There aren’t too many things that feel worse in career, business, or life than the feeling that you’re stuck. We hear about people feeling stuck quite a bit these days and there are a plethora of books and posts about the experience of feeling unable to move forward in life.
If you’ve ever felt stuck in your career or life, these feelings may sound very familiar:
Being stuck can make you feel empty, hopeless, wiped out, and downright pissed off. Being stuck can seem to you as though your life is meaningless while everyone around you has direction. You just don’t know which way to turn to fix things and move forward again. People around you try to advise you but everything they suggest feels off the mark.
Frankly, this is just what I have been going through for a long time now. Almost 5 years, to be exact.
And I’ve been keeping it a secret. Or trying to at least.
The irony of this is as an experienced coach and business advisor, I’m pretty good at helping other people get un-stuck on a regular basis.
So why couldn’t I do this for myself?
So in order to answer this question, let me take you back to when it all started – this stuck-ness.
In 2010, I decided to move my coaching and training business, and my life, to California.
I had just ended a 5-year relationship, and I was soooo sick of winters back East. I am a summer girl and love being outdoors and being active. Tennis, and running, and hiking are things you can’t do year-round back East. I would find myself waiting 6 months of the year for the weather to turn warmer. That’s an awful lot of waiting.
Moving to California was a no-brainer : great weather, lots of close family, I knew my way around having lived there before, and I had the networking skills and a roster of clients to work with virtually.
It all looked perfect.
Baxter the dog and I got on the plane and headed West.
I don’t remember being happier than during those first couple of months in California.
I was feeling successful, in the midst of a big extended family, opportunity was huge, and I was in endless sunshine and warmth.
Then, I went for my yearly mammogram at UCLA and I experienced my own personal earthquake.
For the next few weeks, doubt and terror filled me. But this wasn’t a typical breast cancer scare. If the diagnosis was positive, it would be my 4th bout of it.
The news was both good and bad.
The bad news was that it was a malignancy that required major surgery. The good news was that it was super-early and I wouldn’t need chemotherapy.
So, within 2 months of this move, I went through life-altering and body-altering surgery.
Being a very fast recoverer, I was very, very lucky.
But now let’s get back to the point of this post.
Back to being stuck.
You see, within 2 weeks of my surgery, I got right back in the saddle and went back to work with clients. I had the rent to pay, contracts to fulfill, and work that had to be done.
But somehow, I couldn’t get my mojo back.
Try as I might, I didn’t feel the same about my business.
Look at my backyard office and tell me I shouldn’t have been motivated.
I wanted to. And in truth, when I started working again there were some clients who did ignite a spark of enthusiasm again. (Thank you guys – you know who you are).
But mostly my business started contracting.
My eagerness to network and prospect and generate leads in the old ways just felt boring and inauthentic. It was much more difficult to cultivate my “tribe.”
So I started retreating.
A dear friend suggested I start tapping into my creative side to find myself again.
Being stuck and stressed to the max, I took her advice.
I started painting, distressing and refinishing furniture.
I did feel really good. But as for my business – STUCK!
I was in the most amazing paradox: Living in the most beautiful place with gorgeous inspiring views, but my life and my business were totally uninspiring.
I felt as though I was just doing the same thing over and over and not growing.
And here was the worst of it.
My confidence was in the toilet.
Over time, it got somewhat better. I wrote my book on networking, Network Like A Fox. I was happy to have a goal, complete the project, and enjoy the process. I had fun speaking all over the country on this topic and others.
Things started to get better. A little.
But the feeling of STUCK, not moving forward, being in a rut, pervaded.
And it was a very lonely feeling – being stuck and not having anyone to really brainstorm with. That was one of the worst feelings. I had always enjoyed being a solopreneur, but now I truly missed having a partner or colleagues to brainstorm with.
I asked for advice, coaching, input. I tried many things. I had a new idea every month to move my business forward.
But none took hold. None inspired me.
None held my attention long enough to develop any traction.
Then, I started to learn how to dance. How I found dancing, or it found me, was an accident.
A friend dragged me to a local country music dance hall (I had always hated country music) but, go figure, I fell in love with country music and two-step dancing.
A bit later, I also found West Coast Swing, a really fun but challenging dance.
The challenge of learning to dance, feeling myself overcome the hurdle of going from novice to not-so-bad and having so much fun brought new energy to my life.
As I made new friends, and my confidence started to come back, I also worked on getting into shape. I got stronger and fitter than I had ever been. I was running 3 miles every other day, playing tennis, dancing 3-4 nights a week, eating really well and enjoying a wonderful social life.
Yet my business was still in neutral.
And then the first amazing thing happened.
I heard a podcast with Anthony Robbins about living on purpose.
Amazing Aha #1: I had been unclear about my purpose. This explained why all of the attempts at new directions hadn’t panned out. They were unconnected to my larger purpose and mission.
I now knew my search for purpose had to precede whatever I decided to do next professionally. I knew that I had learned and cultivated lots skills and abilities I wanted to share with people. I knew I wanted to make a difference with others in a much bigger way than I had before.
So I went on a Purpose Quest.
I created a vision board.
I started meditating every day and focused on detecting my purpose.
I started watching for signs and signals about what to do next aligned with my purpose – whatever that was!
On a strange whim, I registered for an online course in building new business models.
The course was terrific but in the beginning I still felt kinda stuck.
Then as I interacted with the community and the leader of the course, it hit me.
Amazing Aha #2: I felt a strong yearning to build and inspire a community of my own, helping them succeed. How? Well, I’ll share that a little later so read on.
As I learned and participated in this course, I found my community of amazing supportive business people to brainstorm with. My direction formed, and my ideas started lining up.
In my focusing and visioning exercises, I created the intention of living a life where my work felt like play.
And that’s what it started to feel like. My brain was challenged, my creativity was challenged, my connection to others in my community expanded.
But here’s the thing: as excited as I was, I knew, without a doubt, that I was going to have to pull the curtain back and share my personal story.
I realized that in order for others to be attracted to my community, they needed to know why they should follow me. I knew that people follow those whom they can relate to, those with whom they resonate, those whose stories impact them and inspire them.
That is how connection is generated – and sustained.
Amazing Aha #3 – I was now ready to tell my story – all of it and trust that the story would not diminish my image or value to the business community. I had to trust that telling my story, reveal the truth, would not only help others see their value and purpose, but build the powerful community I envisioned.
I now could truly believe that I was capable of creating this, where before it was only a nice wish.
Looking back, the best way I can describe being stuck is
“it’s hell in the hallway”
I now feel like I’m back in the light again – most of the time.
I do get moments of doubt. That’s when my community reminds me who I am – for the community I want to build.
What I’ve learned, so far, about being stuck, and what it takes to get unstuck is the following:
1. We are stuck for a reason, usually because we’re supposed to stretch into something new, way bigger, way more challenging.
2. You can’t rush getting unstuck. It’s a process and all you can do is the personal exploration work needed until you gain the new awareness and readiness to move forward.
3. Having community – whether it’s a coach or a mastermind group or a business community or a spiritual community – is so essential to get the support and smarts of others to help you.
You know, when I was in the worst of my stuck-ness, I did know that I would eventually come out of it. I just hated having to be patient, I hated that I couldn’t just take an action and have things shift immediately.
Being stuck can happen to anyone -whether you’re brilliant or not-so, successful or struggling, hard-working or a slacker. Lots and lots of people go through a career or life quagmire.
In fact, Tim Butler, director of career development programs at Harvard Business School recently authored a best-selling book entitled, Getting Unstuck:How Dead Ends Become New Paths (check out the itunes podcast here).
Now, with that “stuck” residue starting to wash away, I understand how my dead end was essential for me to see the green arrow pointing me to new purpose, passion, and productivity.
Soon, in an upcoming post, I’ll be sharing all about the project that I’m working on now and ideally what’s in it for you too.
After all, without being of real value to you folks, I’m right back in that hellish hallway.
P.S. In the meantime, this a personal invitation to visit me (and “like”) me on my Facebook Business Fox Page where I’ll be posting some meaty videos on some of the new business strategies I’ll be revealing. And I’ll soon be doing some Facebook Live video streams – so I’ll be at your disposal to answer business questions about getting unstuck, confidence in business, and new business strategies and tools to help you and your business grow in big new ways.