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The Two Ways Of Being "Stuck" in Your Career and What to Do About Them

A few years ago I was working with a client who was feeling stuck in her life and career. I had her do some work with visuals to explore where she felt she was currently and where she wanted to be. 

This was the first image she created of her current reality. 

Stuck 1

 

Then I asked her to create an image of where she wanted to be. This is what she came up with:

Stuck 2

It wasn't hard to figure out why she felt stuck. She had too much going on!

That first image is just an explosion, radiating out from the fireworks in the middle. She was being pulled in 50 different directions and had a hard time putting focus into just a few of the most important places. 

Diagnosing Your "Stuck"

In my experience, there are two distinct types of "stuck"--the stuckness of the over-thinker and the stuckness of the over-doer. 

Are You An Over-Thinker?

The first type of stuck is the muddy slog of inertia that is the domain of the over-thinker. Often (but not always) these are the introverts who are naturally drawn to thinking before acting.

When these people are stuck, it's because they are so busy worrying about making the "right" move, they make no moves at all.

They are the perfectionists and the worriers, the people who need to do just one more piece of research or talk to just one more person before they feel comfortable making their next move. But somehow they never actually move. They are stuck in the reflection part of the Act/Reflect cycle

Or Are You an Over-Doer? 

The other version of "stuck" is where my client was at. It's the obsessive do-er's type of stuck. These are often the more extroverted types who thrive on activity and being in the outer world. They are also the people who feel compelled to PROVE themselves. 

In this brand of stuckness, I find people who are constantly moving, taking no time to reflect on what they are doing or why.

Action is what counts and they have a hard time creating the space for reflection so that their actions are more intentional and in alignment with what they want. These people are stuck in the action part of Act/Reflect. 

When you're stuck, it's helpful to try to figure out which camp you fall into because treating your stuckness will depend on whether you're an over-thinker or  an over-doer. Your stuckness is really an imbalance in the Act/Reflect cycle. 

Treating Your "Stuck"

 While both over-thinkers and over-doers can benefit from doing some de-cluttering, moving out of stuck is essentially a different process for each type. The over-thinkers need more action and the over-doers need more reflection. 

Over-Thinkers

If you're an over-thinker, then the way to get out of "stuck" is by bringing more action into your life.

Over-thinkers need to make a commitment to just doing things, rather than thinking about doing something. And that action cannot be doing one more bit of research or asking one more person what you should do. It has to be action that is in alignment with your vision of where you want to go and that is designed to actually move you in that direction.

You need to experiment with different identities and trust the mess that comes with action.

You have to let go of the need to do things perfectly and just embrace doing anything at all. 

Over-Doers

Over-doers have a different task. You need to create space for yourself for more reflection so you can be more intentional about what you are doing and why you are doing it.

You may need to start saying "no" more often and streamlining your life to make room for more thinking.

Try incorporating some reflection rituals  to create a reflection habit.

Your task is to put some real intention and focus behind your actions, rather than being caught in an endless loop of mindless activity that doesn't really go anywhere. Embrace your power to do, but put some mindfulness behind it. 

Being "stuck" is really about imbalance--choosing either reflection or action at the expense of the other part of the cycle. To get unstuck,  you have to restore balance to the cycle of Act/Reflect. Knowing your own tendencies towards one or the other can help you quickly figure out how to get moving when you find yourself stuck in one place.  

The next time you feel stuck, consider whether your stuckness is a result of over-thinking or over-doing and then look at what you can do to restore the balance. 

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Thrive

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Comments

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Such an excellent article, and the advice in here relates to so much more than career; it's really relevant to anything and everything we do.

Thanks, Ruth! So glad this was helpful!

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