12 Essential Resolutions to Change Careers This Year

So, you're thinking about changing careers (or at least changing jobs).

It may seem like a daunting task, especially if you have a busy life or if you don't know what your next career will be.

Below are 12 (sometimes surprising) ideas for making that transition easier, smoother.

Some of these tips are one-time projects; others are projects to start new habits in your life. 

Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

(1) Make an envy list

Not sure what you’re really into or yearning for? Make a list of the people you envy, plus the reason your envy them. This will point you towards things you want for you life and career that you (for whatever reason) don’t think you can have. They can be people you know personally, of famous people you know of.

For the longest time I envied a colleague who owned her own business. I envied her self-determination, her creative freedom, and her earning potential. I didn’t even recognize it as envy until I started planning my own career rebirth. My belief that I didn’t have enough knowledge to start my own business prevented me from even thinking about it.

Once I surfaced this desire - this envy - I could look at it more rationally, and I realized what I needed to learn to make it happen. 

Once you’ve unearthed the things you want for yourself through your envy list you can set about going after them. If you feel stopped by obstacles (as I did) you can employ the help of a mentor, accountability buddy or coach to help you overcome them.

(2) Revive your passions – off the clock

Research shows that we are most dedicated and creative when we’re doing something for the love of it, rather than for rewards such as pay (see this fascinating short video for more). If your job is stale or stressful, an easy way to revitalize your career is to start first by doing something you care about on your own time – the way you want to do it. This may be a hobby, volunteering for a cause, or taking classes. Once you’ve been doing it for a while, you may have new expertise to add it into your resume or bring ideas back to your work team.

(3) Identify your core requirements for a good, sustainable life

Humans are so adaptable that we get a little too good at “making due” with what we have, no matter how inadequate. We get so good at surviving that we forget what it means to thrive. This is the “boiling frog” analogy.

How to break this cycle? Start by identifying your core requirements for work and life. These are the nuts-and-bolts aspects that are part of your life needs right now. For example, in my program The Flint Career Map, I show you some simple ways to identify the following:

  • Financial needs, including savings and other goals
  • Preferred salary
  • The natural talents that you want to use at work
  • Preferred level of responsibility at work
  • Preferred places to live
  • The kind of company structure you want to work for (public, private or for-profit)
  • The size company you want to work for
  • The corporate culture you prefer
  • The top five qualities of co-workers you prefer
  • Your top 5 preferred working conditions
  • The timeline of your ideal day (start time, number of hours, etc.)

How does your current job stack up? If there are too many differences between your core requirements and your current work life, it’s time to start looking ahead to your next career upgrade.

(4) Instead of setting goals, create habits

For example, instead of resolving to lose 10 pounds, resolve to eat your five-a-day fruits and veggies and walk every night after dinner. Instead of resolving to get out of the job you hate before you turn (X) years old, resolve to devote X hours every week on the job search until you find a job you’ll love.

Why do this? Two reasons: one, designing the habits will make the path to your actual goal much more clear. If you fall off the wagon you can just get back on again by resuming the habit. Two, habits will create more long-lasting changes in your life, rather than backsliding after a goal is attained.

Instead of setting goals, create habits. The goals will take care of themselves.

(5) Get an accountability buddy (and/or hire a coach)

This will help you achieve any of the other 11 projects. One couple I know decided they needed to loose weight. They, along with some other relatives, had a “Biggest Loser” weight-loss contest in early 2014. The winner got a package of massages, paid for by the others. It helps if you and your buddy agree on both a reward for success AND a consequence for falling short.

(6) Exercise your change muscle every day for a month

It’s estimated that 50-80% of our lives are habit, run on autopilot. The advantage is that these habits streamline things, leaving mental energy for new challenges that arise. The disadvantage is that we get used to being comfortable; change then feels uncomfortable, even if it’s necessary and useful (like a career upgrade). 

The easy solution? Get more used to change, starting with small, fun things. Drive a different route to work. Run a small errand on a bicycle. Cook a meal you’re never made before. Watch the sunrise with a cup of coffee. Try a music genre that's new to you. Before you know it, you’ll start to feel more alive and vibrant, and you’ll see change as a welcome adventure instead of a windstorm to endure. This will make the larger changes in life (like a new job) more welcome, too.

(7) Expand your social circles – strategically

It's still true that the best way to get hired - or find new career opportunities - is through networking. Expanding your social circles will expand your career opportunities. But your time is valuable, so it's important to do this strategically, without spinning your wheels too much.

Meeting new people at parties is fun, but it's hit-or-miss when it comes to opening new career doors for you. Instead, go where the people are that are already doing what you want to be doing.

Think about your passions and your envy list. Would you like to learn how to start a business? Get into professional photography? Learn how to manage people? Become a skydive instructor? Think about where you could make friends and contacts with similar skills or interests. This could be through Meetup.com, Facebook groups, your local Chamber of Commerce, Toastmasters, conferences/professional associations, and virtual groups online.

Even if you don’t think you’re qualified (yet) to move into your new career, you can get into the field as a hobbyist or learner. Your new friends will support you to keep going, and provide valuable networking contacts down the road.

(8) Seek out a career mentor

Actually, finding a formal career mentor is easier said than done (See my series on this, in this blog.) It’s a big commitment for the mentor, and as a result I find many people are reluctant to ask. If you can find one, wonderful!

If not, focus on finding mini-mentors for specific things you want to learn. Take someone out to lunch so you can pick their brain on something specific, like marketing as a musician or what it’s really like to be a physical therapist. If the person seems receptive to share what they know, ask to continue the relationship.

(9) Turn off the TV for a month (Including video games)

Some of you have already joined the growing club of people who don’t watch TV. For others, this may seem like radical advice. But consider this: the more disconcerting this project seems to you, the more you may need it.

The average American watches about five hours of TV every day. Surprised? Since there are about 16 waking hours to every day, if you cut out the TV, it’s like getting two more free days in every week. Cool eh?

What happens when you turn off the tube? Like any habit change, it feels a little wobbly at first. Then, a wonderful thing happens: your time fills with other things. More leisure. More interactive playing with the kids. More outdoor time, more fitness, more hobbies, more sleep. And, if you need it, more time on career-upgrade projects like job-hunting, networking or taking classes.

(10) Make your health and vitality a top priority for an entire month

Why is this advice in a list of career-boosters? Because it’s all interconnected. If you feel better, you’ll have more energy and mental stamina to work on your career. If you look energetic and healthy, you’ll have an edge in interviews no matter what your age.

You don’t have to reach some pie-in-the-sky perfection during this time. Just resolve, for one month, to PRIORITIZE your health and vitality. Give it the time it needs, and actually DO whatever you’ve been resolving for ages to do: cook more meals instead of eating out. Get enough sleep. Hire a personal trainer, or get a fitness buddy (see above). Fix your desk ergonomics. Eat your five-a-day fruits and veggies. Drink enough water. Kick the soda habit. Get some massages (or other care) for your aching body. Start meditating. Whatever. Think of it as the oil change for your body-car that’s been overdue for 6000 miles.

(11) Start each day with something inspiring or uplifting

This is an easy one – once you start you won’t want to stop. One friend of mine starts most days with Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” Another friend posts four things he’s grateful about to Facebook every day in November. When a client's previous job started getting old, she got into watching a TED talk (https://www.ted.com) every morning instead of the news until she got up the gumption to get another, better paying job. Another friend of mine, a very successful fitness coach, gets up at 5am (before the kids) to read inspirational books with her first cup of coffee. I guarantee that, whatever you day has in store for you, it will be easier if you start this way.

(12) Surround yourself with more honest, supportive people

When I first became a supervisor in nonprofits, I inherited a team that was mostly comprised of people who liked to tell me what they really thought – especially when they were unhappy. At first I found this stressful and draining.

After a while, though, I realized what a gift it was. They all really cared about what was happening, and cared enough to tell their boss when they thought something was wrong. That takes integrity and a bit of courage.

Having positive people in your life is nice. Having honest ones, who will call you on your stuff in the name of your own goals, is priceless.

Final Thoughts

Remember, this is your year.

Setting up a great support structure in your life, including people, personal reflection and good habits paves the way. With persistence and support, you can have a career that fits well, pays well and makes a difference in the world.

What To Do When Your Spouse Doesn't Support Your Career Dreams

Spousal support – or the lack of it – is one of the issues that come up a lot when people want to change careers.

Often, this conflict is not about the new career itself. Instead, it’s often about other, related issues below the surface that are ongoing, but unresolved.

Chances are, when career issues come up, these conversations fall into the same pattern every time, with each person playing a typical role.

Delany was a successful banker, but as she turned 50 she wanted to drop out of the high-pressure, workaholic world of banking and start her own decorating business. Trouble was, her husband seemed totally against it. He was afraid of the pay cut she’d have as she started up, and took every opportunity to remind her that her last business startup had failed to get off the ground 5 years before. She desperately wanted his support, but couldn’t figure out how to get it.

The secret for changing how these conversations turn out is to focus more on your spouse’s needs FIRST. Only by addressing the objections your spouse has can you expect to gain their trust and support.

How to do this? Take a look at the guide that follows. Then imagine in your mind how you might use this guide with whatever sticking points you and your spouse have.

(1) Prepare by loading your ballast stone into the boat

In old sailing vessels, the ballast stone sat at the bottom of the boat and kept everything balanced and upright, especially before the cargo was loaded.

Before everything, make a checklist for yourself, reasons why your career plan is a good idea, research you’ve already done, etc. – so you can remember your rational reasons for doing something if your spouse responds with criticism or anger. This is your ballast stone.

(2) Get into a place of empathy

Say you announce to your spouse that you want the family to go on a long, overnight canoe trip to a place the family has never been before. Your partner has never even been canoeing. You can imagine they might have a list of questions, right? Where are we going? What do I need to bring? Is it going to be dangerous? Etc.

Your new career announcement might feel exactly like that to your spouse. So it can help you manage YOUR defensiveness by remembering that your spouse isn’t criticizing you as a person – even if it comes out sounding that way.

(3) Open the conversation proactively & lovingly

Pick a time when things are calm to discuss the issues surrounding your career. Schedule the conversation if necessary. When you brain is calm, each of you has the best chance of seeing the situation through the others’ eyes and for problem solving. Waiting until either of you is upset makes it almost impossible to work through it together.

(4) Be specific about your intent for the conversation

You’ve advocated for the canoe trip a few times already. So, if you bring it up again, your partner might assume it will be more of the same. Bam – defenses up.

To minimize this, be clear about your intention from the start. Show that you want to hear them out and address their concerns as part of the outcome. “John, I’ve noticed we’ve had some BIG conversations about this canoe trip I want to take. Can we set a time to talk about it? I want us to be able to understand each others’ needs, and see if there’s a way for this trip to really make sense for all of us as a family.”

(5) Transform the conversation with listening

Yes, I know – you’ve heard it all already, and you know what your spouse is going to say. But here’s the thing: what you really know well are the surface concerns your partner has felt more comfortable voicing in the past, before the conversation turned sour. Your task here is to make it safe to go below the surface – the other 7/8ths of the iceberg, so to speak. Yes, he’s concerned about money. But why?

So: get as curious as possible about your spouse’s perspective. Make it okay to say whatever he has to say. Remember, it’s not about you as a person, it’s about whatever he or she fears.

Don’t put a time limit on it. You know you’re doing it right when your partner begins to relax, both physically and mentally, like a fish who’s been put back into the water.

What you can say:

  • What are your top concerns?
  • Can you say a little more about how you see things?
  • What impact would that have on you? On us? The family?
  • You said before that you are concerned about (name concern). Say some more about how this is important to you.
  • What information might you have that I don’t?
  • How are you feeling about all of this?
  • What would it mean to you if that happened?
  • What else?

(6) Show that you heard

It is very important to show that you take your spouse’s concerns seriously if you are going to gain more support from her in the long run. And, your partner – like all of us – needs you to show that you have heard her and take her concerns seriously before she can “move on” to problem solving.

What you can say: 

  • Okay, so it sounds like overall you are concerned about (summarize what they said). Do I have that right?
  • Sounds like you may be feeling (describe feelings).
  • Sounds like you’re afraid that…

(7) Use “Yes, And...” instead of “But” to add your own perspective

Once you sense that your partner is feeling heard, you can begin to say more about your own perspective.

This may include supplying information to address your partner’s concerns, as well as sharing more about your wants vs. needs for your career. Here’s an important tip: use the “Yes/And” technique to add your own perspective without negating that of your spouse.

Delany might say, “Yes, I appreciate that my last business startup didn’t succeed. And, there are certain things I’ve learned from that experience that will help me be more successful this time, such as…”

(8) When tensions run high, step back for a moment and repeat your intent

Even using the above strategies, you and your partner will probably hit some occasional “icebergs” – topics with a lot of emotional stuff under the surface. That’s normal for conversations around important topics like this. Gently and lovingly remind your partner that your intent is to work through it – together.

(9) Repeat steps 4-7 until everything is out on the table

(10) Paddle the canoe together

Make your spouse your partner in figuring this out; include your spouse’s input in crafting solutions whenever possible. Brainstorm and look for fresh, creative solutions that meet both your needs.

This is like saying, “Okay honey, since you’ve agreed to go canoeing with me, I agree to let you help pick the route.”

Chances are, this conversation will unfold over time. It’s okay if you take a break and come back to it later. If you get stuck you can always get help from a coach or counselor.

But, chances are, if you are persistent in coming back to the strategies mentioned above you will, with some practice, get your canoe moving in a positive direction toward your goals and dreams.

Good reading:

This article draws on the inspired work of the following authors. For more how-to detail, and helpful examples, of the above techniques check out:

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High. By Patterson, Grenny, McMillian, and Switzer. 2002, McGraw-Hill.

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. By Stone, Patton, and Heen. 1999, Penguin Books.

Five Habits that Keep You Stuck in a Job You Hate

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In my late twenties, I finally bought a house.

I was so proud of that house that I spent a lot of time (and a fair amount of money) on continuous projects.

I painted and re-painted; I hand-finished my own wood furniture; I installed another half-bath and a deck; I landscaped like it was going out of style.

It was a stressful time at work, and on Fridays I would quip to my office mates that I was going to spend the weekend doing “gardening therapy” to unwind and shake off the stress of the week.

And it worked, very well. By Monday I felt refreshed and renewed, and (mostly) ready to jump back into the fray.

But you know what those projects also did? They kept me stuck in a job where I was burning out.

How is this, you ask? Isn’t it healthy to have hobbies, interests other than work, and personal renewal?

Well, yes – to a point.

You see, it depends on the purpose these activities serve, and the amount of time they take up. SOME time spent on renewal is important. Yet, it’s very easy for these same activities to actually get in the way of your larger goals in life.

During that time I was doing all the house projects, I was NOT spending time setting up mentors, seeking expert advice on my workplace situation, learning what else was out there in the nonprofit world, setting 10-year career goals, or planning my next career move. I was just seeking comfort – and escape. It wasn’t until my thirties, when my son was born, that I could look back and see where all the time had gone.

So, if you are stuck in a job you hate, or a job that saps your energy, take stock. Which life activities renew you – and which are just distracting you?

Here are my top five choices. Which ones apply to you?

Do you let the steam out of the kettle?

Imagine a kettle that is trying to boil. Every time it gets close, someone comes by and opens the flapper a bit, letting out just enough steam that the kettle never whistles.

Many comfort habits are not renewing, but simply ways to numb the pain – a glass of wine with dinner, a chocolate bar when you’re stressed, a night of mindless TV. (This is different from endorphin-releasing activities that increase health and manage stress, like exercise, meditation, and laughter with friends.)

The whistle is your inner voice, telling you to get the heck out of that job. Instead of lifting the flapper with numbing activities, resolve to take the kettle off the burner entirely by changing your work situation.

Do your hobbies and projects eat up more time than you think?

Some of those house projects I did were necessary repairs; others were useful and increased the value of the house. Yet, others were completely unnecessary and distracted me from the larger issues in my life. (Did I really need to repaint the dining room three times?)

Try this: fold a piece of paper into thirds (or make an Excel document with three columns.) In the first column, list all of the hobbies and projects of your household from the past six months that you can remember.

Now, consider which items were/are renewal activities, and which might be distracting/escape activities. In column two, re-write all the items that help you renew. In column three, write down anything from column one that are escape activities (or renewal activities you do so much they become escape activities).

What do you notice? Where in your life is there room to replace escape activities with time spent on your career?

Do you fritter away your rainy-day or business start-up money?

Back when I was a Program Director, one of my staff decided he wanted to take an extended trip to Australia. Between his job and his own small business, he probably had a comparable yearly income to me. Yet, while I went years without allowing myself a significant vacation, he achieved his goal in eight months, and saved enough to spend over two weeks in Australia.

How did he do it? Simple; he paid himself.

Once he set his goal, and figured out how much he needed to save, he started cutting out the extras in his life. And every time he did so, he put the money in a separate savings account. He did this with little things – his daily Starbucks allotment went in there, as he drank supermarket coffee brewed at home – as well as larger payments, such as the difference between the rent for his tiny apartment and the larger one he could have afforded.

This strategy works because you focus on the reward of moving closer to your goal, rather than the sense of deprivement when you deny yourself your daily and weekly comforts.

Have a career goal that you think is financially out of reach, like starting a business or getting more training? Try paying yourself.

Do you read and consume media to entertain yourself, rather than to better yourself?

In my late twenties, I spent a summer month consulting and co-facilitating on a corporate teambuilding project in another town upstate. During our weekend down time, I noticed that my host’s kitchen table was filled with books about business, leadership, and the health care industry. He had a goal of reading one book a week – an ambitious project. I was reading also – but mostly science fiction, my favorite. (And, to be honest, I was watching movies at the end of the night more than I was reading.)

Within 5 years, he transitioned over and became an in-house trainer in the health care industry, with a significant increase in salary. It wasn’t until I saw the connection between his reading habits and his career growth that I began doing the same – with great promotion results of my own.

Give up your favorite unwind-reading or show? No – we all need that sometimes; that falls in the renewal category. Instead, limit the time spent on these and spend time each week with material that expands your knowledge base, feeds your true passions, and furthers your career.

Is your social circle is the same size it’s been for years (or: Are your co-workers your main friends)?

Now, if you’re a natural introvert like me, having a small circle of close friends that you’ve known for years is part of how you define The Good Life. (I’ve known all my "besties" for over 15 years.) Or, you may be extroverted, but you hang out with your co-workers more than anyone else. This is perfectly fine, in and of itself, and I’m sure they are wonderful people.

And, if you want to get out of a rut and into a new job or career, it will help immensely to expand your social network. Here are three reasons why:

  1. New friends (or at least new acquaintances) will expose you to new ideas, new ways of thinking, and new networking opportunities. Networking is still the number one way that people land new jobs.
  2.  If your friends are your co-workers, they may have a vested interest in keeping you at your current workplace – either to keep seeing your lovely face, or to validate their own decision to stay at their jobs. As a result, they may not be the best support network to encourage you when you have moments of doubt in your job search.
  3. Making new friends is a great way to exercise your “change muscle” and get used to change in your life. This, in turn, will make changing jobs or careers feel more comfortable, more doable.

Am I telling you to dump your current friends? Definitely not! Hold on to the people that love you and make your life sweeter.

Just add some new spice into the soup, okay? Join a new club; revive an old hobby; do something on Meetup; join a professional organization; spend some time on LinkedIn; talk to people at that conference you needed to go to anyway; etc.

If something doesn’t feel right, give it time OR try something else. In time, it will pay off in wonderful and unexpected ways.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

How to Give Yourself the Best Career Advice (Part II)

Are you agonizing a career decision?

Should I look for another job?
Should I apply for that manager position?
Should I take a job with that much travel?

In Part One of this series, I showed you how to uncover more of your buried wisdom on almost any topic, including your career.

If you’ve tried it, you’ve probably uncovered some good stuff. I know it works for me.

Now: what to do with these great insights you’re getting? How do we make these insights work for you?

That’s the subject of this article.

Turning Insight Into Action Steps

For about 15 years before I became a coach, I was a professional facilitator. True story: 

On one occasion, I was facilitating a group of 8 people on a team-building course. They were stuck on a part called the Incomplete Bridge. A team needs to use two boards to get across a span - but neither board is long enough by itself.

This particular group kept doing the same thing over and over - and failing. They were convinced that if they just did that same thing better, that they would succeed. 

They were getting pretty frustrated. But they kept trying that same thing over and over to cross that washed-out bridge. 

I stopped them for a water break, and I said to them, quite casually, "You know the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results." 

They want back to their challenge, and wouldn't you know it, two outspoken members insisted on trying that same method again

Well, about three minutes after that, someone in the back spoke up. She said, "Wait! Are we being 'insane' here?" 

They stopped, had a little pow-wow, and resolved to try a few other methods to the problem. Soon after, they found the correct solution and got across the bridge. 

The moral of the story here? 

Sometimes, people get stuck only because
they don’t know what they’ve learned.

They know what they’re seeing right in front of them, but they don’t know what larger lesson they can draw from it. That’s the "bridge" between what’s going on now, and your next action step.

Fortunately, in many cases a simple process can help you cross that bridge.

Ready? Here it is:

WHAT – HOW – WHAT – NOW

“What-How-What-Now?” stands for a series of questions you can ask yourself to more easily turn your stuck-ness into meaningful action. Having a coach or facilitator ask them to you is ideal because s/he can ask follow-up questions as needed. But in the absence of that, journaling the answers can help you move “out of the mud” and get your mental car back on the road.

(1) WHAT?

The first question is: What is going on (with this issue or problem)?

This is the part you have already been doing, as you’ve written down your thoughts and feelings. (If not, go back and read Part I for more information.)

Take your time with this step. If you find yourself getting stuck in blaming, or going over and over the same scene in your head, step back and name your feelings. Do you feel anger? Resentment? Betrayal? Fear? Grief?

(Not sure? See Part I of this series for a complete diagram of feelings -- the "feelings wheel").

Once you feel “done” with this part, move on to Question 2.

(2) HOW?

The second question is: How has this impacted my life?” (Bonus question: How has this impacted others who are close to me?)

This question asks you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture a little. You’re looking to spot the way the situation has affected you – as well as the way your own choices have affected you. Both are important.  

I won’t lie to you – asking this question is a bit harder than the first “WHAT?” question. In fact, it may be a bit painful to answer it.

That’s because “HOW” is going to uncover some of the stuff that you already know, deep down – but which you haven’t had to face yet, because they are safely buried under things like anger, blame, or the distraction of binge-watching Netflix.

“HOW” is going to uncover some of the stuff that you already know, deep down – but which you haven’t had to face yet

Nevertheless, it’s vitally important –because it sets the stage for the third question, which (promise) feels a lot better.

So, take a breath and ask “How has this impacted my life?” Write this question in your journal, then begin to write down whatever comes up.

Here are some examples of the kinds of answers you get for "HOW?":

I am still in a job that I really don’t like.

I’m so unhappy that I am short with my partner/kids when I get home, and my family life is suffering.

I realize that, since I’ve become burned out, I have probably been really difficult to work with, and my co-workers are afraid to tell me.

I realize I haven’t really committed to building this business. I’m so afraid it will fail that I haven’t really started.

I realize that I’ve spent so much time blaming my supervisor for his shortcomings that I haven’t even considered my exit strategy. It’s been easier to be mad and to stew in it day after day than to face the fact that I need to find another place to work.

I realize I have not been in the driver’s seat of my job, so to speak. I have said yes too often, have taken on too much and have let myself get somewhat burned out.

Now, here are two very interesting things that happen when you answer the “HOW?” Question:

(1) You may have several answers to the “HOW?” question – and they may even seem contradictory. This is okay, even normal. In a messy situation, lots of truths can coexist.

(2) You may need to cycle back to “WHAT?” another time or two. If you realize you’ve become burned out and you may have become difficult to be around at work, you may uncover feelings of embarrassment and shame. This is actually pretty productive – as far as feelings are concerned, you need to “name it to tame it.”  Seeing what’s there will help the next step really work.

So, it may be a little tough to ask this question – but keep digging, because often part of why we’re stuck is because we’re wrestling with contradictory truths.

Once you have found some answers to the “HOW?” question, you might sit with that for a few days, or you might move on right away to the third question:

(3) WHAT?

The third question is: “What am I learning from all this?”

Once you’ve faced the reality of how your current situation (and some of the choices you’ve made, up until now) have impacted you, you are ready to look at what you’ve learned.

Here are some examples of answers to “WHAT am I learning?"

I’m learning that no one is going to “fix” my career but me. I need to have the courage to take full responsibility for it.

This may sound clichéd, but I’m learning that work really doesn’t love you back. You can’t sacrifice too much of yourself at work, and expect it to be repaid. You have to pace yourself, take care of yourself. You have to say “no” sometimes – as difficult as that may be.

I’m learning that I really do need a mentor.

I’m learning how important it is to get out of debt and save for the proverbial “rainy day.” That will allow me to leave a bad situation more easily.

I’m learning that I need to widen my social network so I can find another job more easily.

I’m learning that I have to investigate a new opportunity more thoroughly before saying “yes.”

Some of the things you write here may be “hard lessons learned.” And that’s okay. But ultimately, you will move through those and uncover lessons that feel more energizing, because they hint at possibilities for new action.

When that happens, you are ready to move on to Question 4.

(4) NOW?

The fourth question is: Now what?”

Now that you have peeked behind the curtain of your problem, so to speak, what is your next step?

(IMPORTANT: It you are a person who likes to take action, you may be tempted to skip right to this question. However, in my experience, I find that you’ll be more likely to break out of old, unconscious patterns if you work through the first three questions first.)

When you work on the “NOW?” question, you may…

(a) …Know exactly what you need to do next. It may be clear as day. You’ll feel a “yes” down in your gut when you think about taking this action (confirmation from your implicit learning/wisdom).

(b) …Need to brainstorm and “vet” some options before choosing. The “NOW?” journal question is a good place to do this. Then, as you look back over your list of possibilities, you can consider each of them against your values, the practicality of each, etc., or bounce them off of a trusted advisor such as your spouse or best friend (or coach).

Final Thoughts

Sometimes it’s a lot easier to write yourself out of a stuck place than to think yourself out of a stuck place. A few simple journal techniques can help you stop spinning your mental wheels and “get out of the mud.”

This combination of techniques (writing both thoughts and feelings, and using “What-How-What-Now?” have helped me work through many of my own stuck places over the years. I’ve also used “What-How-What-Now?” to great success with in-person client sessions, in both group and individual formats.

Good luck! Thank you for reading, and let me know how it goes.