Do you remember playing with magnets as a kid, and how cool it was when you found something that stuck? It felt like magic! And did you ever try to put two magnets together the wrong way around, with the like poles together, and see how they repel?
Making changes in my life often reminds me of the magnets. Sometimes a change feels effortless, and just sticks as soon as I take steps towards it. But more often than not I feel like I’m in between the two wrong-way-around magnets, pushing up against something that I know I want, but not being able to move forward no matter how hard I try.
Many people come to coaching describing themselves as stuck – either they’re not able to make a change in a specific behaviour, or they just a describe a general sense of stuckness in work or life. Common scenarios are
- I’m stuck in a job I feel miserable in
- I’m overwhelmed but I have no control over the things overwhelming me
- I’m desperate to stop (habit x) but can’t seem to make any shifts
- My whole life is stuck in a rut.
Being stuck is a signal that the change we want or need to make is not so much about simple behaviours, but more about identifying and shifting some deeply held core beliefs that are driving those behaviours. Our core beliefs are like a computer’s operating system, and our behaviours are like the applications we use to get things done. Sometimes we can’t improve the application without downloading a whole new operating system. That takes self reflection, hard work and some discomfort, and is often where coaching can have the maximum impact.
If you’re stuck, here’s five steps to take – it’s my ABCDE of getting unstuck. If you’re leading or managing a staff member who seems stuck, you could work through these steps with them in a coaching conversation.
A: Acknowledge you’re stuck – what is the challenge you want to move forward on but don’t seem to be able to?
Eg I want to be able to delegate more….
B: Be honest – how are you not doing the thing you want to move towards? What are you doing instead?
Eg I don’t take time to coach my staff on new projects or tasks; it’s quicker and easier to do things myself….
C: Claim the Rewards – how do you benefit, or what do you gain from this approach?
Eg things always get done; tasks are done they way I want them to be done; I’m confident they’re done to a good standard; I feel good because my expertise is recognised and needed; I avoid feeling bad or being criticised for mistakes or poor work being done…
D: Discover the Downsides – what price are you paying for not following through on changing this approach?
Eg I’m overwhelmed with work; our team is not achieving our goals; I feel like I’m failing and others are judging me for that; my team members feel disempowered…
E: Equalise – Weigh up the short-term rewards and benefits (C) against the longer term downsides (D); What price are you paying for the rewards?
Take some time with this process, and be kind to yourself – the way you’ve been doing things has served you well until now. Your protective beliefs have kept you safe and secure, so acknowledge this, and at the same time acknowledge that getting unstuck means downloading a new operating system to support you to respond more effectively in a more complex environment.
If you need support in getting unstuck, please get in touch to talk about whether coaching is the right tool for you.