“If you get stuck, draw with a different pen. Change your tools; it may free your thinking.” ~Paul Arden
For a year and a half, I could feel a career shift coming. I had worked hard to cultivate a career I loved, but I began feeling disconnected from my work. The meaning I had originally felt from it was no longer there. Each time I started a new project, I felt tired and unmotivated.
At first, I thought it might be burnout. So I took a few weeks off to see if I could reset myself into feeling excited about my work again. But when I returned, I felt the same. The things that I had built my career around, that previously gave me energy and meaning, no longer resonated.
I thought about the type of work I did daily and couldn’t imagine myself still doing it ten years from now. But what could I imagine myself doing? I had no idea.
I struggled and strived to figure out what a career shift might look like. I read several books, including Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life by James Hollis (Ph. D.), but while I resonated with the ideas in several of them, I still felt no closer to an answer.
I became very intentional about noticing when things gave me energy. At one point, I went to a dinner party where someone brought tarot cards and gave me a reading. It was so energizing! I went home and immediately ordered the same set of tarot cards. I began learning about them and started doing readings with friends and at parties.
“What does this mean? Should I become a tarot card reader?” I thought. But that didn’t resonate for a variety of reasons.
By this point, I was telling everyone who would listen that I was “directionless.” It was a new label I used often. When someone asked what I did for work, I would say, “Meh, I’m directionless.”
Well-meaning friends and acquaintances started offering their opinions of what I should be doing next. I even googled, “How to make a career change.” I felt like I was walking around in a black fog where I could barely make out what was ahead of me. Sometimes I could see a slight shape—a glimmer of something that gave me energy. But what did it mean? And how could I use that information for what was next?
I went through a cross-country move to a location where I had no friends. Because of this, I had more time to myself than usual. I spent each day going inward and connecting to my body through meditation, simple somatic practices, like stimulating my vagus nerve, and parts work.
Finally, I realized that the answer was never in my head. It was in my body—wisdom that had been blocked by all the thoughts and old beliefs that had formed, and parts of me that wanted to protect me and keep me safe.
I found that a part of me didn’t want a career change because it was too scary and unstable. Instead, it wanted to stay with what was known, dependable, and safe. I befriended this part and worked through the fears. As I spent more and more time going inward, the answer appeared clearer and clearer. It had been there all along, and finally, I was able to access it.
If you’re feeling stuck, here are a few things to try.
1. Identify parts that may be trying to tell you something.
If you are feeling stuck, there may be a “part” of you that is keeping you there to protect you. These parts are often created during childhood when we might not have had as many resources as we do now.
For example, maybe you learned during childhood that being seen by others can be unpredictable and dangerous. So a “part” of you could have been created that helped you make decisions based on that information. Now, as an adult, you likely have more resources, but that information never got to the “part” that was created.
So, let’s say that you want to write a book and you just can’t seem to move forward. No matter what you do, you’re staying stuck. Why? One reason might be because this “part” knows that if you write a book, you will be seen by others, and based on experience, that can be unpredictable and dangerous. So it prevents you from stepping out and taking risks where you might be seen. You may not even be aware of this part consciously. Yet it could be there, working day and night to protect you.
Being stuck can sometimes prompt negative thoughts, such as “What if I’m stuck forever?” or “I’m not good enough.” These thoughts can then lead to negative emotions, which can then make us feel even more stuck and overwhelmed. It’s a vicious cycle. Meditation can help you break out of this cycle and receive clarity, which can help you find direction and move forward.
Set a time each day to meditate. It doesn’t need to be that long—even just ten minutes is enough. If you have trouble sitting silently, you could search for a guided meditation on YouTube.
Make it part of your routine and do it at the same time each day to keep momentum going. Doing it at the same time each day will help it become part of a habit and make it easier to remember.
If you start thinking while you’re sitting silently, that’s okay! Just come back to your breath. You don’t need to be perfect. You just need to cultivate some stillness and silence. This practice helps you drop out of your mind and into your body, where so much wisdom lives.
3. Stimulate your vagus nerve.
Your vagus nerve regulates your entire nervous system. When your vagus nerve is activated, it helps calm your nervous system, which helps shift you into a more creative, open state of being. It is from this state that you can more easily access wisdom within yourself.
There are a variety of ways to stimulate your vagus nerve. Because the vagus nerve is connected to your vocal cords, humming or singing is one way to achieve this:
- Focus on your breath and notice anything you feel in your body. Maybe you feel pressure on your chest, a pain in your neck, a burning in your throat, etc.
- Breathe in deeply.
- As you exhale, say “Voo” out loud for the entire length of the exhale.
- Sit and notice how your body is feeling now. Is there any difference?
- Continue steps two through four until you feel a shift.
4. Change your environment.
Have you ever taken a trip to a new place or gone on a great hike and felt a sense of renewed inspiration, clarity, or presence? The reason for this is because we grow when we’re out of our comfort zone.
Being in a new environment, meeting new people, and having new experiences takes us out of our comfort zone, opens our minds, and provides us with the opportunity to grow and learn more about ourselves. It shakes things up from our normal day-to-day experiences.
Get out into nature or go on an overnight getaway. It doesn’t need to be something fancy—anything that will get you out of your current space can help shift the stuckness.
Is there an area of your life where you feel stuck or don’t know what to do? Which of these actions most resonates with you? Or, do you have an action you typically take that works best?