to positive change and to the myriad of possibilities you were previously unaware of. This process of building deep self-awareness is a necessary stop along the road to getting “unstuck.”
That’s the “paradox of getting unstuck.” So often, I speak with talented individuals who recognize their misalignment and hesitate to explore it. This resistance reflects formidable defenses and attitudes that developed and ossified over the years. Maybe you wanted to please a parent, an uncle or a friend. Maybe you rebelled. Maybe you didn’t realize what you were getting yourself into and you feel the “golden handcuffs.” Maybe what you want out of life has just changed.
There are many different philosophies on how to “unstick” a person who is struggling with a job or a career path. These include NLP, Cognitive Behavioral and Hypnotherapy. These are goal- oriented approaches based on behavioral change and task completion. The shortcoming of these approaches is they fail to address the beliefs and attitudes that hinder sustainable positive change. As a result, the feeling of being “stuck” will re-emerge. For this reason, “becoming aware and accepting of who you are and allowing change to happen without effort” is an essential first step that can’t be ignored if you are looking for personal growth. For this, you’ll want a different approach.
So let’s return to the questions: How are you feeling about your job? How are you feeling about your career? Why?
Let me ask these questions differently, which may help with the “why” question:
- Are there gaps between your skills and talents and what you’re bringing to your job and your career today?
- Is there an alignment between who you are and what you do (e.g., work)?
- How did you feel when you read these two questions?
Which brings me to a second paradox advanced by Gestalt thinking: “the paradox of change.” According to this principle, change will flow from focusing on the present—when we accept who or what you are now. This is not, however, the way most of us think about change. In an effort to be different, with will power, we block the creative adaptive processes that have the potential to bring about more productive change. This is unfortunate.
To quote Susan Scott, the author of Fierce Conversations, It’s your life. You and only you decide.”
Is it time to examine your professional alignment with who you are and explore the possibilities? Are you ready to engage with your resistance?
Reach out to me if you want to explore how I can help you get “unstuck.”
David Ehrenthal is the co-founder of Mach10 Career Coaching and Mach10 Marketing, an agency for Higher Ed institutions. He’s an in-training Gestalt Career Coach based in Concord, MA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.