Stuck? Part 1

Photo courtesy of ShutterstockBy Jan Shankar

Remember the scene in "Groundhog Day" where Bill Murray's character gets stuck in the same day every time he wakes up each morning and just cannot move on? Same food, same events, same routines, same people, same weather, same conversations, same day at work. Over and over again. Imagine how strange that would be and how out of control you would feel in that situation. Unable to make changes and not in control of your own destiny. Knowing that every single thing you did at work that day would produce exactly the same result as it did yesterday and the day before. But that's just a piece of fiction, isn't it?

In real life, we fortunately have a lot more control of our destiny - however, sometimes it may not feel that way.  It's not unusual for people to go through phases of feeling like they are stuck in a "freeze-frame" mode and unable to move forward. As if they are treading water or going through the motions. Given how much of our lives we spend at our work, it is vital we can recognise any "Groundhog Day" signs and work to shake them off so that we can reclaim our sense of focus and direction.

Over the next couple of months, we will share some tactics with you for tackling the career blues and help you to identify positive things you can do to shake them off.

First things first - it is important to identify something positive you can do to give you a renewed sense of energy and to combat the "stuck" feelings. Our thought patterns can often become habits - and it is important to shake these habits up from time to time. Here are some top tips to help you achieve this:

Tip 1 - Learn Something New

However old we are, there will always be something new we can learn - whether that is a brand new skill or brushing up on/refreshing an existing one. Think about what it is you are really passionate about or care about and look for some opportunities to immerse yourself in this topic. This may be a directly work related topic (i.e. a skill you need to use at work) or something else that may appear to be completely unrelated. The trick is to stimulate your brain into a more positive zone and using it to learn something new will help it to create a more positive mind-set generally. This will have a knock-on impact on the way you feel in the workplace.

When I was recovering from a major operation about 10 years ago, I decided to use some of the recuperation period to take a floristry qualification in my spare time. I had always wanted to learn the technical side of floristry and never had the time because of my travelling for work. Ironically, the convalescence gave me the opportunity. I've always loved the coaching and writing work I do every day, but learning something different fulfilled a different part of my psyche and definitely further developed my creativity. Think about something you could learn that would give you that positive vibe.

Tip 2 - Talk to Someone

If you are stuck in neutral gear at work, the worst thing you can do is talk to others who are feeling the same as you, since you could all tend to get stuck in the same loop and go round in circles! I have come across this many times in my coaching work - individuals who want to move forward and look at things more positively, but who end up going over the same negative ground over and over again, because they are feeding from other people's negativity. To break out of this spin cycle, think about someone in your workplace whom you admire for their positive approach and find the time to meet up with them.

This could be someone in your own department or outside. You don't have to tell them about your situation necessarily - just ask if they can talk to you about their goals and what they are most enthused by at work right now. Everyone likes to be asked about what interests them - and hearing their stories is very likely to remotivate you.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Tip 3 - Get Together!

If you are feeling a bit isolated (maybe through trying to resolve a particular challenge by yourself for a while) why not arrange a get-together with some other people at work. Starting a problem-solving forum is a great way to share ideas and help each other to find new methods and ways forward. I have used this successfully on many occasions -  and seen people come up with plenty of new and often unexpected solutions. Working with others encourages us to move out of the ruts we can all get in when we are staring at the same sets of challenges.

One vital piece of advice here - make sure that however long your group spends looks at the "challenges", you spend an equal (or ideally greater) amount of time looking at possible solutions. Encourage people to think about the widest range of solutions (however crazy they may seem) as the more ideas you hear, the more likely you are to find a way forward. Set a ground rule that no idea will be discounted or trashed.

Tip 4 - Do Something!

Maybe the reason you are stuck is because of a process/system that isn't working as well as you would like it to - or because of a difficult working relationship with a colleague. It is very easy to get stuck in a negative thinking rut when this happens, and to find it difficult to identify the positives and options. The more challenged we feel, the more difficult it can be to see the wood for the trees! The trick is to deliberately focus on at least one thing you could do to right now to improve the situation. There will always be something, however small, that can help to create a positive momentum.

Julie had got to the point where she dreaded going to team meetings because of a communication breakdown between her and Paul, her opposite number in another team. It had got to the stage where she either avoided attending the meetings at all or she just stayed silent throughout - neither option was enabling her to feel less "stuck." "I had to do something", Julie told me. "I wrote down some simple things that I could do to improve the situation, starting with writing down how I might be feeling in Paul's shoes. It wasn't easy, but it did help me to see that we were probably both feeling similar! This gave me the push to go and speak to him about how we could put the past behind us and move on. It all started with jotting a few things down - even that started me thinking that I was doing something at last!"  

Tip 5 - Pretend it's the First Time

Think back to the very first day at your workplace or in your current job. How did it feel? What were you most interested in or most excited by when you first started? What were your hopes and motivations? What did you most want to achieve?

Seeing our role through fresh eyes is a very effective way to reconnect with the reason we are doing it - sometimes this can get a little clouded under the ongoing list of tasks to be completed each week. Jot down all the best things about your role - including who it helps or impacts on, what it achieves, what would happen if it did not exist, how it has developed you as a person so far.  If you were starting afresh today, what would your aspirations be? My guess is that thinking about this will remind you of all the reasons you are doing your job - and all the opportunities you still have to make a positive difference through it.

That "stuck" feeling can be unstuck if we apply a few of these tips - maybe not instantly, but with determination we can beat those Groundhog Day symptoms. The alarm may still go off each day, but hopefully, we will feel much more positively about this than the hapless Bill Murray!

Next month - more tips on getting unstuck!

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