Kristin Walter was a natural pick for our first Unstuck Hero because she chose to carve purpose out of the life she already had.
Unstuck reader Judith reminds us, however, that purpose doesn’t have to be lofty or world-changing.
"Perhaps it’s less about finding your purpose and more about living a life of purpose," she said. "That’s more challenging, but it’s something anyone can learn to do in every moment of every day. Whether it’s choosing kindness and compassion in interactions with others, respecting the Earth in the choices one makes, or simply doing one’s job mindfully and with joy—yes, joy—whatever that job may be. I actually believe that would lead to the creation of the kinds of workplaces, jobs, and companies we’d all love to be a part of."
We absolutely agree. And, for more ideas from your fellow Unstuck readers of how to bring joy and purpose to your job, check out How to Make a Boring Job Better.
Also, if you’re part of a team at work that sometimes struggles to find the purpose in what you do, our colleagues at Teamworks (also founded by SYPartners) can help. Any manager can sign up for a free two-week trial at teamworks.is. Select “Purpose” as your first “Focus Habit”, and you’ll find tools to create a team purpose statement, and come up with actions that keep purpose part of the day-to-day flow.
You can try to stare down an obstacle until it goes away — but we don’t recommend it.
Actually, we like obstacles quite a bit. When something blocks our path, it sparks us in a couple of good ways.
First, it fires up our problem-solving skills. We get to flex parts of our brain that aren’t required when everything runs as expected. It’s not comfortable, but makes us feel alive in the moment as we puzzle through it. Then when it’s solved, well, that’s reason to rejoice that we’ve learned something.
Obstacles also remind us that it will get better. As Frank Clark, an author and military historian, once said, “If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”
Time and confidence show that things almost always work out. Maybe not as we planned, but we’re more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for. Except when we’re stuck acting like a Perplexed Planner.
This is when our brain locks up at the sight of an obstacle. Fears flood our thoughts, creating a loop in our head that doesn’t leave room for anything else. We see the obstacle but we can’t do anything about it.
There are at least three variations on the Perplexed Planner’s fears (take our mini-quiz to discover your tendency).
• As By-the-Book Planners, we excel at making things work because we excel at following the rules. When the rules fail, we By-the-Bookers need to believe there is more than one answer to the problem. Trouble is, that requires creative thinking, and we’re not so sure we can do that.
• Perfect Planners impress with our mastery of the details. We work them all out just so. But if something shifts in those well-laid plans, our fear of failure takes over, making it difficult to remember that we can learn a lot from our mistakes.
• Peerless Planners are the gurus among us, or at least that’s what we’d like people to think. So when we get stumped, it’s a double-whammy: We can’t move forward and we can’t bring ourselves to admit it to others. We need to discover the virtues of asking for help.
To push past these fears, we created an Obstacle-Busters! tip sheet designed to help us view our blockers from different angles. Start with one or more of the warm-up exercises to clear the clutter of anxiety that’s filling your head.
DOWNLOAD THIS: A printable tip sheet to bust through an obstacle
Next week: The surprising benefits of cleaning up
Last week: What do you do when the system stops working?
When we get right down to it, relationships are everything. They fuel all aspects of our life — and without that fuel, the days can feel pretty empty. But no need to go there. Here are seven low-impact ways you can build bonds.
1. Accompany a friend visiting someone who is sick.
2. Have high tea with the older generation of women in your family.
3. Smile more often.
4. Have a tech-free night spent playing cards or board games.
5. Offer to babysit for a friend in need of a break.
6. Leave a note in your partner’s briefcase or your kid’s backpack.
7. Host a potluck meal and invite everyone over.
Thanks to Karen Amster-Young and Pam Godwin for this list. You can find hundreds more ideas in their book The 52 Weeks: Two Women and Their Quest to Get Unstuck, with Stories and Ideas to Jumpstart Your Year of Discovery.
When it comes to food, the choice is yours. Rather than setting excessive limits and rude restrictions (no cake? How rude!), simply decide what’s in and what’s out of your eating regime. Chips with your sandwich? Maybe with every other one. A glass of wine with your meal is cool; a glass of wine at every meal, not so much. When you determine your eating limits, you’ll eat more moderately and enjoy your food. After all, it’s no fun to be skinny if you’re hungry.
Thanks to REFIT® for this tip. REFIT is a community-centered fitness program that engages the heart as a muscle and a soul. Learn more about this revolutionary fitness community at www.REFITREV.com
Stuck moment: You love when things run smoothly — some say you’re a master at it — and right now it’s the opposite of that. As far as you can tell, nothing has changed. Still, you’ve started over…several times. Checked and rechecked. Even referred to the manual. Why. Won’t. This. Work!
Such is the frustration of Perplexed Planners. So full of determination to make it work that they can only see what is, not what could be. And that’s a major handicap when it comes to solving a problem.
We’ve all been there from time to time, but not always in the same way. There are at least three shades of Perplexed Planners. To find out your tendency, take our mini-quiz below. We’ll follow up next week with tips for each type of Planner.
Think of a time when a tactic that’s always served you well stopped working. It might be how you communicate with someone. How you complete a work project. Maybe it’s your method for tracking your budget. What did you Feel, Think, and Do at that time? Pick one answer from each group. This works best when you answer quickly, following your gut instinct.
What did you Feel when you were perplexed?
B. Like a failure.
C. Afraid you’d be found out.
What did you Think when you were perplexed?
A. I wish this came with instructions.
B. Ugh. Do I have to learn something new now?
C. This will take me forever to fix.
What did you Do when you were perplexed?
A. Declared it broken and stop trying.
B. Nothing. I didn’t want to mess things up more.
C. Stayed quiet about it as long as I could.
If you chose mostly A answers, read about By-the-Book Planners, below. Mostly B’s, you’re likely a Perfect Planner. C’s are Peerless Planners. If you had a mix of letters, you’re a hybrid, which means you’ll find parts of yourself in all three types.
A. By-the-Book Planner. There’s a reason rules are made, and the primary one is to be followed. There’s comfort in knowing what to do and what to expect — because it usually works for you. Why reinvent every time when you can sail smoothly ahead instead? But when the waters get choppy, you may find you’re not equipped to improvise.
You need to believe in your creative abilities. Perplexed Planners get stuck by the clutter, and in your case, it’s the rules that are clogging up your brain. It’s hard to think creatively when you’re clinging to one right way. Embrace the idea that there’s more than one answer to any given problem.
B. Perfect Planner. Details are your friend. You coax and cajole them into shape like few can — and that’s impressive. Whether it’s an annual report or a dinner for 12, everyone knows you’ll make it just so. That’s why a change of plans can be so disruptive. You’re not sure how to adapt and still keep the system in shape.
You need to believe in the possibilities of failure. When plans go askew, your mind heads to that scary place where everything goes wrong. Your thoughts swim with possible errors and the unknown. And you don’t want to take a chance on making any of it come true. But if you don’t try, things aren’t going to get better.
C. Peerless Planner. You’re known for being head and shoulders above the crowd. It’s a point of pride, and you’ve definitely earned it. But this can make the words, “I don’t know,” difficult to utter. You might lose your status as the person with all the answers. And that leaves you stuck pretending.
You need to believe that everyone needs help. Whether or not you feel the confidence of a virtuoso, it’s important that others see you as one. Faced with a kink in the system, your certainty may plummet. And the worst part is imagining what others may think of you. Instead, consider this: The mark of a true expert is knowing that you don’t know everything.
PRINTABLE TIP CARD #22: What kind of Perplexed Planner are you?
Next week: 4 ways to clear the clutter that’s keeping you stuck
Last week: Unstuck Hero: How a grilled cheese sandwich saved the day