Getting unstuck and taking control of your life and career with CHOICE

Posted on by Kelly Gleason in Professional Development

The number of ways we sabotage ourselves is endless while there’s only one way we support our leadership and that’s with a CHOICE.

Freedom is both liberating and scary. Today’s world and lives give us unprecedented freedom to choose our own options whether that’s where we choose to live, work, what we do, who we marry or date, where we send our kids to school, and what coffee brand we drink. Choice is everywhere.

In 2000, a psychology professor Barry Schwartz, wrote an article entitled ‘Self-determination: the tyranny of freedom’ arguing that more choice can in fact make our lives worse as pressure to make good choices piles on. In my experience, such pressure to make good decisions is directly linked to individual leadership or the choice to step up and take active control of our lives and career. The freedom is there but there seems to be a lot of choice and with choice comes risk and fear of failure.  Instead of taking steps to improve their lives, many people stay stuck or work around the edges in the safe zone. Now mind you, I’m not exactly risk-seeking individual myself. In fact I’m risk averse. But having worked with many people on careers and seeing how simple steps have helped them built amazing results, I’m an advocate of everyone being able to step into their freedom and creating a satisfying and fulfilling life and career.

In her book Working Identity Herminia Ibarra, an organisational psychologist working at INSEAD business school, presents a new model for career reinvention. Instead of launching into what we know we want to do, Iberra argues that knowing comes from doing and experimenting. Her in depth interviews with professionals and managers in transition show convoluted journeys instead of straight paths toward some predetermined identity. You may look around at people who you think have succeeded, and while it may appear that their paths were clearly laid out in advance this, in fact, is not the case. Ibarra’s research highlights the need for constant experimentation with new professional identities by experimenting with what we do, connecting with different people, and continuous consciously retelling the story of our journey. In other words, working identities are something we actively create by practicing choice on a regular basis in order to lead fulfilling lives.

CHOICE plays a key role in getting us unstuck and feeling in control of our lives and careers.  CHOICE is a great acronym for my 6 steps to getting unstuck and stepping into personal leadership to regain your freedom, get promoted, get on top of your ‘busy’ life, become a world expert or simply to improve how you experience life.

6 steps to get unstuck

C: Control

Taking control of your life or what I call your flight path is critical to your success and personal satisfaction. If you don’t take control of it, others will do it for you. Being in control means knowing about yourself, what you need, what motivates you, what programmes run in your subconscious and how they determine how you behave and think. Control means taking responsibility for yourself and your life’s journey and also making a commitment to lead it as opposed to being led.

How can you practice Control?

Examine how are you letting yourself off the hook and staying stuck. What are you tolerating? What would you like to have, be and do? People who opt into my programmes sometimes report a sense of drifting, going through the motions, or being told what to do or what they like. There are many simple ways to take control back and get unstuck. One simple way is to notice what’s happening.

H: How

People who lead have a rough idea of what they want to do or what needs to get done and they get on with it.  They take concrete action. It never stops to amaze me how our brains can become foggy and paralyze us from too much choice or from focusing on the wrong steps. One of the key insights I always share with my clients and workshop participants is that if it is possible to drive with limited visibility, then it is possible to take one step forward without knowing everything. No one does! Often clarity emerges as a result of something changing.  So staying in one space because not everything is worked out is a way to keep things unchanged and therefore stuck. And the longer we persist in the same situation, the harder it is to get ourselves moving again. Don’t wait for change to come from outside and be imposed on you.

How can you practice How?

Consider what’s available to you where you are right now? What are some options? Who could you speak to? And take one small step to get your how to fire up. Notice what changes, what stays the same? Feel the thrill of unstucking and tap into the power of learning as you go.

O: Ownership

Being able to own your thoughts and feelings is key to staying authentic and connected with yourself as well as others. One of the most common ways of staying stuck is ignoring our feelings, the inner voice of wisdom, inspiration or even common sense. I do believe that most of us are wise beyond measure but with the increasing business of the world around us, we shut down our ability to listen to our bodies and our inner wisdom relying on information from outside. We transition from leaders and independent thinkers to drones. This is why I advocate that people follow their heart instead of do what society imposes on them. Many of these external expectations are not real anyhow or simply unhealthy. Last week, a woman contacted me for some coaching and she said that after listening to my talk she figured our her heart was at sea on it’s way to Singapore. And what does it say to you as it sails away I inquired. “Quit your job because it’s making you sick!” She has denied this feeling for a number of years while precious life energy was draining from her. People around her looked energised and happy but she barely had enough energy to do the essentials. Owning her feelings, exploring them and then taking control of her future was the beginning of her leadership journey to get unstuck and create a life that made her body, mind and spirit happy.

How can you practice Ownership?

Examine your feelings? Acknowledge actions that are working for you and note down ways in which you are letting yourself down. Ask yourself this question: “what would a wise person do in this situation?’ and listen to your inner wisdom. Then resolve to take purposeful action. Own your process and each step.

I: Improvisation

One of the most freedom giving activities is play and many adults simply do not make time for it. Play for play sake has been relegated into activities that only kids do! And yet, the ability to have a go without the burden of specific expectations is vital to building confidence and learning. Hence improvisation is key for people who want to get unstuck, make progress and for leadership. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University looked at MRI brain scans of jazz improvisers and showed that an area of the brain called the dorsolateral pre-frontal cortex decreased in activity when the piano players were improvising. This region of the brain has been linked with self-censorship that occurs when we want to ‘look good’. Another part of the brain called the medial pre-frontal cortex however increased in activity during improvising. This region has been linked with creativity, self-expression as well as intuition. Similar results were obtained for rappers showing that improvisation, whether with musical notes or words, changes the way the brain functions. As brains are plastic and open to learning, this means that we too can increase our range and flexibility by improvising through simply varying our daily routines slightly.

How can you practice Improvisation?

So have a go at some simple improvising. Get a cheap watercolour set and paint some postcards. Take a walk without a destination and see where your feet take you. Tell a story and examine what sort of story is it. Improvise away to give yourself an opportunity to experience freedom and inspiration without the mental blocks.

C: Connecting

Many people who experience stuckness choose to withdraw or they find other stuck people and create a moaning chorus.  These are both massively effective ways to keeping yourself stuck as they offer little chance of escaping the thinking and emotional pain of stuckness. Connecting with people who are unstuck however, brings inspiration, challenge and fresh insights. Healthy connections help us clear our emotions, take us beyond our immediate burdens and problems, and help us build resolve and motivation to take productive action. Also connecting with other people is a proactive activity in itself. It requires we focus on something other than us, actively engage and participate in useful conversations and it stimulates reflection and making meaning. Connecting with people who are not stuck is a natural antidote to being stuck.

How can you practice Improvisation?

Devote one day in a week or fortnight to a new group activity. Sign up for a course or workshop where you can meet people who have committed to getting unstuck or who are seeking a How. Join a local interest group or take part in community events that interest you or link with what you want to create.

E: Excitement

One of the most natural ways to motivate people is to be excited about what you’re doing or how you feel. When you watch two improvisers doing improv they co-create emotional content by inviting each other to an experience of specific emotions. One of them may for example begin to laugh or jump around in excitement. Soon enough the other joins in. Before any words or gestures are made, they are already telling us a story.  Add a bounce to your morning and see how that infuses your body with energy that seems to come out of nowhere. Slump in your chair and see energy drain away from you in seconds. Somatic coaching, a branch of coaching that focuses and works specifically through the body, is really revealing to us how powerful our bodies can be in changing our mood and actions. But excitement is also cognitive. Celebrating success is one of the best ways to practice excitement. Using positive affirmations, laughter, and reframing facts into supportive context helps generate optimism and positive thinking which is likely to be more resourceful.

How can you practice Excitement?

Have a party to take time out and share the joy of being healthy, having a job, or having friends. Practice acknowledgement on a daily basis expressing gratitude. Notice the beauty around you and really allow it to inspire you.

Being stuck while painful is actually easy. Many people stuck in their career, life, relationship, or patterns will feel exhausted by the energy it takes to do stuck! So why not get unstuck and practice active CHOICE to divert that energy towards creating a better life for yourself. I hope these tips inspire you to doing CHOICE instead of stuck and that they help you reclaim your freedom. If you want more inspiration and practical advice you can:

  • Listen to my TedX talk on why following the heart is best

  • Pick up and get to work with a copy of my practical book for getting results Get Productive

  • Get in touch for 1:1 private coaching

  • Learn how to put each step into action and begin your own leadership journey by enrolling in one of my Enough! programmes. For programme brochure and upcoming dates e-mail:

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