Feeling stuck? Don’t worry. Most of us have felt stuck at some point in our lives.
While it’s easy to question ourselves, and go down a spiral of self-doubt and self-blame. You might find comfort in knowing – it’s not necessarily your fault. Parents. Friends. Family. Society. They have played their part.
From the moment we’re born, we’re bombarded with opinions and messages about who we SHOULD be. How we SHOULD behave. What we SHOULD do. SHOULD want. SHOULD strive for. With social media multiplying these messages by the thousands. Leaving us confused. And often feeling stuck.
The problem isn’t necessarily the volume. It’s the variation. The differences in opinion are leaving us completely confused as to what is ‘right’, what is ‘wrong’ and what on earth we ‘should’ be doing with our lives.
One minute we’re told to put job security first so we can always provide for ourselves and our families. Next we’re told to quit our jobs and chase our dreams.
We’re told to leave our emotions at the office door. And then told to develop our emotional intelligence in the office for greater career success.
We’re told to strive and fight for what we want. And then told to let go of our ‘ego’ and not want anything at all.
We’re told to go to the gym and work hard for those flat abs. And then told to love and accept our bodies as they are.
We’re told to be laser-focused entrepreneurs, sleeping only 4 hours a night. And then told “nobody wished they worked harder on their deathbed” and to make parenthood and relationships our priority instead.
But all these mixed messages are leading us to be afraid. Afraid of living our lives in the ‘wrong’ way. Causing us to make decisions based on what we think we ‘should’ do and not on what we want. Or afraid, if we did what we wanted, we’d fail. Causing us to not do anything at all. Both leaving us feeling stuck.
I know. I’ve been there.
My dream was to become a psychologist. But I ended up a financial services recruiter. Why? Because when I returned from my gap year, I saw all my peers working in high-profile jobs, in multinational companies, earning huge salaries. And all of a sudden, my dream of working in the UK public sector didn’t seem good enough. Because the message I was getting from my peers, from society, was that success was working in a well-paid job in the corporate world.
So that’s what I did. And for the next 3 years I was miserable. Because I was now in a career that wasn’t aligned to who I was: my passions, my strengths, my values. Every day I was living a career lie, trying to be someone I wasn’t. It was exhausting. Feeling stuck was also exhausting.
It was only when I got made redundant in the financial crisis of 2009, I began to understand where I’d gone wrong. I’d been “living” my career from fear.
The fear of what others would think. Of being socially and financially left behind. The fear of not being good enough and not being loved. Fears that drove me to listen to the outside messages telling me what I should be doing with my life.
It was only when I started to listen to myself, my journey to coaching began.
Since being a coach, I’ve worked with over a thousand men and women feeling ‘stuck’. Stuck not achieving their personal, professional or business goals. Or stuck in a relationship or job they don’t enjoy. Or stuck in a negative place – emotionally or physically. And what I observed was this. In every single case, they were all stuck for the same reason. Because, in that particular area of their life, they were ‘living’ from fear.
When we live from fear:
- We choose jobs that don’t fulfill us because of the fear of financial insecurity or what other people think. And get stuck in those jobs because of the fear of what we’ll lose if we leave.
- We micromanage our teams because of the fear of not being in control. And get stuck in high employee turnover and zero company growth.
- We aggressively dictate to our employees, peers and loved ones because we fear nobody will listen to us if we don’t. Getting us stuck with a bad reputation, leaving us feeling isolated and misunderstood.
- We get stuck in relationships we know aren’t right for us because of the fear of being alone. Or get stuck being single because of the fear of the pain relationships and dating can bring.
- We get stuck addicted to our phones, food, alcohol and cigarettes because of the fear of actually feeling our emotions.
- We get stuck chasing ‘likes’ on social media because of the fear of not being loved.
But I also observed something else. The best decisions they ever made – the ones most meaningful to them – they made from another place. From love. Love for themselves. Love for others.
And so I thought. What if when we live from love, not only do we keep moving forward but we keep moving forward in a life that’s right for us?
Now I know some of you just thought, “Oh no. Did she really just say the ‘L’ word? Please don’t start with the fluff.” I know this because 3 years ago – I’d have had the same reaction. But when I got clear on my definition of love – it made sense.
What is love?
The definition I go by is this:
Love is the ACT of genuine and unconditional caring and giving (expecting nothing in return), having the other person’s emotional, mental and physical well-being and development as a priority in our lives. Self-love is doing this for ourselves. (Note the lack of mushy, fluffy feelings and pink hearts here!)
This includes doing things that don’t feel good to us, but are good FOR us. And letting others experience things that don’t feel good to them, but are good FOR them.
Love is letting go of our need for control. Trusting our teams and partners to take the reigns. Giving them the freedom to make mistakes. Giving ourselves the freedom to make mistakes. Not withdrawing our love when we do.
Love is letting go of trying to control everyone’s opinion of us. Or trying to get them to be who we want them to be. Love is accepting ourselves and others as they are.
Love is letting go of our need to always protect ourselves, our kids and employees from the pains of life and business.
Because when we let go, we let each other grow.
When we live from fear, we focus on survival. Simply doing the things we need to do to get through the day and to avoid pain. The pain of rejection. Financial insecurity. Failure. Judgement. We react to life as it happens to us. Only taking action when a problem arises. Often waiting for something outside of us to change. Or for someone else to make a decision for us.
To be clear. We’re not trying to eliminate fear. We need fear. If you’re unemployed and have $1 left in your bank account, then survival is the priority. Meaning and purpose can be figured out later.
The issue is when we ONLY live from fear. Because then every decision is based on avoiding pain. Not on our growth or the growth of others. Or moving our careers, relationships or businesses forward in a meaningful or purposeful direction. We simply stay stuck between avoiding pain and seeking comfort. Recognising, when experienced for too long, even comfort can become uncomfortable.
But when we live from love and make decisions that are best for ourselves and those around us. Our lives can ONLY move forward in a meaningful and purposeful direction. Because every decision is made ON purpose in a way meaningful to us.
Living from love
It’s not easy to live from love. On a subconscious level, our number one priority is to survive. Meaning those thoughts of “What if that (insert negative thing) happens?” effortlessly (and subconsciously) flood our minds as our reptilian brain tries to keep up alive. Love, on the other hand, requires CONSCIOUS consideration. We have to CONSCIOUSLY make the effort each and every single day to ask ourselves:
“Right now, what is the most loving / caring / giving / growth-enhancing thing I can do for myself / my employees / team / loved ones?”
“Which decision can I make here that would be most meaningful and purposeful to me / my team / loved ones?”
“What is the best thing for me and others on a deeper, more meaningful / spiritual level in my career, relationships, health, leisure time etc.?”
It also means asking those around us what is the most loving or best thing you can do for them. What’s loving for us might not be loving for them. We might want try and fix their problems but they might just want us to listen.
Love requires courage. Humility. Discipline. To have those conversations with colleagues we don’t like about how we can support each other so we can all achieve our personal goals. To apologise to our teams for being a micromanaging boss, asking them how we can do better and then, do better. Pulling our teams together in a room, giving them the space to share their fears and frustrations and committing to supporting them come hell or high water. To choose your health, family and sanity over trying to maintain your lifestyle. Or image.
(Thank you Simon Sinek #SimonSinek for your thoughts and inspiration: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6479979635844136960/)
All I can tell you is this. When I got this. I mean really got this. My life changed in ways I could never imagine. And I don’t mean materially. I mean emotionally. Spiritually. Those moments of deep meaning and fulfillment we’re all chasing happened more and more. And I made more progress in my own personal journey of discovering who I am and what’s most important to me in MY life.
If you’re stuck in an area of your life right now, ask yourself, “Where am I living from? Fear or love?” Because if you want a different result, you might need to live from a different place.
The fear will always be there. The external voices, opinions and messages will always be there. And it’s hard to not pay attention to them. But when we choose to live more from love, instead of living as who we think we should be, we live as who we are. And when we do that, we keep moving forward in a life that’s right for us.
Where will you live your life from in 2019?
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About the Author
Zeta Yarwood is recognised as a leading Career Coach and NLP Life Coach in Dubai, helping individuals across the world to achieve success in all areas of their lives. With a degree in Psychology and over 10 years’ experience in coaching, management and recruitment – working for multinational companies and award-winning recruitment firms – Zeta is an expert in unlocking human potential. Passionate about helping people discover their strengths, talents and motivation, Zeta lives to inspire others to dream big and create the life and career they really want.