There are a few words that always come up when I talk to people who are unhappy in their jobs. They usually say that they’re “stuck”, “lost”, “directionless”. As I wrote last week, the most powerful way to get unstuck is to take action, to take that ‘one step’ that will move you forwards. But what if you’re not taking that step? Or maybe you’re taking one step but then you get stuck again and don’t take any more steps? Are you finding yourself asking, “Why am I not taking action?”
There are many reasons why you might be getting stuck: fear of failure, fear of looking stupid, fear of making mistakes and, ironically, also the fear of success.
In my experience, however, the biggest reason why you’re not taking consistent action is this: you don’t have a clear and meaningful goal that you’re working towards. If you don’t know where you’re heading, how will you ever get there?!
Discover the 5Ls model to help you think more broadly about success
In my experience - from my own life and from working with clients over the years - there are five key areas in our lives that need to be balanced in order for us to thrive and live a truly successful life in a more whole and holistic sense: LIVE - Wellness & Wellbeing; LOVE - Relationships & Romance; LEARN - Development & Growth; LEAD - Career & Impact; and LAUGH - Fun & Spontaneity.
Why am I not taking action?
Missing (or meaningless) goals
If you have no clear goal in front of you, you’ll have no criteria for choosing projects or making decisions. You’ll have no ‘ammunition’ to defend yourself with when well-meaning friends and family question you and your choices. And you’ll have no way to know when you’ve actually achieved your goal, as you don’t know what it is! You simply won’t be committed to taking action as you don’t know what you’re working towards or why it’s important.
On the other hand, you might also get stuck if you’re working towards the wrong goal. The wrong goal is a goal based on incorrect assumptions or restrictive underlying beliefs, or a goal based on someone else’s priorities. If that’s the case, then you either won’t be motivated to work hard towards the goal – since it’s not your own – or you will work hard (because, after all, that’s what good girls do) and you’ll achieve it – but then when you do you’ll still feel stuck and you’ll ask yourself, “Now what?!”
So… now what?
If you find yourself feeling unmotivated to take action, feeling stuck and lost as to what you should be doing to get unstuck, then you may need to go back to the drawing board. You’ll want to work out what it is that you really want before you go out there and try to achieve it.
I’m not saying that you need a crystal-clear vision of the next 30 years of your life with every detail laid out in front of you – that’s simply not possible and, if anything, it will block you even more as you become paralysed with the sheer impossibility of the task. And impossible it is, because you can’t ever know everything sitting there behind your computer. And, in any case, things will evolve as you explore and learn more about yourself and about the options that are out there.
Instead, I’m suggesting that you create a list of criteria, more like a framework, to guide your decisions. Here are some questions you can think about:
- What are ‘non-negotiables’ for you? E.g. the maximum number of hours you want to work each week, the length of your commute, the amount of travel, the minimum salary
- In what kind of environment do you thrive? E.g. working alone versus in a team, being given clear guidance versus having the freedom to make your own decisions, being out and about meeting people or burying yourself in analysis at your computer
- What are your fundamental values, values that a future employer (or your own business) would need to share? E.g. creativity, independence, stability, freedom, leadership, integrity, collaboration?
- How does all this fit into the rest of your life? E.g. do you want more time and energy for your young family, do you want to be able to switch off at the weekends and have a proper holiday, do you want to spend more time doing your hobbies?
- What is the bigger picture?
Taking your one step
I know that you’re impatient to make a change, to stop feeling lost and confused and to get yourself unstuck, once and for all. But the truth is that if you go steaming ahead without having determined what you’re moving towards then you either won’t get anywhere at all or you’ll get somewhere that is no better than where you are now.
“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.”
-Lucius Annaeus Seneca
So before you dive in and take action, I strongly recommend that you allow yourself proper time to reflect and explore. Be patient and compassionate with yourself as you think about what’s really important to you – and you will save yourself a whole lot of time and effort further down the line!