Avoiding change? No idea what to do? Time to 'become who you are.'

Feeling stuck is horrible; not knowing what to do is even worse. The answer is a paradox: once you become fully who you are, the next steps will fall into place.

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It happens to all of us – a job that’s OK, a relationship that’s become boring, a routine that’s safe, but dull. We know something’s not right, but lethargy has set in and familiarity stops us seeing a way to change.  

It’s the horrible ‘boiled frog’ analogy: when the water heats up slowly around the frog it can’t spot the difference, so it just stays there and slowly dies. Drop it into boiling water and it will understand the danger and jump out to save it’s own life.

Sadly we are no different. Once we’re embedded in a situation, it’s hard to recognise the need for change until it becomes urgent. We’re all masters of self persuasion: don’t make a fuss, just get on with it, no one else is complaining, I can manage………….

Getting a grip

The key is always urgency. Sometimes this dawns slowly and sometimes life jolts us into awareness by increasing the dissatisfaction so we just can’t carry on.

My first job was as a teacher of secondary biology and geography. I was a disaster. I hated the work, the kids hated my classes, but I ploughed on. I ‘d spent three years training after all; my mum and sister were good teachers so it should work for me too. I used to hide away in the corner of the staff room doing my knitting and longing for the day to end. I remember one day looking around and realising that I was out of place. I’d gone from school to college to school. I wasn’t comfortable being a teacher; I knew nothing of life outside of school and I was BORED! I went home that night and told my partner that I’d rather work on a petrol pump than carry on.   

I have no idea what sparked the shift in my perception. Without that, I might still be teaching today and regretting missed opportunities. It wasn’t too bad and I’m sure I’d have adjusted. But happy and fulfilled I would not have been.

Life has to get ‘bad enough’

Forget ‘good enough’.  – it’s the enemy of the true satisfaction. 

We all need a dose of ‘bad enough’ to get us moving. If life fails to play the game, you may have to sort it out for yourself. At the first hint of settling, you can play the ‘what if’ game: 

  • What if I die tomorrow? Will I be satisfied with the life I’ve lived? 
  • What if this is the only relationship I ever have, is it enough for me?
  • What if this is the only job I ever do? Is that OK – will I be happy? 
  • What if I always have these sorts of holiday – am I happy with that?
  • What if I never ……you fill in the gaps…. is that good enough? 

You’ll probably have other ‘what if’s’ to complete the list. It doesn’t matter what your questions are, but it reallymatters that you ask them.

YES versus NO

If you have a resounding ‘YES’, then well done! You have managed to get the life you want and that is success in any terms. Keep going – it’s going to be good. 

If you have any NO’s in there, then the water has probably been heating up for a while without you noticing, so it’s time to act. 

In Gestalt the psychology background I come from, we talk about the Paradox of Change ie: that change occurs when you become who you are. Once you truly see where you are and how you are, then the required change becomes obvious. You know what to do and you have the energy to do it because you know it’s right. 

‘What If’ questions begin that process of becoming truly who you are. There is no right or wrong answer, just your answer and you don’t need to tell anyone else about your thinking process unless you choose to. This is about understanding you and being really honest. This is about facing the brutal facts and making some choices. 

Which brings me back to Goethe: “Concerning all acts of initiative and creation………….. the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

Facing the brutal facts is the perfect way to focus and make a commitment to change. As soon as I declared I was done with teaching, I began to see opportunities. Within two weeks of handing in my notice I was offered a job in Social Services. A chance conversation with a senior leader declaring my interest in learning more about social work paid off and I stepped into the unknown. All of which led me to where I am today.  

So if you have any hint of dissatisfaction, get honest. Explore the What If… questions;  take a good honest look at yourself and watch what happens. 

Post your questions in the comments section below, ask us on the Psychologies Facebook and Twitter page or email letters@psychologies.co.uk. I’ll be posting regularly, answering your questions.

Judith Leary Joyce

Great Companies Consulting

In 1996 I made the shift into business, taking my knowledge of Gestalt Psychology into the realm of Executive Coaching, Facilitation and Leadership/ Management Development. In 2001 I worked on the 100 Best Companies to Work For list, then went on to write my first book Becoming an Employer of Choice which was followed by Inspirational Manager and The Psychology of Success. Since then I have worked with organisations across the sectors from large corporates through to young start ups, public sector and charities. Now it’s time to help you have a love affair with your work and get exactly what you want from your career. To find out more about my work and coaching go to www.judithlearyjoyce.com