By Sharon Keys Seal
On Purpose Woman – Living a Richer, Fuller Life
Last fall, Ginny Robertson of On Purpose Networking for Women invited me to be part of a panel of professionals to discuss the topic of getting “stuck” in life. She asked us in advance to consider some areas of our lives where we have found ourselves stuck, what it was about, and how we worked through it.
Piece of cake, I thought. I sat down to ponder the question of getting stuck, and began by listing just a few of the times that I felt anchored in one place, not getting any traction. My list revealed examples of how I get stuck in how I view myself; sometimes stay mired in an unfulfilling relationship; continue making the same unhealthy choices at meals; miss attaining certain professional goals; allow myself to be closed off to scary new ideas… let’s just say the flow of examples was one thing that was not stuck.
In the intervening months, as I studied my list, looked more objectively at my work, and even reread some of my old journal entries from years past, it occurred to me that there are three main reasons I get stuck:
Falsehood is when I’m not telling the truth to myself or others, or when I’m out of touch with reality. Let’s take the example of how we get stuck in how we view ourselves. Often that can be classified under the Falsehood section of my Three F Theory. Having a self-image that is not up-to-date, or not grounded in one’s present reality, can be very limiting. If you find yourself not doing what you really want, that may be a sign you are stuck due to falsehood; you may be thinking and behaving like the person you used to be, and not the person you are today. For example, if you repeatedly experience sitting in front of a client and suddenly thinking/acting/speaking like a tongue-tied neophyte, despite the fact that you are a seasoned expert in your field, that might be due to being stuck in a falsehood, an old way of seeing yourself.
Not being able to answer “yes” to the question “Is this true?” is also a sign we may be stuck due to a falsehood. Consider beliefs such as “I am not smart enough to do that work” or “The Baltimore market is not ready for my service” or “They (boss/co-worker/spouse/bill collector/dog, etc.) are responsible for my troubles.” When you find yourself thinking along these lines, stop and ask yourself if it is really true. Another good question to ponder is “What is the real challenge, disguised as a falsehood?” Maybe the challenge is finding the time to do some research so you feel confident in doing the task; maybe it is discovering a way to present your services so they are more easily embraced by the market; maybe it is taking responsibility for yourself and not giving up your power by blaming others (or the dog).
Now, I could probably write an entire article just about Fear, the second factor in my Three F Theory. It is probably the most common cause of getting stuck. And I’m not denying that today’s world can be a pretty scary place in some respects. However, I find in my coaching work that clients often don’t dig down deep enough to identify the root cause of their fears. When you can articulate what it is you are afraid of, really get clear on that, say it out loud… you will find the shackles of fear begin to fall away.
For example, are you stuck in a job in a company you dislike, because you are afraid of not being able to find a better job? Well, maybe. But dig deeper; you may discover your fear is really about, say, breaking rules you have made up (“Employees should be loyal to the bitter end.”). Or maybe what is masquerading as fear is uncertainty (about other options in the marketplace, about what skills you need to land a better job, about what path you want to take at this juncture of your career, etc.). Don’t forget to listen to your body, too. What kind of wisdom is it trying to communicate to you? Take time to sit. Breathe. Listen.
Finally, the third component of my Three F Theory is Forgetfulness. By that I mean, losing sight of where we are going… or who we are. I literally forget about my mission (which is taped right on my desktop, not to mention emblazoned across my mind) and begin to take on tasks that have nothing at all to do with my core purpose. I forget that in saying ‘yes’ to some things, I must thus say ‘no’ to others. I lose focus, wander off the path I’ve set for myself, get lost… and as my frustration mounts I find myself feeling more and more stuck. Does this experience resonate with yours?
Another way we succumb to Forgetfulness is by listening to that “gremlin voice” (you know; the doubter, the critic, the pessimist) within us that keeps us from living out that which we long to become. We allow that other side of us to unduly influence the actions of the side of us that takes risks, acts boldly, reflects our best qualities. We stop paying attention to our true self. And then we get stuck.
Antidotes to Forgetfulness include a powerful vision for our future, clarity of our core purpose, and a healthy dose of self-discipline. Have you taken the time to create a vision for yourself and your life? Can you articulate what you are about, what your purpose in life is, what you stand for? I encourage you to take the time to do those things which will help you craft a blueprint for your journey.
The next time you feel “stuck” in your professional or personal life, I invite you to see if my Three F Theory can help you identify the source of your block. It might be just the tool you need to regain traction in moving towards the life and work you most desire.