5 Things to Remember When You’re Stuck and Desperate for a Change Part 1 by Marc Chernoff
“No matter how rough your life gets, you can always turn it around.“
On my birthday many moons ago, when Google and I were both a lot younger, I Googled “how to change your life when you’re stuck” to see what would come up. I had been feeling hopelessly trapped – I was busy racing around in circles every day without any meaningful progress. I knew I needed to find a better roadmap as I was getting depressed with the same old grind.
Granted, I was working 60+ hours a week, struggling with a failing business, and coping with the recent deaths of two loved ones. The stress and pace of life just seemed to keep me busy from 7am to midnight every day without much time for self-reflection and mindfulness, and deep down I knew the head-spinning, circular path I was on wasn’t sustainable.
As I scrolled through Google’s search results I was fascinated by the overwhelming quantity of books, articles and quotes all designed to motivate a person to take positive action and make positive changes. Messages of “Let Go and Move On” or “Be Present” were plentiful; however, nothing truly clicked with me. I was looking for guidance that was a bit more specific… guidance like “Walk seven blocks down Main Street and turn right onto Sunshine Drive. Your ‘better’ path begins there.”
The Space to Reflect
I continued to read and look for a new set of directions I could follow, and then it hit me. My losses and personal turmoil had me running and hiding from my problems. I was doing an incredible job being incredibly busy, but I had never stopped to sort out my thoughts and figure out exactly why I was doing what I was doing. My “needs” to provide for my family and ease the pain endured from failure and loss, fueled my mindlessness – I used these circumstances as excuses for not sorting my priorities out effectively – and I became stuck in a circle of futile busyness with no crystal clear vision about anything at all.
I recognized that in order to truly move my life forward, I first had to step on the brakes. I needed to stop dead in my tracks and pause for a little while so I could take it all in, sit with it, and then breathe it all out again. I had to give myself the space to accept where I was, and sort through the possibilities ahead of me.
When I did pause, I began to think of the summer after my high school graduation. My thoughts time-traveled back to those days when I felt like opportunity awaited me in every imaginable direction. I had been accepted to a great university, I was young and ambitious, and I was ready to conquer my dreams. But remembering this didn’t make me feel better. In fact, all these years later, trying to look at the world through this youthful lens for more than a few minutes only made me feel more restless.
Some Good Advice
Maybe it’s the life lessons I was forced to learn the hard way, or the toll of pain and failure, but I had to admit to myself right then and there that the youthful world of possibility felt a whole lot scarier and riskier this time around. I wanted to be ambitious and passionate again, but I didn’t know how, until my wise mom gave me some good advice. She told me that she could still see the positive, passionate young man inside of me, but that I needed to do some soul searching to reconnect myself to him.
As I attempted to follow my mom’s advice, I remembered that I used to have two quotes written on post-it notes hanging on my bedroom wall when I was a kid:
“Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in your journey.”
“Don’t be scared to walk alone down the path less traveled, and don’t be scared to love every minute of it.”
So I wrote the two quotes down again, just as I remembered them, and posted them up on the wall over my nightstand. I woke up to these quotes every morning for several years thereafter, and they helped keep me centered.
I also took tiny steps, day in and day out, until I knew I was finally moving down the right path again. For anybody else who feels stuck and without a real sense of how to take the next step forward, I offer the following reminders. They are based entirely on my personal experiences, but they are the simple, actionable lessons that kept me moving forward when I decided it was time for a change. Perhaps they will help you too.
Stay Tuned Next Week As We “Unpack” Part 2!
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