Do you ever feel like you are stuck or at the crossroads of your career?
I originally wrote this article in the early days of the new year. Irrespective of what time of year it is, I encourage you to ask yourself:
- Are you heading to work after a holiday break and your heart isn’t filled with joy?
- Is your head a bit fuzzy with the possibilities in front of you …? or the lack of possibilities?
- Are you struggling to set your goals or objectives?
- Are you worried that you have no idea what your passion or purpose is, despite Instagram and Facebook telling you that you MUST define them?
You are not the Lone Ranger my friend!
I have worked with literally thousands of women who have felt the same or similar. Some of those women have been courageous enough to share those doubts that have plagued them. Here’s some of the things that I have learned about women and being at the crossroads:
- I don’t really know what makes me happy
- I do not stop to give myself credit for the things I have accomplished in my life
- I don’t have enough ‘me time’
- I don’t sleep enough
- I really don’t look forward to going to work
- I don’t like talking about myself
- I don’t know what my purpose is
- I feel stuck, how do I get unstuck
- I never have enough time
- I am restless, I want to do something different, but I don’t know what
- I don’t know who I am anymore
- I am at a turning point and I need guidance
- I want to take care of me now
- I want to be in control
- I’m busy doing nothing
Women share these insights with me because I ask them (often) to stop, breathe and reflect.
What if women put themselves first?
The theme that comes through over and over again for me when I work with women is that they are putting themselves last, over and over again. There are many theories about why this is, however given the work I do in gender equality, I know that gendered stereotypes around the 3 C’s (cooking, cleaning and caring) play a big part.
What constitutes women’s work versus men’s work means that women often prioritise themselves last, at the expense of their physical, emotional and career well-being.
I wonder what would happen if women chose to prioritise themselves, their wellbeing, their happiness and their career?
Your priorities are exactly that. Yours. But setting your priorities means taking the time to examine what is important to you and why.
When women work with me, they are buying time. Time for themselves to reflect and learn, about themselves. I am a firm believer that the power of reflective exercises cannot be underestimated. Reflection doesn’t mean navel gazing or simply wandering back through your personal history. It means taking time off the hamster wheel of busyness (oh that B word!) to examine what makes you tick and why. I mean, when was the last time you simply sat and daydreamed?
Reflection gives your brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, to untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning. This meaning becomes learning, which can then inform your future mindsets and actions.
If you don’t know what got you here, how will you know where your ‘there’ is?
I get it. I am all about #GSD, but to know thyself is a gift. You might think you know yourself. You might think you know who you are. But look closely, do you really?
Why do you behave as you do? How do you make decisions? How do you feel about yourself? Why? How do you feel about the people in your life? Why?
Ralph Ellison said, “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” Self-Awareness is the foundation for emotional intelligence (EQ) self-leadership and is a skill. It is also the foundation for The Advancing Women Formula, my 6 module female leadership program.
However, let’s get you into action mode with some practical steps to start your reflective practice and journey to freedom.
- Mindfulness Meditation: develop your observer muscles
Mindfulness meditation is not about clearing your mind of all thoughts. It is about practicing an activity that focusses your attention on one thing, often your own breath, for a period of time. It helps to develop your ability to observe self. I use iPhone apps for guided meditations such as Calm, Headspace and Smiling Mind. All of these are either free or have free trials.
- Self-Questioning: How to answer ‘is this it?’ and other vexing questions.
- Your Strengths: Know Them, Use Them
Knowing your strengths and preferences is a key reflective exercise. It is also a practical way to get some insight into what you might want to consider doing more of or less of. I highly recommend the Gallup Strengths Finder. USD$20 will get you your top 5 strengths, an insight report and action plan. Plus an e-book on all of the 34 strengths.
- Discover Your Values: honour them every day
I know that the times when I have been most unhappy, restless or unfulfilled is when I am out of sync with my personal values. Your values highlight what you stand for. When you are aware of them and honour your values in your life, relationships and work, you are more likely to experience fulfilment and less likely to escape into bad habits.
I hope these tips and tools help you get unstuck and move beyond the cross-roads. Because we need more of you at the top! Not at the cross-roads.