Feeling stuck? Choose a destination.
Imagine you’re planning a vacation. You know you want to go somewhere this summer. You could go to the beach in Maine, where you might spend your time eating lobster rolls and ice cream from New England creameries while you watch children squeal as they run in and out of the frigid waters. You could go to Montana, where you could spend your evenings enjoying the trout you caught that day on your fly fishing expedition. Or you might go to Paris, where you’d spend your time visiting Musée du Louvre and enjoying fine wines, cheese and pastries along the Seine.
Why You Don’t Act
Each of these vacations would make you happy – so you keep thinking about them. You can’t do them all this year and you find yourself dragging your feet when it comes to deciding, looking for a sign as to which trip would make you happiest. What if it rains? What if a bear eats my trout? How will I find my way around if I don’t speak French? There are a myriad of reasons why each trip might not work out. So you don’t act.
As the week of your vacation approaches, you realize you have nowhere to go. Hotels are no longer available at your desired destinations and the flights are simply too expensive at this point. You plan a staycation instead, with some nice day trips. Yet, all the while you keep thinking about lobster rolls, the ocean-view ferris wheels and the quiet time fishing on the river that you are missing.
I often work with clients who find themselves stuck when thinking about what’s next for them – just as one might be stuck when thinking about a big vacation. They see some great options before them, and each option has the potential to make them happy. As they start to lean toward one direction and define a path forward, the self-talk begins and they quickly find themselves listing all of the reasons why the path they chose won’t work. So they go back to the phase of thinking about what could make them happier than they are today, without taking any real action to move in any one direction.
Not Choosing is Choosing (the Status Quo)
When asked what holds them back from picking a direction forward, clients often share a fear of making the wrong choice or changing their mind at a later date. By choosing one option, it feels like they are closing the doors on the other options – and locking them forever. When clients are feeling stuck in a cycle like this, I find it helpful to ask them, “What is the risk of doing nothing and maintaining the status quo?” In nearly all cases, the answer to this question is living with the regret of not making a move when there was an opportunity. By only thinking about what we don’t want, rather than what we do want, our circumstances remain the same. Recognizing that the act of not choosing anything is, in a way, choosing to remain in the current state. This can be a powerful realization.
Be Specific and Move Intentionally
I like to use the metaphor of the vacation with clients in this situation as it illustrates the idea that in order to move from where we are, we need to know where we are going. By selecting the vacation destination, I am able to do what is needed to reach my destination and make the most of my experience. When I know where I’m going, I can book hotels, flights, find a friend to join me. I can identify the best place for a lobster roll, the best fly-fishing guide, and the best time to see the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night. When we are specific about what we want, we are able to move intentionally in that direction.
Leave Doors Unlocked
The vacation metaphor is also a good way to work with the idea that choosing one destination does not mean saying no to something else forever; it simply means saying no to something else right now. By choosing to go to Maine this summer, I won’t be going to Montana or Paris…this year. Next year I can choose to go back to Maine, visit Montana or Paris, or pick a new destination altogether. I might realize next year that I have developed a passion for SCUBA diving and a trip to the Great Barrier Reef is now my desired destination. When we choose to walk through a door, we do close other doors. However, we can leave those doors unlocked in case our circumstances and desires change along the way.
Sometimes the most important thing you can do if you are feeling stuck is to choose a destination and make decisions that move you along that path. When that destination no longer feels right, it is time to select a new destination and move in that direction.
Are you feeling stuck? If so, contact us to learn more about leadership coaching with The Nebo Company.