Mom: What do you want to be when you grow up?
John: I don’t know
Dad: What do you want to be when you grow up?
John: Taller and healthy
Dad: Very funny, John. You need to figure that out!
Fast forward a few years and John is a senior in high school
Counselor: John, what careers are you interested in?
John: I don’t really care. I just know that I must go to college and be able to get a job.
Counselor: Your ACT score shows you are great at math, and your Career Aptitude Test suggests you would do well in accounting.
John: Okay, what schools have good accounting programs?
Fast forward 25 years and John has a job as an actuary manager at an insurance company
Coach (me): John, what is important in your life?
John: Having a life.
Me: What do you mean?
John: I hate my job. I don’t like managing people. This corporate America thing is not for me.
Me: So, what do you want?
John: I don’t know – I just want to be happy and do something I enjoy, but I don’t know what that is.
Fast forward (although it didn’t feel fast to John) 8 years
I get a LinkedIn notification that John is celebrating 5 years as the managing partner of a Wellness Studio! The message exchange went something like this:
Me: John, I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since you took the leap to follow your dream.
John: I can’t believe it either. To think that I was having thoughts of ending my life due to severe depression when I met you seems like a lifetime ago. Thank you!
Me: You were pretty stuck. Seemed like just a work thing, but it was really a life thing wasn’t it?
John: Yeah, I really thought I just had a jerk of a boss, a less than great team and an organization that was crazy with change. I never imagined that I could be this happy and feel this fulfilled. It’s been a wonderful 5 years. Don’t get me wrong! It’s been a ton of work, and life has handed me some personal life challenges, but I love what I am doing and I know that what we have created here is making a big difference in a lot of lives.
In a word – STUCK!
John was stuck. Many of my clients are stuck when they come to me.
· Stuck in a job they don’t love.
· Stuck in a habit they want to kick.
· Stuck in a relationship that isn’t working.
· Stuck in not knowing what they want or what to do
· Stuck in life
I’m not a therapist. I’m not a counselor. I’m a coach! So, what did I do to help John get unstuck?
We did a ton of work, but John and I agree that there were 3 tools that helped him get unstuck.
Tool #1: Values sort
When we are clear on what is important to us and we make choices on a daily basis that align with those values, we feel good. We are better prepared to meet the challenges life gives us. We have a solid foundation.
To the contrary, when we are making choices that conflict with our values, nothing feels right. It’s like when you know you need to see the chiropractor because your spine is out of whack. It starts with a low back ache. Then, your hip hurts. Next, your knee bothers you. Having that one thing out of alignment has a cumulative effect and before you know it, you are a mess. When we are out of alignment, it doesn’t take much from the outside world to put us off our game.
So, John and I did a values sort. None of his values aligned with working for a big company, or putting in a zillion hours every week that took away from time with his family or focused on numbers instead of people.
John got very clear on 3 values that he was unwilling to compromise on.
Tool #2: Future Self
We all know that we get wiser when we get older, right? Our older, wiser self could tell us a few things that would help us find true happiness and fulfillment earlier in our lives. We would still screw up. Life wouldn’t be perfect. What would be different is that we have a resource with us 24/7 who has some good advice for us. It’s that part of us that knows better.
I led John through a visualization exercise in which he meets his future self, has a conversation with him, and gets some tips on what he needs to do to become his best self.
Sounds bizarre, right? I had my doubts when I first tried it, but after using it dozens of times with clients, I can testify that it works. Deep inside us, we all have a voice that stands ready to guide us if we will just listen!
John’s future self became a constant companion for John. When he was faced with choices about how to respond to a situation or what to do next, he would turn to his future self. It was like having me (a coach) in his pocket – only better, because the wisdom and guidance was coming from a voice that knew him in a way that I never would.
Tool #3: Action Plan
With clear values and a picture of what a fulfilled life looked like, John was ready to create an action plan of how to get there. This was way more than putting steps and dates on a piece of paper. This was soul searching. This was taking chances. This was tapping into a courage he didn’t know he had. This was asking for help. This was learning to articulate a dream and finding others that had the same dream.
Even with values and a future self and an action plan, there were times when John was frustrated. I kept saying (and I fully believe) that he wasn’t ready for to step into a life that was fulfilling. That stuck feeling was like super strong Velcro keeping him attached to old habits and old ways of thinking.
“When you are ready for the life you want to life, that life will show up.”
I said that every week to John! He wanted to be easier. He wanted everything that was in the plan to happen on his schedule. It didn’t work that way. It actually didn’t work, until he took the BIG LEAP. He met with his boss (after conversations with his wife, his financial planner, his kids and his new partners) and gave the date for his LAST DAY AT WORK!
Once that happened, the plan of happiness and fulfillment accelerated. John wasn’t stuck anymore. He was free to focus all of his energy on moving toward something he was clear and passionate about.
YAY for John! What does that mean for you?
It means that coaching works. It means that we all deserve to spend our life doing things that make us feel fulfilled. It means that feeling stuck happens to all of us at one time or another. It means that we sometimes need help getting unstuck.
You don’t get extra credit or gold stars for working through it on your own. Reach out and find someone to help you get clear on what good looks like and then go after it!