The Job of Your Life with Karen Schaffer

Get out of your rut and find your passion

Posts Tagged ‘feeling stuck’

Spaciousness or Just Drifting?

Posted by Karen on September 8, 2009

(Shout out Renata and thanks for waiting for this one!)

So I’ve spent my summer (supposedly) working on this wonderful question from a “Job of Your Life” reader, who, in engaging with the new step of Spaciousness asked “How do I know if I’m being spacious or if I’m just drifting?”

Because that’s the concern, isn’t it?

In The Job of Your Life I’ve outlined the idea of Spaciousness – of allowing things to occur inside of a structured inquiry – which sounds really meaningful and important. But then you could just as easily be calling it “Spaciousness” when what you’re really doing is avoiding the decision or maintaining the status quo with a great excuse or drifting along thinking you’re getting somewhere but really just fooling yourself.

And really, in our chaotic world of “go, go, GO!” it does seem self-indulgent and new-agey to “just go with the flow” or that’s how it feels maybe when we’re trying to explain to people about our lack of perceivable action. And if it’s hard for other people to tell if we’re being “spacious” or just being “drifters”, it can be even harder to tell ourselves, since in this area of career exploration I find that people often feel like they’ve lost their proverbial mojo anyway – that inner sense of knowing that you’re going in the right direction.

Ironically the very reason WHY you’re career exploring is exactly why you feel so confused; you’re looking for a new direction you’ve never considered before.

That’s also why you can feel pretty vulnerable to the vagueness of the process, the wondering “Am I getting it right?” and the sense that other people would be doing a lot more fancy action steps. Plus we really don’t value spaciousness, ever. Our world has become so instantaneous and responsive, we have problems understanding why someone can’t “just get it together already” and make a choice. So measured by that standard, we get very unforgiving of ourselves if there’s any sense that we’re not in constant motion.

So here’s a way of evaluating whether it’s drifting or spaciousness:

1. A Created and Stated Intention: When you move into spaciousness, do so with intention. That mean, be clear on your outcome (not rigidly but with some specificity) such as “I allow new ideas and opportunities into my working life. I stay open to when these new ideas and opportunities arise”. Intentions are the structure, the silent backbone – it allows you to become spacious and allowing “with purpose”. If you want to know more about the power of intention, check out/read The Intention Experiment. It will scientifically both prove my point and blow your mind.

2. Follows an Intense Period of Breakthroughs: Spaciousness is often required if you’ve been doing some deep inner work. That takes time for your system to process. It may be that other, unexpected things came up, things you didn’t expect to be related to career. It may be you saw new things about how you relate to work, or your self-identity, or made progress in your personal self-development. Following the natural ebb and flow, this means letting things settle before leaping into the next stage.

3. Continued Personal Work: Spaciousness can still mean that you’re working with a coach or doing other kinds of personal work. I do notice that there are times that clients step away from regular meetings with me and need a few weeks or months to process what we’ve worked on. Or they may find an alternative form of therapy or personal work that they resonate with and want to do work with that for a while – this might require some spaciousness.

4. Keeping in Touch with Your Needs: Learning how to listen to yourself is one of the first hurdles of an inner exploration. If you know how to tune into yourself and when you tune in you are clear that you still need space – take it. Your mind might get impatient (mine always does) but I soothe it by showing it the undeniable truth – I’m not ready and I won’t be ready until I’m ready. And there’s no sense trying to hurry it.

5. Other Things Are Happening: Often we get impatient with ourselves at the weirdest times – like when you’ve had a big breakup or you’ve moved or you just had a kid (that goes for Dads too) or lost someone close to you. Everyone else is like “slow down, take it easy” but we try and crack our inner whip on the career thing, like that’s going to make a difference. I think we just have a deep human desire for emotional events not to touch or change us and so we reach out to things that we feel like we can control, like career decisions, even if it’s more appropriate that we spend time processing or getting through what we need to get through in the moment. If your moment is demanding your attention elsewhere, give it in trust. You can always check in with yourself if the demands continue to keep you away from your career exploration.

6. You Feel Engaged Even If You’re Not in Action: I always associate this one with writing. I have books in me that I don’t yet have time to write, but when I check in, they are there, waiting for me to be ready. I don’t feel like I avoid them; I feel like they are a delicious thing in my future that will flower at the right time (pardon the mixing of metaphors – I suppose you can eat a flower but maybe it won’t be delicious). If you check in on your feelings about the career exploration, and you feel positive about it – that some part of you is engaged, feeling like this change will be good and it’s coming – you’re likely in spaciousness.

7. You Get Unexpected Breakthroughs or Synchronistic Events: Spaciousness is the opportunity for your subconscious to process all the learning you’re doing about yourself and the possibilities and opportunities that might fit you. So you can be in a period of spaciousness and suddenly get a new insight, apparently out of nowhere, or get into a great conversation with a woman at the dentist’s office, or hear a program on the radio that seems like it’s speaking to you, even if nothing else seems to be happening. These are signs, also called termed God Winks and other various names, that let you know you’re still on the playing field even if you don’t feel geared up and carrying the ball (see…there go those metaphors again).

8. Ask Yourself – You Know the Truth Without This List Anyway: We have a deep knowing as human beings if we are doing something for the “right” or the “wrong” reasons – we just keep ourselves from knowing that truth by keeping ourselves busy and on the surface of our minds. If you have the courage to look inside deeply, you’ll know if you’re creating spaciousness or if you’re merely using the idea to keep you stuck.

It’s totally natural to doubt yourself, particularly when nothing seems to be happening on the surface. Spaciousness is the ultimate practice in trusting yourself – and trusting the Universe – that all will happen in right timing. Your insights are happening deep below the surface. Your job is coming. Stay peaceful. Stay connected.

All is right with the world.

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Posted in Career Exploration, Emotional Life as connected to Career | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Frozen like a boat in the Beaufort Sea in February

Posted by Karen on January 31, 2009

Got this email yesterday from a witty and side-career-coach friend of mine:

I’d love to hear what you’d say about staying in action when you don’t want to. I have a client right now who has a job he really likes in Toronto. But his partner has relocated to the US and they have sold their house. He’s terrified of the rejection of the job search, especially in this economy, plus the complexity of visa issues, and is frozen like a boat in the Beafort Sea in February”

Another former client emailed me today about a resume I thought she’d done long ago. She’d been sitting in front of a blank computer screen on and off for months and now feels like she’s hanging by her fingernails when she thinks of having to get this puppy done for an upcoming meeting . Frozen, as my witty friend might say, like that damn boat (and what WAS that boat doing on the Beaufort Sea in February anyway…?)

It’s a great question…how do you stay in action (that is do all the things you know you’re supposed to do around a job search like write your resume, get the resume you’ve promptly written out there and make connections and phone calls to recruiters and government agencies that handle Visas etc. etc.) when all you really want to do is crawl under the sofa and distract yourself by looking for spare change?

When you’re frozen solid…you’re not doing something (or many things) you know you are supposed to be doing, you need to step back, take a breath and look deeper.

There is something else – some part of you – that needs to be heard, acknowledged and accepted – before you can move into action. If you ignore it, you will find yourself inexplicably digging your heels in and going nowhere. Let’s take our man in Toronto. Life has just been turned upside down for him. He had a job he liked and a world that was known…and in the blink of an eye he’s going to have to tackle moving, moving to a new country (and all the rubber stamping paperwork that entails) AND moving to a new country that despite being Obamained is in far rougher shape than Canada. On the other hand, one surmises he’s not only leaving a job he likes, but also people he likes, a house he liked enough to buy and a whole life he put time and effort into creating. 

You don’t just let go of all that without a little emotional blowback. 

Even if moving with his partner was always in the cards, his partner is the one with things sorted out at the other end. He or she can be excited about the prospect of a “new adventure”. Our guy is just left wondering where his day-to-day reality just went. He is the one truly stepping into the Unknown. And until that is appreciated and acknowledged on a deep level, there is some part of him that is resisting the “To Do List” of moving south.

Plus, it doesn’t do for him to be expressing any feeling of doubt or sadness. We want to be supportive and positive. We want to be perceived as brave and adventurous. We think that having made the decision we don’t get to have any further feelings of loss or grief or doubt. So amplifying his fear is the need to put on a happy face and suck it up. His frozen behavior tells you how well that’s working.

When someone is frozen from taking the next step, it can be about the overwhelm of a job search. Paring down the To Do List and starting small is a good place to begin coaching.

What I suspect in this particular case however, is that he needs space to have all his feelings and emotions about this change acknowledged and validated. He needs a safe space to wonder if this is the right thing, without being called on it later. He needs to slow everything down (even though the decision has already been made) and be given permission for his emotions about the move to catch up with the logistics.

I would also suggest that if possible he delays his job search and becomes the point person for the move. It would be easier to search once in the new city anyway, and if they can afford to give him a couple of adjustment months, it might be really nice to have someone who can be home to great the cable guy and figure out where the best grocery store is.

As for my resume gal, the same theory of stepping back applies.

Resumes are notoriously full of emotion. My god it’s a piece of paper that is meant to literally summarize your life’s accomplishments. If you don’t feel deeply related to those accomplishments, or you fear getting present to choices you’ve made in life, or you are afraid if you don’t get the document right people will judge you and it will block you from your future…well, no wonder many people flip over to Facebook instead. Resistance really isn’t futile, in the sense that you can’t make yourself do something you really, really don’t want to. Start listening to the “I don’t wanna!!!” and you may find it gets you somewhere new.

Take the time to acknowledge the part of you that is resisting. Rather than push it or berate it, listen to it. It has something really important to say and it needs to be heard. Listen to it doesn’t mean you have to do what it wants. You just need to let it be heard, so you can integrate it into the whole and move forward from there.

What I find is, if someone is digging in their heels even if their stated intention is to move forward, compassion and loving attention with no agenda for forward movement often softens and breaks away the ice better than any Coast Guard ship.

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