Working with professionals who want more, different and better in their lives and work, I see the same recurring patterns of self-sabotage and self-defeat – thoughts, mindsets and behaviors that keep people stuck in the same cycle of disappointment and dissatisfaction year after year.
Millions of people long for their work to be less toxic, stressful and unsatisfying, and desperately want more meaning, joy and reward. They want to be remembered as someone who was kind, caring and compassionate, who led powerfully and changed things for the better, and who was a positive role model. But they realize they aren’t behaving this way today – not by a longshot. Often, they’ve lost the ability to dream big, and have become cynical and worn out by their struggles. Or they believe that what they really want is just too far out of reach so they give up. Others have no idea what they would change in their lives even if they could.
This one belief, or some version of it — that “I’m stuck in unhappiness and misery and there’s nothing I can do about it” — is responsible for millions of people never living the lives they came here to live, or finding the satisfaction, happiness and fulfillment they long for.
Underneath this phenomenon, I believe there are eight universal fears that keep people paralyzed in ill-fitting work and ill-fitting relationships, not fulfilling their potential or using their gifts to make the impact they long to create. These eight fears keep us stuck until we are either forced to change by circumstances (usually by a health, financial or other crisis), or we decide to muster the courage to change on our own. But the vast majority of professionals are afraid that if they make a dramatic change, they will…
• anger and alienate their family
• fail miserably if they try something new
• risk all their safety and security
• chase a crazy pipe dream that will end disastrously
• deplete all their energy, time and money
• forsake their children and other obligations
• take 100 steps back and never catch up to their peers
• or lose everything
Are you deeply longing for happier, more meaningful work? Did you find this year (or decade) totally disappointing, and want a reset?
Start 2017 by asking yourself these six pivotal questions, and answer them with all the courage and honesty you can muster:
About why you stay stuck:
#1: Do I stay stuck in this line of work simply because I’m afraid to leave?
Even though I hear this almost every day, I’m still stunned when a professional with tremendous talents and achievements thinks she can’t get anything better, and is afraid to try. How did so many people in our world end up not understanding that they’re special, important and valuable? And how did we learn that opportunities for growth are so sparse and hard to find? (They're not.)
The only way out of your disappointing work is this:
• Determine what “exciting” looks like to you, clearly and specifically
• Visualize experiencing this new life and work for five minutes every day. (Use all your senses to see yourself living it fully, in clear detail.)
• Then take baby steps every day toward that vision, with bravery, initiative and resourcefulness.
Positive thoughts are great, but they can't help you if you don’t do anything different. Understand that you will feel uncomfortable and afraid when you start stretching beyond your current limitations -- that’s a given. Keep moving anyway.
#2: Do I stay because I don’t know what else to do?
Another challenge is that many folks know exactly what they don’t want, but have no idea what they DO want. To address this block, make a list of all the activities, tasks, roles and functions you love to perform today. Understand why you love these tasks – how these make you feel, the values you are able to express through these tasks, and the outcomes that make you feel most energized and passionate.
Then, start talking to everyone you know about these areas of focus that you’d like to expand next year. After you share what you’re really jazzed about, ask them, “Is there anyone you know who might be helpful for me to talk with?” Keep talking, sharing and exploring other work you can be doing that leverages your specific talents, in ways that will create a new, happier life. New ideas and opportunities will emerge.
#3: Do I stay because I don’t think I’m worth better or more?
A third critical “power gap” (as I call it) is feeling that you’re not worth achieving great joy, success and reward. Many people today (especially those who had mistreatment in their childhood) feel flawed or “broken” in some way – that they aren’t worthy of love or appreciation, that they’re never good enough, and don’t have what others have. They mistakenly believe that tremendous happiness and success is for someone else. Sadly, if you think that, you’ll create evidence for that in your life, and you’ll block the pathway to success and joy.
Everyone is worthy of amazing happiness and success, not just a select few. But if you don’t understand that, and don’t do the inner work of expanding your sense of worth, self-esteem and self-love, you’ll never get out of the gate.
To get back on track to yourself, and stop feeling paralyzed with fear or insecurity, try this - dig deep to discover who you really are and what you have inside of you.
Ask yourself these three questions:
#1: What makes you who you are, and how are you special, valuable and unique?
Write down anything and everything that has influenced who you have become today. Nothing is too small or too big. Write it all down, including your cultural ancestry, the histories of your parents, your pivotal moments that changed everything, what you were taught about yourself, about power, gender roles, money, support, religion, spirituality, and support; the relationships that crushed you and the relationships that healed you; what you believe about our own worthiness to make a difference in the world; your passions, talents, gifts, and what you value deeply and believe in wholeheartedly.
Once you know what you're made of (and how amazing, special and unique that is), start to choose with greater awareness what to do with it.
In addition, if you’re fed up with working in crushing corporate environments that feel limiting and stagnating, and you’re sick of the mistreatment and discrimination you’ve experienced there, it’s a clear sign that you long for more independence, control, flexibility and freedom. Explore working outside the corporate arena.
#2: What came easily to you as a child, teen and young adult?
Write down all the skills, talents, activities and endeavors that came easily to you during the early years of your life. What made hours fly by? What made you joyful and thrilled to be alive? Was it art, singing, design, athletics, poetry, storytelling, computer design, etc.?
These are your natural talents and gifts that you want to leverage more powerfully in your life and work, so that work will be easy and rewarding, and not a devastating struggle. Don’t let yourself believe that your amazing talents that you love to use won’t ever make you any money. That’s just a sad myth that you’re clinging to. (As a beautiful, shining example of this, look at the inspiring work of legendary NBA reporter Craig Sager who dedicated his rich, passionate life to what he loved most.)
#3. What are the 20 “facts" of you and what you've achieved and contributed?
Brainstorm 20 irrefutable, undeniable facts of what you’ve done, accomplished, achieved and contributed in your life and work that you're proud of, and why those facts matter. Expand them to include metrics, scope, context and outcomes that describe how you "moved the needle" for a person, an organization or a cause. What have you done that has made a true difference to someone and to you?
When you are able to identify and talk compellingly about the important contributions you've made and why they matter to you, bring yourself out more openly in the world, and start connecting, networking and meeting up with people who inspire you. You'll begin to attract many more ideal opportunities and wonderful individuals in your life that will help you be of service in exactly the ways that matter most to you.
I’ve witnessed this in the lives of so many professionals - you can achieve so much more than you realize today, but only when you commit to doing the inner work of recognizing what you have to offer, then braving up to bring those gifts out in service of the world.
Read the original article on Forbes.