Do you find yourself stuck in the same rut over and over, or trapped in a situation you want to break free from?
From leaving a day job I didn’t connect with and moving to more balanced lifestyle, here are 10 questions that have helped me move forward recently.
Let me know if these questions trigger any insights with decisions you’re facing.
1. What will be different next time?
When I was in my 9-5 jobs, I thought finding a job at another company, moving departments or taking an extended vacation would make things better. Each time, I was happy for a few months but the dissatisfaction always returned.
When we’re stuck in an unfulfilling situation, a job, relationship or lifestyle, we often start playing the “If only I had [insert desire], I would be happier.” Would you really be happier if you got paid more, took a vacation, or found a new lover?
If you’re unhappy now, what’s really going to be different at the next job or in your relationship? Before jumping to another situation, ask yourself if the next situation will give you better results than what you have now.
Don’t worry, if you don’t identify the source of your discontent, you will go through more unfulfilling situations until you understand the root cause of it – life is a very persistent teacher like that.
2. If you forgot how much energy you’ve invested, would you still stay?
Deep inside we know we need to make a change, but it’s easier to rationalize staying with the status quo. We remember the time, money and energy we’ve already exerted and get attached to our past investment.
But just because you spent the last 6 years in a profession or in a relationship, does it really mean you have to spend the next 6 months in the same thing?
It’s never too late to start again, and better late than never.
3. If not now, then when?
There’s never a good time for change.
If you want to leave your work position, the economy will never be perfect, your company will always be understaffed and you will always have living expenses.
If you want to end a relationship, it’ll always require difficult conversations and the strength to separate.
No matter what your desires or goals, the only way to get there is by taking action in the present moment.
4. What’s the cost of not making a change?
Time will pass no matter what you choose. If you continue a job, relationship or lifestyle that you don’t connect with, you still won’t connect with it 6 months from now – except that you’d have let 6 months of your life pass by. That’s time you could have used to cultivate something new.
Think of achievements you’ve made while doing something you only moderately liked, knowledge you accumulated or connections you established. Wouldn’t you accomplish even more if you spent your time on what captivates you?
5. Who are the biggest critics in the way?
Who are the voices in your head causing doubt and negativity?
Are they colleagues, friends, or your own? Is what they are saying really true, does it actually affect the outcome of your choice?
On leaving my full-time job to pursue my interests and travel, unconstructive comments I’ve encountered include “What was the point of getting a math degree if you’re just going to be web designer?” or “What makes you think you can make money doing this?”
These comments were initially hurtful, then I realized that comments like that have no impact on my actual abilities, nor the outcome of the projects I undertake – they’re just noise.
No matter road you follow, there will be fans and critics. The most important approval is your own. If freeing yourself feels like the right thing to do, but you’re scared or are full of self-doubt, take a deep breath, follow your gut and go for it. It may hurt like hell, but you will live and grow stronger in the process.
6. 10 years from now, what will you wish you had done?
Time puts everything in perspective. Think of stressful milestons in your life – your first exam, your first date, your first real job – many of these you barely remember because in the grand scheme they’re not so important.
Leaving your current situation may seem daunting, but in the future it may only seem like a minor event in your life, and perhaps even an obvious choice.
If you don’t make a change now, will you regret it years later?
7. If a loved one was in your situation, what would you wish for them?
We always want the best for the ones we love, whether it’s opportunities, time or attention, yet we sometimes forget to give that to ourselves.
If your best friend, sister or child was in your shoes, would you tell them to stay in a circumstance that makes them unhappy or would you encourage them to set themselves free?
8. If money or security was no issue, what would you do?
Fear is a major barrier to change. We’re scared of losing the security of a stable income, or the companionship of a person.
Is it really true that a job or a spouse provides security? After all, both of those can be taken from us quickly – we can get fired and our lover can leave us at any time.
Are you sure you can’t have want by making use of the resources you have now? Is it really impossible to start a new career, travel the world or be single with less than a million dollars?
9. Imagine yourself in 10 years. What guidance would that wiser person give to you now?
We’re much more than what we currently appear to be. It’s may be to fathom how great we can grow with time and experience, but deep inside ourselves we know we’ve only reached a bit of our potential.
Consider how much stronger, braver and kinder you are today compared to 10 years ago. Another 10 years from now, you will be an even greater than the person.
What would that wiser, braver and more creative future you say, if they were in the same room as you now? Would they tell you to stay in an unfulfilling situation or to stay the scarier path and explore your potential?
10. What’s the worse thing that can happen?
Are you scared you’ll let your colleagues down, hurt your partner or offend your friends?
Sometimes we overestimate the impact of our decisions. We think our work department will fall apart without us, or that our boyfriend/girlfriend can’t get through life without us. Your actions may cause inconvenience or anxiety, but people are resilient and they will move on.
We owe it to ourselves and others to need to speak up for what we want. No one can mind read your mind or stand up for your dreams more than you can. Being honest and yourself is the best thing you can do for everyone.
What’s the worse thing that can happen? I can’t say for certain, but I bet your choice won’t kill or make anyone sick.
11. If a higher power was guiding you, what would they tell you to do?
Would they want you to stay stuck, unhappy and guilty? Or would they want you to do what makes you feel light, radiant and joyous?
Deep inside, you know that you weren’t put in his world for the purpose of being miserable.
>> What questions would you add to this list to help others get “unstuck?” Leave your comments below.
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