When we come to what we perceive as a dead end in our careers or lives, with the way forward seemingly blocked, it can be hard to know if we should move left or right, up or down, or stay put and ride things out. What we thought was a clear path can become pretty murky, especially when external events are out of our control and circumstances of life intervene.
I don’t know about you, but I had great plans for 2020 that went right out the window starting in January when I received a breast cancer diagnosis and then had surgeries, treatment, and recovery through August. Not that I couldn’t do some things, but it sure put a kink in being able to focus on my business goals for the year. So many things were uncertain and felt upended. It just now feels like I’m getting back on track with my life and work, and the end of the year is already in sight (thank goodness).
So, what can you do when you encounter a blockage to your success or goals? Like the proverbial boulder in the road, or a clogged drainpipe, it needs to be cleared. Then, you can make a decision that you feel good about and gain some forward momentum to preserve your sanity. Here are a few steps to support you in getting started.
- Identify what it is exactly that has you blocked beyond the obvious (finances, lost job, the pandemic, lack of career growth or fulfillment, poor relationships, etc.) and go deeper. What are the specific anxieties or fears that you can name tied to your circumstances that are causing the most stress? The goal here is to name them, knowing that they’re a part of you, so you can manage them in the future.
- Once named, identify why these anxieties or fears exist. What are some of your experiences that allowed these thoughts and beliefs to form? When everything else is peeled away, what is it at your core that you see is a pattern in how you respond when these anxieties are raised? When you understand where they came from, it makes it a lot easier to develop strategies to mitigate them.
- Next, take some time to envision what life could look like if this blockage were cleared. What would you be, do, or have in your ideal world? What’s your aspiration? When you can identify what it is you’re aiming for, it makes things a lot easier, as well as allows you to say “no” when something isn’t aligned with your vision and won’t necessarily help you get there.
- Prioritize the fears or anxieties you named in order of the most stressful and focus on the one that you think prevents, or will prevent, you from achieving your vision. This should also be one that you analyzed in step 2 that you see as a pattern. What’s the script that runs in your head when this raises its head? What’s the story you tell yourself about it and why you “can’t” do something?
- Develop a habit/strategy for counteracting that script. When you hear it in your head, what’s the opposite viewpoint you can take and tell yourself? How can you remind yourself to take the opposite stance? Think of a time when you were successful in a similar situation. What’d you do that worked? This is something that you can then replicate as closely as possible to support you as “proof” that you can positively leverage your fear or anxiety and remove the block.
Our fears are our fears and they are a unique part of us. Just as with our “weaknesses,” they are with us for better or worse, and it’s up to us to decide how we can make good use of them, manage them, or minimize their impact in a negative way. It takes courage to do what we need to do anyway, regardless of what they are. In that courage is the “secret sauce” to clear those blockages, make clear decisions, and set a course for your new direction.