The Irreverent Professor

Unvarnished realities about life, teaching, learning, and change in this wild, wild world

Archive for the month “January, 2015”

Getting Unstuck: Taking Action

I had two conversations with friends yesterday that have me thinking.  Both said that there had come a point (or several) in their lives in which they got “stuck” in some way and had a hard time getting unstuck.  It’s a relief to know I’m not alone in this.  What I’ve come to realize is that being stuck takes many different forms:

  • Stuck in a career – you don’t like the career you’ve chosen or you’re bored with what you’ve done for the last x years.
  • Stuck in a job – you love where you work but you’re feeling unfulfilled or you like what you do but not where you do it.
  • Stuck in a relationship – you’re in a bad relationship or you’re in a good relationship but you’ve gotten bored, lost each other, gotten stale.
  • Stuck in creative endeavors – writer’s block, wanting to get back into something creative you did before marriage, before kids, in college.
  • Stuck in education – I’ve advised many students who have changed majors umpteen times, gone to school with PhD students got stuck at ABD (all but dissertation), and talked to many who want to go back to school but “can’t” because _____ (fill in the blank here – too old, can’t afford it, too busy, etc.)

And these are just a few.

I’ve been thinking about how stuck I am for, oh, going on a good year now.  So who am I to talk about getting unstuck?  But one of the ways I was stuck was geographically.  I liked where I was living, but there’s only ever been one place that has had my heart.  A place I knew I was meant to be.  And in May 2014, we moved back to this place.  Finally.  After 25 years of living elsewhere.  Finally, we’re back.  Finally, we can afford to be back.  Finally, we accumulated the right combination of education, experience, and risk acceptance to move back to our little town and make a home here.  Sure we had to downsize and change our lifestyle in certain ways.  But sacrifice is also part of getting unstuck. (Hey, I think I just discovered my next blog post topic.  Yay me!).

My hometown, St. Simons Island, Georgia.  No better place on earth - for me.

My hometown, St. Simons Island, Georgia. No better place on earth – for me.

One of my biggest challenges (which I’m sure is shared by others) is paralysis of analysis.  I’ll think about and talk about being stuck.  I’ll lament and complain and get depressed about being stuck. I’ll whine and bitch and moan (and then wonder why suddenly none of my friends are available for lunch dates). But none of that does a damn thing to help me get unstuck.  The only way to get unstuck is to Take Action.  So we took action on the geographic stuckness.  Big Action.

But all action to get unstuck doesn’t have to be Big.  It can be small action.  It’s a lot less daunting to consider small action, taking one tiny baby step in the direction of getting unstuck.

I highly recommend this career book, which is tied to the Myers Briggs Personality Type Inventory.  It's one of my favorites.

I highly recommend this career book, which is tied to the Myers Briggs Personality Type Inventory. It’s one of my favorites.

In the past when I’ve felt stuck in a career (which has happened to me a lot!  I get bored easilly), I haven’t (always) just up and quit a job and gone back to college. I’ve started by having a cup of coffee with someone who was in the career I thought I wanted to be in.  Sometimes it validated my interest, sometimes it made me realize that wasn’t the career for me.  I ❤ career counselors and have talked to a few at colleges and who have private practices.  I’m also a sucker for personality inventories and trying to tie personality traits to careers that appeal.

I haven’t personally gotten stuck in education (hence, the four degrees on my wall), but have advised traditional and non-traditional would-be students alize to consider taking a degree or non-degree class or even a workshop in the field they are interested in at a community college to see if they really like it. Online courses make this pretty easy.  When I have wanted to go back to school, I start collecting degree requirements from different schools and programs to see which one “feels” right.  And you are Never. Too. Old.  My oldest student – in an online master’s program, no less – turned 70 just before she graduated.  So take that!

Of the friends I talked to yesterday, one stuck in his career took a job in a field he had previously only volunteered in.  While he’s not sure it’s the “right” place to be for the long haul, he took action and is (a) at least drawing a paycheck and (b) feeling like he’s contributing to society again.  He took action.  The other one, also stuck in her career, quit her job and took a low-stress (and low-pay) job.  Ultimately she realized that it wasn’t worth it to her and she went back to her old employer but in a new position.  Her action led to important information and an improvement in her situation.

Everyone’s different, but we all get stuck at times. When I was single (and wanting to be not-single), I used to say, “The right guy isn’t going to come walking through my living room” (although he did come through the T1 line to my computer–G*d bless online dating for geeks like us).  Likewise, the solution to stuckness isn’t going to come walking through the living room.  We have to go find it.  By taking action.

Carpe baby steps!

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Getting Unstuck: If You Do What You’ve Always Done…

I’m stuck.

If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten.

Variously attributed to Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, and Tony Robbins.

I’ve got the life I want.  Last year, I moved to the beach, I work from home, I have flexible hours, I work part-time and spend several mornings a week at a coffee shop, reading, writing, and chatting with other locals.  I have a saintly husband and a sweet, funny son who brings daily joy and surprises.  I have multiple furry creatures around for loving on–and keeping my feet warm.  Life is good.  Damn good.

But like a counterweight, although my life is going along swimmingly, I am intellectually and vocationally stuck.  I’ve been doing what I do for a long time and in various iterations.  And I’ve been arguably successful at it.  But I feel like I have stopped learning.  I have stopped growing.  I have stopped being challenged by what I do.  I hear the little girl I used to be whining to my mother (as I so often did) “I’m B-o-o-o-r-e-d.”

So as a first step to getting unstuck (and as I often did when Mom glared at me over her glasses following my plaintive cry), I’m reading books.  Not just any books.  Books that address the way of life (and work) that I have come to love: multipreneuring.  That is, doing a lot of things simultaneously and independently.  Kind of like freelancing, but with various different kinds of things–speaking, writing, teaching, whatever else comes along.  And I have started (appropriately, I think) by re-reading the appropriately titled Multipreneuring by Tom Gorman.

Multipreneuring by Tom Gorman - an oldie, but a goodie

Multipreneuring by Tom Gorman – an oldie, but a goodie

I first read it in 1999 when I was working as a lawyer/association executive/adjunct college faculty member.  So it didn’t so much change my life as validate the way I was living my life.  It is still as pertinent today as ever.

Which makes me wonder: do other people feel stuck?  Like they want to change their lives or careers or both and aren’t sure how?  Or where to start?  Are they just scared?  Or do they not know what to do?  And is there a way I can help those people while I’m helping myself?

I end with this thought (which I will explore more thoroughly another time)…again, because it is so pertinent to my situation: “Just because you are good at something, doesn’t mean that’s what you should do.”

Carpe getting unstuck!

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