How To Give Yourself the Best Career Advice (Part I)

If you’re career stuck, you may feel pretty inadequate.

Why can’t I fix this? What’s wrong with me?
Why can’t I decide?
Why don’t I have one of those “10-year visions” the gurus are always talking about?
Etc.

You may ask trusted friends and family for advice, but deep down you wish you could access a little more personal wisdom.

Well, I about to share with you a method for doing just that.

It may sound familiar, but wait – there’s a specific method I want you to try.

Here it is:

Writing down your thoughts AND feelings will help you tap into your buried wisdom. 

You - yes, you - possess far more accumulated wisdom about what you need than you realize. For pretty much every situation in your life - even for ones where you currently feel completely stuck. 

The key is to start journaling.

Now, I know some of you reading this will say you hate journaling, or never get around to it – but hear me out.

I'm talking about a specific technique, one backed by research, shown to get results. 

But first: why am I suggesting going to all this trouble? Why can't you currently access some of this wisdom, just sitting in your car driving to work?

Two reasons journaling is better:

Reason #1: Some of your wisdom is buried under distracting thoughts & feelings

Sometimes, when we're bothered by a situation, we circle around and around with troublesome thoughts or worries. It's like tires spinning in the mud, and we don't get around to thinking about how to move forward. 

For a while this may actually keep us feeling safe, since change is scary. But when you’re tired of feeling stuck and ready to take a little risk on some change, you want to finally power out of that mud and get back on the road of your life.

Reason #2: Much of our wisdom is "implicit" learning - wisdom you have to excavate from the subconscious

We are learning all the time. Sometimes our learning is explicit – conscious and on purpose. However, research shows that much of our learning happens implicitly - connections that are made on the symbolic or abstract level (that is, without words). Often, we’re not aware of this learning, because we didn’t set out to learn it. For example, assumptions about how dating or marriage "should" go is a great example of this. Certain skills, like how to balance while riding a bike, are also considered implicit learning. 

In fact, In their book Primal Leadership, authors Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee argue that when you have a “gut feeling” about something, that is your implicit learning talking to you.

So, this "hidden" wisdom is there, but in order to use it more intentionally, we must "get it out" and attach some language to it. 

The good news: journaling can help you overcome both of these hurdles.

Here are the steps for this "better" kind of journaling: 

Step 1: Find a quiet space

Step 2: Write down both THOUGHTS and FEELINGS you have on a topic

Step 3: Keep going until you feel “done” for the day

Step 4: Repeat daily, or whenever insight bubbles up, until you gain clarity and an inner call to action

That's basically it. The main trick is to write down both thoughts and feelings you have. This attaches language to both the thoughts and feelings, and thus brings both to consciousness and explicit learning. 

Acknowledging your feelings also takes some of the distracting energy out of them. That's because it helps you "step back" from them - as the saying goes, "Have your feelings so they don't have you."

(In terms of brain function, it helps the frontal lobe take the driver's seat again, so the amygdala or "fight-or-flight" part of the brain is no longer in charge. See here for one article summarizing that research.) 

At a loss to describe your feelings with words? This is fairly common. Here's a handy wheel showing tons of "feeling words" and how they are related. Outer ones are generally the most nuanced and therefore more difficult to name. 

Feelings-Wheel-2011.pdf

The (proof is in the) Pudding

Okay, ready to prove you have more accumulated wisdom that you realized?  

Try this little experiment. It helps if you have several quiet minutes to yourself. If not, then you can start it, let it percolate, and come back to finish it later. 

Remember, here are the steps: 

Step 1: Follow the instructions in the photo below, picking your 4 words. 

Step 2: Then, take out some paper and write down what else comes to mind on this topic. Be sure to include both thoughts AND feelings. 

Step 3: Write until you feel "done." 

Step 4: Write on this for several days in a row, or randomly as more insight percolates to the surface of your thoughts. 

That's it!

If you give this activity some quiet, focused time, I guarantee you will become aware of wisdom on this topic that you didn't consciously realize you had. 

Here's the photo: 

Final Thoughts

If you’re feeling career-stuck, and wished you knew what to do, start journaling thoughts and feelings. You’ll access more of your accumulated wisdom, and eventually you’ll gain enough clarity to take action.

In article two of this series, I’ll give you an easy format for turning that wisdom into action. Stay tuned!