Dreaming of a new career can (temporarily) lessen the bite of a bad job, but it may not motivate us beyond our musings. To build momentum, do something — anything — that gets you excited, increases your knowledge, or expands your connections. Here are 7 ideas ranging from tiny to whoa-look-what-I’m-doing!
1. Make a vision board
2. Go on an informational interview
3. Start a side business on eBay or Etsy
4. Write a guest article or blog post
5. Resist the urge to complain
6. Give tennis lessons to kids
7. Write your autobiography: it might reveal things you forgot about yourself
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
Not so long ago, we at Unstuck experienced a small stuck moment of our own. It began when we opened a customer service email from a potential Unstuck app user, which simply read: ANDROID! NOW!
After a few seconds of shock, we landed on a sense of indignation: How dare this person shout at us this way? We provide free software that helps people. And it works. And it’s free! Doesn’t this shouter know that it costs us time and money to create free apps?
But it nibbled at our subconscious long enough that we decided to turn our indignation into a question: Why did this person feel it was okay to demand — to scream — that we deliver a free Android app?
We’ll spare you our meandering logic and fast-forward to the conclusion: Among all the wonderful things technology does for us, it also feeds a primal desire for instant gratification. Want it? You got it. Now.
There’s Uber for instant taxis, Netflix for instant entertainment, Glam Squad for on-demand beauty services, Zeel for same-day massages, Postmates for speedy food delivery. The list goes on and on, and includes Unstuck. (Yikes! Are we part of a problem?)
This kind of immediacy is something we’re all getting very used to — lots of quick fixes throughout the day — to the point where the idea of waiting for something becomes a distant memory. It’s supposed to make us more efficient. And we admit we’re enamored with the innovation it’s breeding (check out these three products). But it’s also making patience a rare commodity.
What patience does for us
Patience is an unsung hero. It enables us to make better decisions. To appreciate the process as well as the result. To tap into empathy, compassion, and understanding. To see things through to the end. (This reads like a short list of abilities that come in handy when we need to get unstuck.)
But it doesn’t seem to be holding up particularly well these days. Maybe that’s because patience is a skill, and like any skill, it requires practice. Of course, as logic goes, with all our insta-apps delivering what we want when we want it, there isn’t as much call for us to practice patience. But we submit that it’s just the opposite. In a world gone on-demand, we need more.
To put a fine point on it, without patience we lack the wherewithal to see things through, to wait for the better outcome, to strive for our heart’s desire when it’s not in front of us at the moment. And that lowers our quality of life in all kinds of ways. Like ulcers and heart issues. Anxiety, anger, and depression. Torn relationships. Compromised quality. Colossal amounts of energy spent on achieving very little.
That disturbing scenario has put us in pursuit of patience.
First, we took a deep breath and wrote back to the Android device owner. We explained that we’ve developed a web app designed to work well on Android, and we invited feedback on the experience (when you meet stuck moments with patience, it helps others tap into their own). Then we came up with ways to exercise our patience every day. We share them here, with the hope that you, too, believe that patient people should not be an endangered species.
When you’re feeling short on patience:
• Consider what goes into making your request happen. If you found out that it was going to take at least 30 minutes to receive your entree, like the famous chicken served at Zuni Café, where they begin preparing it the day before and roast it in wood-fired brick ovens, would you still insist they hurry it up? If you would, are you okay with a wing and thigh from a fast food joint instead?
• Project how important this moment of impatience will be in a year or a week or even a day. Be honest, will you even remember why you caused such a fuss? And will it make a difference in the long run?
• Notice the angry person you are in this moment. Is this the person you really want to be in the world?
When you’re feeling calm and want to stay that way:
• Take the long way and enjoy what it has to offer. Instead of texting, handwrite a note. Instead of the highway, take the back road and stay under the speed limit. If you’re riding the train, put away your phone and look around.
• Be grateful for what is. When you spend time adding up what’s good in life (and we don’t necessarily mean possessions), it brings on an awesome feeling of contentment. If you do that every day, you get to feel that contentment every day. Contentment and impatience are mutually exclusive.
• Don’t try to multitask. We emphasize “try” because, unlike computers, the human brain isn’t wired to compute more than one thing at a time (here’s why). So when we attempt to, we get frazzled, and that can lead to impatience.
• Meditate. It does take practice — that alone will increase your tolerance levels. And once you get the hang of meditating on a regular basis, you’ll be equipped to combat impatient flare-ups. Here’s an easy primer to get started.
Final thought: By its very nature, there is no insta-fix for patience. But if we pay attention to it, and practice it, we can make it more of a habit.
Don’t be fooled by the pretty words “honey wheat” or “golden oat” in the bread aisle. If the first ingredient listed on the package doesn’t say “whole wheat flour,” you won’t reap all the benefits of this healthy grain.
There are three good reasons that 100% whole wheat has the upper hand to white bread. It contains:
• more protein,
• more fiber, and
• less processing.
This simple switch could make a huge difference in your:
• satiety (you’ll feel fuller so are likely to eat less), and
• digestive system (which could reduce bloating and irregularity).
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
Mistakes are really stuck moments waiting to get unstuck. We fail, we learn, we do better. Sometimes, a lot better. Such is the case with the 25 successful women profiled in Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting it Wrong, edited by Jessica Bacal, Penguin, 2014.
We’ve culled five of the stories that offer some of the best advice for all of us, and categorized them by type of stuck moment for extra clarity. Experience is the best teacher — even if it isn’t yours.
* * *
Rachel’s mistake: Rachel is used to being the best, and has a shelf of trophies and awards — plus an acceptance letter to Yale Law — to prove it. When she wins a prestigious Rhodes scholarship to study political theory at Oxford for two years, she’s determined to be the best at that too. But she hates her program, and feels defeated for the first time in her life.
How Rachel gets unstuck: Rachel realizes that she’s been so busy winning that she’s ignored thinking about what makes her happy. She drops out of Oxford and starts work on a nonfiction book about bullied girls. She never goes to law school; instead, her book becomes a beloved bestseller, and she begins a fulfilling career helping young women build confidence and self-awareness.
What Rachel learned: “Listen to your ‘internal voice,’ that voice inside your head that tells you when you feel tired or thirsty, whether you should leave that party, if you should buy that cool shirt. When you think about the path you’re on right now, what does the voice say? A full-throated passionate yes? A maybe? Or an I-hate-this-but-it’s-what-I-have-to-do? You can plug your ears for a while, but eventually, that voice grows louder, more ominous, and harder to ignore. Listen to it now before you get in too deep.”
Danielle’s mistake: When Danielle is in charge for the first time as a second-year medical resident, she faces a life-or-death decision for a patient. She shoots down her intern’s advice, and makes the wrong call. The patient almost goes into cardiac arrest.
How Danielle gets unstuck: Danielle is stricken with shame for her error, but realizes that she has to put her humiliation aside for the sake of her patient. And she discovers that, no matter who is in charge, you can ask colleagues for their opinions.
What Danielle learned: “You don’t have to feel the burden of ‘I must be 110 percent right on my first try, and I may not utter any evidence of hesitancy.’ Even the president of the company can turn to a trusted colleague and say, ‘What do you think? Here’s my idea. Give me some feedback.’”
Luma’s mistake: Luma graduates from college without a sense of what she wants to do. As a result, she feels alienated from friends and family, and moves around a lot, working in restaurants and volunteering as a girls’ soccer coach at the YMCA.
How Luma gets unstuck: One day, Luma sees some kids playing pickup soccer and stops to kick the ball with them. She discovers that they’re refugees from war-torn countries — and getting to know their stories ignites a passion in her. She begins to tutor them after school. Later, she founds the first accredited school for refugees in the US. This becomes her life’s work.
What Luma learned: “When you get the alumni quarterly and you read about your friends who are PhDs or MacArthur fellows or Rhodes scholars, drink a shot for each one and keep a good sense of humor. Life is about doing what you love.”
Cheryl’s mistake: Cheryl knows she wants to write but can’t see how to make it work and still pay her bills. She gets increasingly demoralized working as a waitress while her real dream remains a pie in the sky.
How Cheryl gets unstuck: She takes a job as a youth advocate for at-risk girls in a middle school, and this experience injects fresh perspective. She loves contributing to others’ lives — and realizes she can do this through her writing. She applies to an MFA program, quits her job, and moves across the country to attend school. A decade later, she writes the bestselling memoir Wild.
What Cheryl learned: “We’re all rough drafts. If you’re living right, you’re constantly striving to make the next version of yourself one notch better. Real success is rooted in learning how to turn mistakes into successes; losses into gains; failures into the things of value that propel you forward rather than hold you back. My advice is to be humble, to listen to those who have more experience than you do, to work hard — actually hard — and also to trust yourself. No one makes your life for you. You make it yourself.”
Reshma’s mistake: During her 2009 run for Congress, Reshma sinks all of her hopes and savings into her campaign. When she receives only 19 percent of the vote, she’s devastated. It feels like a huge public failure. And she doesn’t have a plan B.
How Reshma gets unstuck: Reshma gives herself permission to feel upset about her failure for two weeks, then analyzes what went wrong. Talking to people and reflecting on how she ran the campaign allows her to see her missteps and learn from them. She goes on to take a job as a public advocate for New York City, and later starts the nonprofit Girls Who Code.
What Reshma learned: “When you have major setbacks, you ironically begin to feel like you can do anything because the worst has already happened and you’re no longer paralyzed by the fear of something not working out. If I hadn’t run for office, I would never be where I am now, the founder of a successful nonprofit. That’s why I tell young people to fail fast, fail hard, and fail often.”
When graphic designer Tom Balchin gets creatively stuck, instead of looking for an answer, he digs into the problem. Is there a tension that is getting in the way of a solution? More often than not, there is, he says. Emotional investment versus financial cost, for instance. Or personalization versus broad reach. Once the opposing forces are known, he finds it much easier to reassess what he needs to do.
Source: Breakthrough! 90 proven strategies to overcome creative block & spark your imagination, Alex Cornell, editor.