Returning to Work with a Forced Smile? Six Ideas To Start Getting Unstuck This Week

In the summer of 1998 I returned from a 2 week holiday in Cuba.  It had been amazing, but somehow that just made returning worse.  It wasn’t the despair that killed me, it was the hope.

“You realise the holiday’s nearly over don’t you?” said my mate on the plane.  It was so depressing – and that was on the plane out.

My experience of being stuck in a career was of returning to work feeling utterly miserable and overwhelmed, but acting as though I was happy to be back.

Eventually I fumbled my way out, but since working with thousands of people going through career change, I see that I could have done it much quicker.

One of the most important things is to find a place to start. So here are 6 ideas to get you started this week – pick one that feels achievable:

1. Start saving money

Spend an hour this week tracking how you spend your money and working out what you’re willing to cut.  The more you save now the more options you will have later.

Cutting one coffee every day will save you approximately £400,000 a year.

2. Stop obsessing about the news and start journalling

Being stuck in career paralysis is strangely numbing.  Indeed, many people further numb themselves with alcohol, social media distractions or thoughts like ‘I live life for the weekend’.  No you don’t!

Journalling can allow you to confront your actual thoughts and feelings, just as they are.  It will confront you with the need for change – and start to guide your transition.

3. Inspire yourself

The original meaning of ‘inspire’ is to breathe life into something. How could you breathe life into yourself this autumn?

How about:

  1. Book a mini-break and go and learn about the place you go to.  I did this with Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere and it blew my tiny mind
  2. Stop being so obsessed by the news and read a classic book on your commute
  3. Go to an evening lecture at somewhere like the School of Life
  4. Read a career change book – mine was How to Find the Work You Love – cheesey but it connected – or try Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra
  5. Try Roman Krznaric’s work on finding fulfilling work, and reflect on his career as a ‘wide achiever’
  6. Go and volunteer in something you feel strongly about
  7. Get some coaching – a chance to think about you and what you need from life (perhaps see if your current work will pay for it, or simply give up avocados for a month to cover the cost)

Tip:  It’s OK to try these things and not feel particularly inspired.  No matter.  You are still breathing life into yourself.  Keep searching, and breathing.

4. Start noting down your decision crtieria

Decision criteria can help you navigate forward, acting like a kind of compass.  You can start right now:

What do you like least about your current job?  What would be better?

That’s your first decision criterion done.  Over the next 3 or 4 months see if you can list maybe 10 or 11 others – we have plenty of resources to help.

5. Start a running or walking ritual

The Beatles were actually talking about career paralysis when they said the movement you need is on your shoulders.

But I’m convinced that movement on shoulders is enhanced by movement of feet.  It is uncanny how so many of my clients combine career change with some kind of physical challenge.  If you do nothing else this week, just go for a run at the weekend, or take a 30 minute walk in your lunch hour.

6. Start practicing willingness

Any kind of transition is going to involve psychological pain.  Sorry!  I don’t make the rules.

So you have a choice.  You can either avoid this pain, anaesthetise yourself from it; or you can accept it into your life.

Avoiding psychological pain will keep you stuck. 

Accepting it isn’t exactly fun, but it can unlock your whole life.

The following short clips are metaphor for acceptance and willingness. This workbook discusses it further.

Which difficult thoughts and emotions are you willing to accept for a better, more meaningful life?

Internal Struggles by Russ Harris

The Unwelcome Party Guest by Joe Oliver


Career Change, Getting Unstuck coaching

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