Guest Post: How To Get Unstuck and Leave Behind A Working Life That Makes You Feel Trapped

by Erica Sosna

You know the feeling right. The Sunday night dreads. The knot in the stomach, the anxiety, the sleepless night.

How did you get here?

Maybe you just kind of stumbled into this line of work.

Maybe it was fine for a while, but then a change of personnel or ownership in your organisation made a radical difference to the culture.

Maybe you even dreamed, once, of this position, but have now radically outgrown it – and are now twiddling your thumbs. Or the squeeze on headcount has meant you are doing the work of several people and your email traffic is in four figures.

Whatever it is, however you got here. I am here with good news.

We are going to work together, to get you out of there.

And we are going to start right now, with this article. I promise you, if you take the time to read it, by the end of this article you will be in a way better place and your move on up will have already begun.

May I give you a lifelong investment in your future in just 10 minutes?

Well hang on, you say, why would you trust me to help you get unstuck?

Good question. Let’s start with the introductions.

I’m Erica Sosna, the Author of Your Life Plan. For the last twelve years, I have been working with creative and talented people like you, to help them get unstuck from careers they hate and to move into work that suits who they are, what they love and how they operate.

I do this because work is important, you spend a lot of time there and when it doesn’t work for you, it can have disastrous impacts on your confidence, health, happiness, the lot!

How do I know this? Because I have been there and done that. I did what I ‘should’ do rather than follow my key interests and loves, I took the ‘sensible’ path because I thought the unorthodox was dangerous and wouldn’t work and I did what I was told by society, because I didn’t have the self-knowledge to take actions that suited who I am.

Consequence – breakdown, stress, weight gain, smoking, horrid, horrid, horrid.

My mission is to save us all from this, through my blogs, my books, my courses, my talks, to give people clarity on who they are, confidence to go for what they want and the competence – the practical skills, to get there.

How do I know it can be done? Because I have personally done it!

I’ve made every kind of career change, from employed to self-employed, from public sector and charity to private corporation and across industry, from education to consulting to Government departments. So I have made many of the shifts my clients tell me impossible.

Plus, I love change and can help you love it too! My insatiable thirst for new experiences and new perspectives can help you feel more confident about making the move.

And lastly, I have found my calling and helped hundreds of other people do the same – so they only need to make one shift, to get in line with their purpose. And once they have the method to do that, the rest is easy.

The Problem

See, most of us didn’t receive an education in who we are and what we would be good at and without knowing this, we stumble around hoping our career will just happen to us. And then, even when we do realise what we want, we don’t know how to get from here to there and we decide it is impossible.

Once I found my calling, others began asking me how I did it and how I got so much done.

So I developed a method to get them unstuck and into a working life they just love – that is uniquely designed to suit who you are, how you work, what you are good at and what matters to you.

And that, in summary, is what I am sharing with you today – a method to help you to get where it is that you want to go.

This article will give you the ammo to get moving in the right direction, with a range of practical tools to get out of that trapped place and into work that, well, works!

So here’s what you’re getting today…

First I’m going to show you a proven way to recognize and overcome the key thought trap that keeps people stuck in careers that they were never meant to be in

Then you will get a whole new perspective on why you are where you are that will transform you from victim to champion

And I’m also going to give you a set of steps which as I take you through them – will build an action plan that will put you on the path you’ve been longing to take.

Sound good?

So let’s dive in…

First things first: Getting Your Mind Unstuck

In all manner of ways, fear is the key source of our feeling of stuckness.

Think about it. What stops you progressing into a new role or taking a new path?

Somewhere in you there is a story about what will happen if you step into something new and that story is strong enough and potent to keep you right where you are.

Fear is the number one enemy of progress. It can stop us in our tracks. We become paralysed into inaction. So unless we learn to work it with head on and know it for what it is, we will constantly sabotage ourselves.

But the problem is, we weren’t shown how to manage fear in the classroom.

Or even at home.

You see that’s because most teachers and parents weren’t trained to teach us how to deal with it.

Fear Paralyses Progress

Our interpretation of life and what is possible during  it (including a change in role or career – the area I specialise in), is filtered through a number of basic ‘programs’.

These programs can be helpful or unhelpful.

Conscious and unconscious.

They can make us feel things are  possible or just a bridge too far.

And even more importantly they either make us feel good or make us feel bad.

And all of these programs now exist in your brain because you’ve either learned them as you’ve grown up or they’ve been given to you by the world and well-intentioned others.

The good news about these programs is that you get to control which ones you use and which ones you don’t.

And the more you’re able to recognise which ones don’t serve you and how to remove them… the quicker you’ll be able to make the changes you want in your working life.

For example… when you want to make your PC run faster by getting it to use it’s memory more efficiently… you’ll run a virus checker to remove things like malware.

The difference this will make if you follow me here is phenomenal.

So first, let’s  see some of these  fear programs in action.

Let me show you how they work.

There are lots of different kinds of programs , but let’s take one most of my clients grapple with and you may too…

Part I: No way Jose! I am NOT moving! AKA Fear of Change

When we begin to think about something we want to do that’s outside of our day to day norm, we can get excited and engaged and then, moments later that forward motion comes to an abrupt halt.

Why…? Because we get scared. We get to the limits of what we think we know and what is familiar and we start to imagine all sorts of things that could go wrong.

But the truth is that the fears we have about the future if we made this change are just things we’ve made up. They are just a negative story about the future – disaster stories that frighten us into not taking the next step.

The Disaster Fantasy Trap

For example, let’s say you really want to leave your current role and opt to go into a completely different line of work or even start your own business.

First, you might worry about whether it is even possible to work in this new area with no experience. Then you might panic about how your family might feel about it and how you would survive if you had to take a pay cut to get there. In an instant, you see yourself unemployed, losing your home, and the kids wearing rags and people that know you looking on in disgust. Not exactly a ‘happy ever after’ story is it?

BUT...we don’t actually know what will happen next in the story of our lives until it has happened.

The Disaster Story  Exercise

Right now think of the career or life switch you want to make  – a goal or a dream you have that you’ve thought about for a while.

When  I decided I would move from permanent employment into freelance consulting, I knew that I needed to have a plan. I was clear that I wanted to move on, but was trapped by my fears of financial insecurity, about having to go to the bank of mum and dad, about losing my home etc etc.

And so, I didn’t just jump ship and quit because I knew that would freak me out and I wouldn’t do my best work in that condition.

This exercise helped me to get past that fear and to devise a plan of action that was really going to work. Instead of being overwhelmed by my fantasy of the future,  I began to work out what I could do in the 6 months before I moved on, to give myself some stability. I quietly began building relationships and lining up opportunities. I got my website and branding in order. I studied marketing.

Result?

New career and more work than I could handle.

Now it’s your go. I’m going to take you through the tool I used to breakthrough, right now.

I’d like you to answer the following questions for me:

Describe a career goal you want to achieve.

Write down what you are afraid might happen if you took steps toward that goal?

How might people react?

What might they say?

What risks would you run?

What is the worst thing that could happen?

Would you survive if it did?

Ok now, let’s look at each of these fears and capture three actions you will take that would prevent or massively reduce the chance of fear in your unfolding  disaster story from coming true.

As you’ve most probably realised from doing this… as you do it you instantly reduce the power of these scary thoughts- because when we look at them in the light of day we discover two amazing things – one – that the likelihood of that big disaster happening is quite low and two – that if we plan in advance we can take action to avoid the things we don’t want and enhance the chances of things we do want to happen… happening.

The Moral of The Story

You are much more powerful and capable than your fear would have you believe. The disaster stories about the future are just that – big scary movie stories. And actually, they really aren’t that likely. In a strange way, the fear stories about change can be useful to us. They help us to know what we need to manage and to plan for when we are making a change.

You are resourceful. Smart. You can do this.

So promise me, you will do the exercise. Look at your disaster story. Find ways to plan for the exact opposite to happen. And start taking small actions. Keep taking them. Small leads to big. Knowledge = Power.

Tweet this: Make fear your friend.

Part 2: Getting Out of Our Own Way – I Need A Hero!

The Conversation Inside That Keeps You Stuck

There’s a conversation going on inside you right now. Have you noticed?

Every day we talk to ourselves.

Even when we’re not aware of it, we’re chatting away about things that have happened or are about to happen.

But one conversation that keeps people in lives that they know are not meant for them is the one where we tell ourselves how unfair the world is and “why is it that this bad stuff always happens to me?”

You see the assumption in this is that you have no control over where your life is going and this is just not true. A career is a series of choices – if you don’t make them, then they are made for you. And you are much more powerful and capable than letting that happen to you. Imagine, if you will, that you are about to head off on a new adventure. And the next step in your career is the next chapter in the book of your life.

So let me share how to remove the victimised “I’m so unlucky… this stuff just happens to me” mind virus so you can see things for what they really are… just part of an unfolding story…

To do so, I’m first going to suggest to you that you are not a victim of circumstance.

Actually if we were working together I would see you completely differently… I would see you as a hero or  heroine starring in your own movie.

You see our life as journey and I like to think of you as the hero on a quest and that’s the way I want you to think of yourself from here on in.

Because…

The more we reposition how we view ourselves in our OWN minds and our own lives as a brave person standing for what they know is true and good (something we know all heroes do), the more able we are to move through the world achieve the things we’ve always wanted to achieve.

So let me take you on what is called the Hero’s Journey.

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This is the contents page from my book. Your Life Plan, which follows the Heroic Journey from start to finish and gets you unstuck…

Then A Hero Comes Along…

The Hero’s Journey is a map for how change and transformation happens in our lives. It allows us to see that whenever we head toward a grand dream for ourselves, there will be challenges and twists and turns.

If you think about it, like heroines and characters in your favourite films and stories, we are the central character in our own movie.

You are the star, the only person who is in every scene.

We cannot control everything but we can work together with fate and destiny to write our own new chapter. And the more we reposition ourselves as the central character, the more we feel empowered to take decisions and actions in spite of any fear, challenge or resistance that we might feel.

This journey maps out the movement that heroes and heroines make, from a current reality into a new world through adventures and challenges and adversity.  If you think about it this is how change happens in our own lives. And by seeing the twists and turns of the journey as a natural part of your story, we are more able to respect the process and support others and ourselves in tough times.

Walking The Heroic Quest

And it all begins with THE CALL.

The calling to do something different. This is either a push or a pull.  A push is something that forces us to leave what is familiar, while a pull is an opportunity or incentive. A call to step into a new role, or area of work for example.

The hero (i.e. you) usually resists this because it is inconvenient, dangerous or involves leaving their world behind. They resist until the call becomes too strong to resist and then they step into commitment to action.

But here’s the amazing bit about a Hero’s Journey… As soon as they make this commitment a red carpet of support rolls out ahead of them, with allies, support, resources, mentors coming to their aid.

Making it Happen….

As they pull together their plan and their supplies and head out into a magical realm they find there are points where they feel lost  until they reach the grand challenge. The supreme ordeal. They must battle with demons– perhaps external foes or internal limitations. But they win this battle against the odds and, recover, receive rewards, learn and integrate and then return, transformed to share what they have learned with others.

You can map this structure to most classic stories, from Red Riding Hood to Star Wars. And yet, if we look closely, it also applies to the experiences of our lives. Whenever we decide we want to make a major change and we commit to action, we become the heroic character in our story.

And your career if a huge adventure and filled with opportunity for you to shine.

And this is how I see you right now…

As a hero, life will be challenging, there will be times you want to give up. But just knowing that this is a normal part of any transformation … trust me… will liberate and empower you..

Take a look at the map of your own quest.

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Where are you on it?

Spring Into Heroic Action!

Now you know where you are and you know it is meant to be. I want you to consider…what would it take to get you to the next stage of the journey?

What action are you going to take today to get you that little bit further?

The Moral of The Story

Remember you are not a no-hoper, with a lack of direction and an attitude problem – you are a hero or heroine on a quest! And Yes, the quest will be hard at times, and yes, you will get scared, tired, angry, bored on the way. But one thing I know is, you can get to where you want to, if you are willing to no longer let bad programming stop you.

Tweet this: I am the hero or heroine in my own story.

And Finally: Ready, Steady….Go!!!

This final section is all about how to get moving. How to plan for your next steps.

I want to show you how to breakdown the next move in your career into easy and practical steps so you can make things happen fast rather than just hope they come true someday. There’s a lot more detail in my book and Your Breakthrough (www.ericasosna.com) on defining your end goal and ideal work, but this blog can help with that too.

Biting off more than you can chew

A challenge that most of my clients suffer from, which is the goal or dream just seems too big and they frighten themselves off from starting!

But what many don’t  know is that you can make a lot more progress, more quickly… if you start small. Many of us get stuck by thinking about the BIG goal and think we have to jump straight in at the deep end and we naturally have some reservations about doing so. This concern about jumping straight in can mean we sit on our dreams and delay waiting for the perfect time – which never comes!

The way to solve this is to start with really small, easy practical steps.

I want your journey toward your destination to feel as fun and spacious as possible and by following my lead that’s what we’re going to do together.

So let me show you how you take a  BIG goal and turn it into something manageable- something that get’s done.

So here’s my secret planning sauce…

Honey, I Shrunk The Goal!

Often when people think about planning for a goal, they work towards it rather than backwards from it.

The problem with this is that you don’t yet know how you are going to get there.

But working backwards from the goal in the way I am going to show you now is going to help you to get super clear on the steps you need to take so you can , get moving and start changing things up fast.

You see a big career goal is just a ‘journey of 1000 steps’ so all we’re going to do is get a map out the steps, one by one. But the secret to our success will be not starting at the beginning, but starting at the end.

The Exercise To Get You Moving

Write your large dream goal at the top of a page.

Put some numbers around it – a date, some timing, some amounts, maybe a figure in money terms.

Then think about the goal as if it has already happened and you have already got there.

And from this position I want you to imagine – what do you think you did just before you achieved it? And how about the week before? The month before? Work down the page until you get to an action you could take today to start you off on your journey to your destination. And then, get going!

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By working through in this way, starting with the ‘end goal and working backward, you can benefit from the wisdom of your intuition and imagination.

You can work out a path where you did not see one before.

And you can help to keep your motivation when things get tough, by seeing clearly how the action you are taking is specifically focused and useful in helping you get to your end destination.

How I Used This Method to Do What I Dreamed Of Doing

There’s a story for another day about how I got my book deal, using my Your Breakthrough tools, but let’s just say I got there. But then, I had to write Your Life Plan – in 3 months!

And I did it bit by bit, working backward from the deadline I agreed with my publisher, when does the final draft need to be in, when the first draft, when do I need to decide on images, when do we need to finalise the book cover. ……

And today, what do I need to do?

The Moral of the Tale

You can use this ‘work backwards’ method to make a massive dream a practical reality. I’ve used it over and over, to change roles, to set up businesses, to write books, to plan parties, to restore my garden – anything that felt too big and scary to start!

Go on. I dare you.

Tweet: The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!

Go Get Em!!

If you are really ready to get unstuck and are ready to breakthrough your fears and want some help in deciding on a new career path, then please sign up to one my free Your Breakthrough webinars for career changers.

Next Steps

I am so excited for you. I believe in the possibilities and potential you have inside, to be all you can be. I know there’s fear, I know there’s stories about the future that you are using to scare yourself silly. I know you know you are capable of a much more fulfilled life, if you could just get moving in the right direction and define your direction and purpose. If you are ready to start the journey this Free Webinar on successful career change is a great lift off point.

screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-3-10-28-pmErica Sosna is the author of Your Life Plan, a popular motivational speaker and a careers transformation coach working out of London. Since 2004, she has helped hundreds of professionals discover the work they love and take action to get paid to do it. Find out more about how she can help you by clicking here.

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