Feel like your career is stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels? If you’re telling yourself any of these four stories, you’re immensely reducing your potential to do more satisfying and fulfilling work.
To stop repeating unhelpful behaviours in our career, we need to make changes. But we humans find change very uncomfortable. Our brains see it as dangerous and coax us to stay with the familiar. Read more about your brain and career change here.
That’s why years can pass before you get to your tipping point where things either get so bad that you have to change or you get so attracted to a new idea that you feel compelled to make a change.
To fast-track your journey to your personal tipping point, you first need to recognise the stories that you’re telling yourself. The stories that are keeping you stuck.
Four types of stories (that keep you stuck)
1. Impossibility stories
Most of the major breakthroughs in science have come about because someone decided that a certain feat was possible. It was a memorable moment watching Kipchoge break the 2hour marathon record live with my family, huddled around the laptop, marvelling at what humans can do when they decide to try.
Telling ourselves stories about the impossibility of an idea is a sure way to tell our brain not to bother trying anything different.
I get to hear lots of these stories.
Here are just a few examples:
I’m 50 and I know I’d have to take a step back in order to make a change.
I can’t afford to change career or doing anything different - I have a mortgage to pay.
My boss would never let me try out something new.
My company doesn’t allow people to take a sabbatical.
I can’t afford to pay for a coach to help me change career, I’d have to do it alone.
The work is killing me but I can’t stop now.
I’d never earn enough if I made changes.
I’m too old to change career.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
I thought about X but it wouldn’t work because…
I’ll do it in my 60s.
That’s the kind of thing people only do when they retire.
People like me don’t do things like that…
You don’t need a Psychology degree to know that these people are telling themselves stories that will keep them stuck
…exactly where they are
…for a very long time
because they’ve convinced themselves that any change is impossible.
2. Blame stories - two varieties
a) Blame stories about “them”
This type of story-telling barely needs an introduction - these are the stories you hear in the pub and in kitchens all over the country in response to the question “How’s work?”
My boss is such a X.
They don’t want or value me or my skills.
The company culture is wrong for me.
This company is trying to run me into the ground.
The clients constantly ask for more but I’ve got nothing more to give.
They’re not treating us like humans.
They're just not listening.
They just want to control me.
They don’t appreciate anything we do.
I always wanted to be X but my parents...
b) Blame stories about me
This type of story-telling is less public. Only really good friends hear these stories. Mostly we tell them to ourselves, secretly, quietly, in our own heads. But they erode us from the inside out.
I’ve lost my mojo.
I’ve nothing more left to give.
I’m not the same…after the divorce or after the X.
I don’t have the skills they want.
I don’t fit anymore.
I can’t give them what they’re asking for.
I’m not very good at X anymore.
I’m just going through the motions but my heart’s not in it.
Whichever variety of blame stories you might be telling yourself, they keep you stuck in the past. These stories keep you focused on whoever or whatever caused the problems or messed you up.
They don’t motivate you or help you make changes - even small ones.
They simply keep you stuck.
3. Invalidation stories
Sometimes we decide that we are wrong. Or that they are wrong. Or that our feelings are wrong. Or that their feelings are wrong.
Here are some examples:
They shouldn't ...(any words that come after this are invalidation stories)
They shouldn’t treat us this way.
They don’t believe I’m the right person to do X.
They wouldn’t support me.
They’re stupid, cruel, uncaring, dictatorial, authoritarian, selfish, profit-over-people etc.
I don’t have what it takes.
I should be happy with what I’ve got.
I’m not an entrepreneur.
I’m not MD material.
I’m not a X personality - it wouldn’t work.
I don’t come from X background - so it wouldn’t work.
I’m not clever enough.
I’m not good enough.
I’m not X enough.
4. Zero-accountability stories
It’s surprisingly easy for us to avoid taking full responsibility for our own careers (especially if we have handed them over a few decades ago to big corporates).
I should know, that’s exactly what I did with my own!
But we own the choice.
Sometimes we don’t have choices about how we feel and think (although with training, it’s perfectly possible to change our internal thought processes which impact our feelings).
But we have absolute choice over our actions as far as career is concerned.
Here are some examples of choices I’ve either taken myself or they’re client stories:
Choosing to stay in a company even if the work is deeply unsatisfying (because we need that stable income to pay the mortgage or the school fees or the big holidays).
Choosing our daily reactions to work situations.
Choosing to keep saying “yes” to extra work requests even though we are drowning.
Choosing to stay with a company whose values don’t match ours long enough to get to our bonus, pay-out.
Choosing not to attend networking events in a new industry that you’re interested in.
Choosing to stay where you are, even though you can feel that the toaster is heating up after your 50th birthday.
Choosing to avoid looking around your business and realising that the floor is emptying of people your age and choosing to do nothing about it.
Choosing to do nothing in case X idea doesn’t work.
Choosing not to learn about sleep management techniques - even though you are becoming more and more sleep-deprived.
Choosing not to learn about personal stress management techniques - even though your stress levels are through the roof.
Choosing to dream about a magical future, where you receive a call tomorrow morning with a new job in an industry you love - without even having updated your linkedin profile.
What stories are you telling yourself most often?
Once you figure out the kinds of stories that you’re telling yourself about the problem of being stuck in a career/job that no longer fits, you’re ready to take the next big step towards unsticking your career.
That next step is to Change your Problem stories into Solution stories.
Read about that next time.
Book in for one of my (free) 30 mins Light at the end of the tunnel calls where I promise to give you at least two personalised recommendations to begin your career overhaul -whether you choose to work with me or not.