Feeling Stuck? 5 Steps To Find Purpose, Focus, And Meaning At Work
From getting up in the morning to driving home, your mind circles around all the negative aspects of your work: the long commute, the traffic and even the upcoming company outing you used to like.
You dread work and work dreads you. How do you know?
No one ‘gets you’ anymore. You have brilliant ideas, but all you receive are question marks on your team’s foreheads or being utterly ignored.
Your boss seems to find more things to criticize recently, and you have not been able to get excited about any of the projects or events your peers rave about.
Your frustration at work has affected your personal life. Sometimes you wonder which came first. You don’t seem to get really excited about much at all these days. Same ol’ same ol’. Even your friends and family are tired of your vent fests. They may have said things like “why don’t you just look for another job if you’re unhappy there,’ but the issue isn’t solved by that. It’s complicated.
How To Get Unstuck (Or Forever Remain Frustrated)
1. Identify Your Frustration
To get unstuck, you first need to determine where you are stuck. A state of being stuck indicates a state of frustration. You want to be somewhere you are not. You find yourself in a place that is uncomfortable, but why? You’ll need to understand what exactly frustrates you. Chances are, you are unhappy with everything, but that’s a symptom of your frustration, not the cause.
To find out what causes your frustration, start by identifying your expectations of your job and also your personal life. In a way, ‘everything is everything’ as they say. Our life is not a composition of interconnected silos.
Ask yourself some questions that help you identify the reason for your frustration:
- What got you initially excited about your job?
- What does a perfect day at work look like?
- What would make your personal life more enjoyable?
- What’s missing?
- What are things you are tolerating? Why are you tolerating them?
- Has there been a change at work or an event that tipped the scales?
2. Review Your Dreams
If the first step didn’t lead you to a satisfying conclusion, perhaps you have thought you had your dream job until you felt bored, unchallenged or realized it wasn’t what you’ve always imagined it to be.
‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ is not as silly a question as it sounds. You were wired for something unique. You have unique passions, talents, gifts, and experience to shape you for your calling in life. Life events, commitments, expectations, and other things may have taken your attention away from that. There is no age limit to reevaluate your dreams and get back on track!
Don’t skip this step and just focus on “fixing an issue.” If you don’t know where north is, you certainly won’t get there. You need to know what the vision for your life looks like to get your navigation going.
3. Examine What You Actually DO Like About Your Job
At some point, you liked what you did, and you worked hard to get the position you hold now or the promotion you’ve earned so hard.
If a person new to the profession or a young talent came to you at an event and stated that they want to be just like you and do your job someday, you would undoubtedly shift your posture.
Jot down what aspects of your job you would like to keep if you were forced to find another job tomorrow. What would you keep? Have those aspects kept you in this place because they outweighed the unknown?
If you find out that there is more you like about your job than you don’t, then the change you’d need to make may not be as dramatic. Seeing things in front of you will help you turn a big question mark into tangible pieces you can tackle, one by one.
Even if you discover that you fell out of love with your job, then you’ll still have found what you do and don’t want in your next position. That’s worth a lot in a sea of people who don’t know what they want!
4. Identify Roadblocks
Now that you have a map with a starting point and a target, you can create a path for yourself. If you drive a car, you know there are plenty of bumps in the road. You encounter stop signs, crazy drivers or the joys of traffic. Roadblocks — whatever shape they may take — are almost a guarantee. Identify them and you are more likely to enjoy the ride, and you will know how to manage the obstacles. So what are potential roadblocks?
You can identify hindrances to your progress by observing yourself. If you procrastinate, write down why. Be specific. The better you are at naming the reason you avoid taking action, the higher your chances to overcome the obstacle. You may also not be fully committed to getting unstuck because of external factors, such as the spoken and unspoken expectations of others, hidden fears, or being overwhelmed.
Whatever the name or source of your roadblock, the obstacle may not as big as it seems. Once you have identified what’s blocking you, you can break down steps to remove the barrier and get going. For example, if you want to switch careers, but don’t know how to get started (roadblock), use resources to help you. You can do a personality test that matches you with suitable jobs, for example, and then interview people who have those jobs to find out more.
If the obstacle is financial, look for options in all directions: making a shift in your personal budget, seek funding, earn extra cash for a season. Whether your roadblocks manifest themselves in people, finances, lack of knowledge, mindset or other ways: always look at the options available. Share your goals together with your hindrances with others. You’d be surprised at how willing people are to help.
5. Get A Cheerleader
Share your frustration and desire to change with others. Have at least one person that you can talk to and explore with — someone who helps you get unstuck, investigate the root of your frustrations, helps you to find a way out. Someone who can walk alongside of you to cheer you on to keep going. Someone who can celebrate the small and the big successes.
If you want professional cheerleading, go with a coach. You will get a safe place to freely explore, unpack, plan, chart a path and grow in ways you never thought you could.
If you are tight on time, just remember that you are in charge of your decisions. You get to decide how much time you spend on meeting with a friend or coach. You get to determine the speed at which you pursue change, something that’s sustainable for YOU.
But don’t do it alone. Isolation is a detriment to success over the long run. Periods of solitude are undoubtedly good when you need rest and reflection.
Once you start wanting to change you will encounter internal and external barriers to change. When that happens, you’ll be glad to have a partner in your corner to help you through it!
Dare To Try Something New (Get Moving!)
To get out of a “stuck” situation, you have to know where you are on the map (of life) and where you’d like to go first.
Purpose and meaning have different definitions for each person. It is up to you to identify yours. Since you have the power of choice, it is in your control to ask for help, too!
You can’t always change your circumstances, but you can create choices to drive change and get unstuck. This may happen in inches, not miles at a time, but you will only move forward if you move.