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Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

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Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

1. Make Time for You

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

4. Work on Your Personal Brand

Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

5. Be Accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

8. Learn to Embrace Failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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“I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

9. Build Your Resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

10. Ask for Help

It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

  1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

Final Thoughts

You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

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More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Lucy Gower

Founder at Lucidity. Coach, trainer and consultant as well as a best-selling author and international speaker.

How to Start Taking Action on Your Goals and Dreams Now How to Live Your Best Life Starting Today 11 Killer Ways to Gain Confidence and Boost Your Self-Esteem Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

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Last Updated on January 10, 2022

How to Make Big Life Changes (Your Complete Guide)

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How to Make Big Life Changes (Your Complete Guide)

Overcoming fear and making life changes is hard. It’s even harder when it’s a big change—breaking up with someone you love, leaving your old job, starting your own business, or hundreds of other difficult choices.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama

Even if it’s obvious that making a big change will be beneficial, it can be tough. Our mind wants to stay where it’s comfortable, which means doing the same things we’ve always done[1].

We worry: how do we know if we’re making the right decision? We wish we knew more. How do we make a decision without all of the necessary information?

We feel stuck. How do we get past fear and move forward with that thing we want to do?

Can a Person Really Change Life?

Changing a life is dependent on your will and motivation to change. If you are up for it, then you can do it. It cannot be said simpler than this.

Of course, exceptional cases where genetics or personality of an individual does play a part in determining if they can change or not. But for most of us, the power to change lives lies within ourselves.

You just need to be patient and be prepared to go through some major life transformations.

When you find your purpose and are entirely motivated to reach your goals, you can really change a life. Sure, it would take substantial efforts and a lot more than just being motivated. But it is possible!

Well, we certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are 7 things to remember when you want to move forward and make positive life changes.

What Are Some Big Changes in Life?

A major change in life is an event that forces us to change the way we look at things and how we see the world. It can be anything from as simple as moving out of your parents’ house to having a child. The thing that makes them ‘major’ is how they influence you and change things in your life.

Major changes often make you worry about what’s going to happen next in your life. They are a time of struggle and stress, that either result in a breakthrough or a life lesson. What’s important is to be prepared to take on life’s challenges by having a positive mindset towards change.

How the Major Changes in Life Affect Us

Major changes have big effects on our life. They essentially stir the core of our existence and make us start from scratch. One of the most important characteristics of a major life change is that we are traveling unchartered waters.

It is very easy to feel done with life and not want to take care of yourself, your responsibilities, or those around you. However, the goal of existence is to struggle and constantly change our environment till it suits us.

To understand how we can combat major changes in life, we must first understand the effect they have on us. Some of the most prominent impacts are:

1. Difficulty in Adjusting

Many people going through a major change in life will feel difficulty adjusting. Regardless of whether that life change is a positive life change or a negative one, it will have its apprehensions. People may feel like they don’t fit into the new setting they find themselves in.

2. Feeling of Hopelessness

Change can bring with it feelings of hopelessness and depression that can cause you to feel overwhelmed. This is because, with major changes in life, you are bound to face setbacks and failures as well. Without having the comfort of parents, friends, or even financial security to cushion that fall, reality often hits hard and leaves an impact.

3. Mental and Physical Fatigue

Studies show that with major changes in your life, you are bound to be more mentally and physically exhausted. This is because changes require extra effort which takes up most of your energy.

You may find yourself in a situation where you work so hard you cannot go to the gym anymore because you are tired. It can also be a mental reluctance to do things like hobbies because rest is so hard to come by.

4. Agitation and Irritation

A person can become more agitated with themselves and those around them when they go through major changes in life. There are a lot of other factors that contribute to this, such as being short-tempered, exhausted, past your limit, and in need of rest which can cause people to lash out. Similarly in the event of a positive change, people may feel agitated if they aren’t being given enough attention or appreciation.

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5. Struggling with Financials

Financial changes impact your economic life and spending habits. It may come in the form of bankruptcy or hitting the jackpot. You may need to set aside money for college or rent. It would put you through a process of having to give up expenses that are not essential to you.

6. Distancing of Relationships

Distancing relationships is quite common when someone is faced with a major change in their life. Priorities are readjusted and bonds between people get weaker with distance and lack of quality time. In the event of good changes, people’s victories can often uncover hidden jealousy or lead to a conflict of interest between friends.

When Is the Right Time to Start Changing Life?

You can indeed start changing your life any moment you decide, but how would one decide when to start changing life? Various tell-tale signs indicate it’s time for a change.

1. When Your Current Life Shakes Your Physical and Mental Health

While you might do your best to live your life to the fullest by fulfilling your duties and responsibilities, it does not always mean that your life is ideal. In the quest to live a life of our dreams, we sometimes break ourselves by putting too much pressure on our physical selves. We don’t even bother if it starts affecting us mentally during such times.

When you start observing that your routine life is negatively affecting your physical and mental health, then take it as a sign that you need to start changing your life.

2. You Can’t Maintain Work-Life Balance

Overcompensating on only specific facets of life leads to a disturbed work-life balance. While occasional instances when you are required to focus on a particular role more than other aspects are unavoidable, you need to be watchful when this becomes a habit.

Failure to maintain a harmonious balance between work and life is a clear indication that you are overstressed and leading in the wrong direction.

Do you really want to keep focusing on a particular facet, or do you want to have a tuneful life balance? Ask yourself these questions when you observe deviation in your work-life balance, and then make efforts to start changing your life.

3. You Feel Stuck

Several circumstances lead us to a mental state where we lose confidence in ourselves and create a mental block. Situations like the death of a loved one, getting fired from a job, losing child custody battle, getting a divorce, etc., might bring about numerous negative emotions.

“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.” – Georg C. Lichtenberg

Some of these traits tend to push people into a dark ditch where they feel stuck till they recognize it.

It is okay to experience a negative thought every once in a while when you are going through completely horrid. However, it should never let your get stuck in life. Failure to step out of your comfort zone is a sign that you need to make drastic changes in life.

4. You Start Forming Negative Habits

As a spiral effect of feeling stuck, people tend to take support of negative habits. Forming bad habits like drinking, smoking, overeating, etc., is an indication that you are not taking this well. Many are inclined to overdo the habits they already have and deliberately start hurting themselves.

Remember that inflicting pain on yourself is never helpful in resolving the issues, and neither would it help you heal from the pain and mental torment. Adapting habits that you consciously realize are bad for you is a shout-out that you need to start changing your life.

5. Your Lifestyles Fail to Lead You to Your Goals

We are adaptable beings, so we try to accommodate ourselves to fit the situation. Many times, we start forming habits because of circumstances without thinking if it is in sync with our life goals. This is where the negativity starts amplifying to other life aspects.

Therefore, it is important to reflect on your life every once in a while. It helps you regain your focus and realize if you are moving in the proper direction towards achieving your goals.

4 Steps to Dealing with Big Life Changes

We can’t control every aspect of our lives, and we can’t stop change from happening. However, how we respond to change will greatly affect our overall life experience.

Here are 4 ways you can approach life changes in a positive way.

1. Don’t Fight It

I once heard one of my favorite yoga instructors say “Suffering is what occurs when we resist what is already happening.” The lesson has stuck with me ever since.

Life changes are usually out of our control. Rather than trying to manipulate the situation and wishing things were different, try flowing with it instead.

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Of course, some initial resistance is natural if we’re going into survival mode. Just make sure you are conscious of when this resistance is no longer serving you.

If you’re feeling anxious about impending life changes, it’s time to practice some techniques to address the anxiety directly. These can include meditation, exercise, talking with friends about how you’re feeling, or journaling.

If you’re worried about a big life change, such as starting a new job [2] or moving in with your partner, do your best to control your expectations. It may help you to talk with people you know about their experiences going through similar changes. This will help you form a realistic picture in your mind of what things will look like post-change.

2. Find Healthy Ways to Deal With Feelings

Whenever we’re in transitional periods, it can be easy to lose track of ourselves. Sometimes we feel like we’re being tossed about by life and like we’ve lost our footing, causing some very uncomfortable feelings to arise.

One way we can channel these feelings is by finding healthy ways to release them. For instance, whenever I find myself in a difficult transitional phase, I end up in a mixed martial arts studio.

The physical activity helps me channel my emotions and release endorphins. It also helps me get in shape, which generally increases my mood and energy levels.

Exercise is important in cultivating positive emotions, but if you’re struggling with anxiety in particular, it’s important to cultivate a regular exercise routine as opposed to a one-off workout. One study found that “Aerobic exercise can promote increase in anxiety acutely and regular aerobic exercise promotes reduction in anxiety levels” [3].

If exercise isn’t your thing, there are other, less intense ways of cultivating positive emotions and reducing anxiety around life changes. You can try stretching, meditating, reading in nature, spending time with family and friends, or cooking a healthy meal.

Find what makes you feel good and helps you ground yourself in the present moment.

3. Reframe Your Perspective

Reframing perspectives is a very powerful tool used in life coaching. It helps clients take a situation they are struggling with, such as a major life change, and find some sort of empowerment in it.

Some examples of disempowered thinking during life changes include casting blame, focusing on negative details, or victimizing [4]. These perspectives can make awkward transitional phases much worse than they have to be.

Meanwhile, if we utilize a more positive perspective, such as finding a lesson in the situation, realizing that there may be an opportunity for something, or that everything passes, we can come from a greater place of ease.

4. Find Time for Self-Reflection

Having time to reflect is important at any stage in your life, but it’s especially important during transitional periods. It’s quite simple really: we need our time to step back and get centered when things get a little crazy.

As a result, big life changes are perfect for doing some self-reflection. They are opportunities to check in with ourselves and practice getting grounded for a few minutes.

Take a look at this reflective cycle adapted from Glibb’s Self-reflection guide (1988): [5]

    Source: Reserachgate

    Self-reflective exercises include meditating, yoga or journaling, [6] all of which require some quiet time to get yourself together.

    One study found that journal improves “self-efficacy, locus of control, and learning” [7]. A healthy sense of self-control can make the process of change easier to bear, so that in itself is a great reason to try self-reflection through journaling.

    To learn how to start journaling, you can check out this article.

    7 Reminders When You’re About to Give Up Changing

    When you feel your lifestyle (attitude towards the job, work, marriage, friends, etc.) will never help you achieve your goal, it is time to press a little reset button and start changing lives.

    1. You’ll Never Have All the Information

    We often avoid making important decisions because we want more information before we make a tough call.

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    Yes, it’s certainly true that you need to do your research, but if you’re waiting for the crystal clear answer to come to you, then you’re going to be waiting a long time. As humans, we are curious creatures, and our need for information can be paralyzing.

    Life is a series of guesses, mistakes, and revisions. Make the best decision you can at the time and continue to move forward. This also means learning to listen to and trust your intuition. Here’s how.

    2. Have the Courage to Trust Yourself

    We make all sorts of excuses for not making important life changes, but the limiting belief that often underlies many of them is that we don’t trust ourselves to do the right thing.

    We think that if we get into a new situation, we won’t know what to do or how to react. We’re worried that the uncharted territory of the future will be too much for us to handle.

    Give yourself more credit than that.

    You’ve dealt with unexpected changes before, right? And when your car got a flat tire on the way to work, how did that end up? Or when you were unexpectedly dumped?

    In the end, you were fine.

    Humans are amazingly adaptable, and your whole life has been helping you develop skills to face unexpected challenges.

    Have enough courage to trust yourself. No matter what happens, you’ll figure out a way to make it work.

    3. What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

    Like jealousy, most of your fears are created in your own head.

    When you actually sit down and think about the worst case scenario, you’ll realize that there are actually very few risks that you can’t recover from.

    “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.” – Harold Wilson

    Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Once you realize the worst isn’t that bad, you’ll be ready to crush it.

    When you’re preparing to make a big life change, write down all of the things you’re afraid of. Are you afraid of failing? Of looking silly? Of losing money? Of being unhappy?

    Then, address each fear by writing down ways you can overcome them. For example, if you’re afraid of losing money, can you take a few months to save up a safety net?

    4. It’s as Much About the Process as It Is About the Result

    We’re so wrapped up in results when we think about major life changes. We worry that if we start out towards a big goal, then we might not make it to the finish line.

    However, you’re allowed to change your mind. And failing will only help you learn what not to do next time.

    Furthermore, just because you don’t reach the final goal doesn’t mean you failed. You chose the goal in the first place, but you’re allowed to alter it if you find that the goal isn’t working out the way you hoped. Failure is not a destination, and neither is success.

    Enjoy the process of moving forward[8].

    5. Continue to Pursue Opportunity

    If you’re on the fence about a big decision, then you might be worried about getting locked into a position that you can’t escape from.

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    Think about it a different way. New choices rarely limit your options.

    In fact, new pursuits often open up even more opportunities. One of the best things about going after important goals with passion is that they open up chances and options that you never could have expected in the beginning.

    If you pursue the interesting opportunities that arise along the path to your goal, then you can be sure that you’ll always have choices.

    6. Effort Matters, So Use It

    It sounds simple, but one of the big reasons we don’t make life changes is because we don’t try. And we don’t try because then it’s easy to make excuses for why we don’t get what we want.

    Flunked that test? Are you stupid? “Of course I’m not stupid. I just didn’t study. I would have gotten an A if I actually studied.”

    Stuck in a job you hate? Why haven’t you found a new job yet? “Well, I haven’t really tried to get a new job. I could totally ace that interview if I wanted.”

    Why do we make excuses like these to ourselves? It’s because if we try and fail, then we just failed. But if we don’t try, we can chalk it up to laziness.

    Get over it. Failure happens to everyone.

    And the funny thing is, if you actually try—because it’s pretty clear that most people aren’t trying—then you’ll win a lot more than you think.

    7. Start With Something Manageable

    You can’t climb Everest if you don’t try hiking beforehand.

    Maybe applying for your dream job seems intimidating right now. What can you start with today?

    Can you talk to someone who already has that position and see what they think makes them successful? Can you improve your skills so you meet one of the qualifications? Can you take a free online course to expand your resume?

    Maybe you’re not quite ready for a long-term relationship, but you know you want to start dating. Could you try asking out a mutual friend? Can you go out more with friends to practice your communication skills and meet new people?

    You don’t need to be a world changer today; you just need to make small life changes in your own world.

    Final Thoughts

    Changing a life is not a one-day job. It requires consistent efforts and dog determination to bring drastic life transformation.

    You can start by making small changes and setting achievable goals. And in no time, you would see yourself in a transformed personality.

    Changing a life is difficult but possible. You can have a life-changing experience only if you sign up for it with persistence. If your will is strong enough to support your decision, any life changes are possible!

    More Tips to Help You Make Life Changes

    Featured photo credit: Victor Rodriguez via unsplash.com

    Reference

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