Sunday, April 14, 2019

Careers: Quicksand and Getting Unstuck

Each step we take in our career lives can move us forward, backwards, or can look like standing still. The decision to take on new job responsibilities, how to navigate work-conflicts, even the decision to take on a brand-new job can be equally exhilarating and at times frustrating. Arriving at the right decision, as it "clicks" with you, can feel as soft or firm as a walk on a sandy beach. It takes discernment to make the decision that’s the step-forward.

What happens when we get stuck, paralyzed by anger, fear or worry over a big work decision? Getting stuck can feel like being trapped in quicksand. It can feel harrowing, scary, like being pulled down. So: How do we get out of quicksand? Taken literally, it can look like this:
1. Make yourself as light as possible—toss your bag, jacket, and shoes.
2. Take a few steps backwards.
3. Keep your arms up and out of the quicksand.
4. Reach for a branch or person's hand to pull yourself out.
5. Take deep breaths.
6. Move slowly and deliberately.

Taken “through the lens of discernment” -- escaping the quicksand trap takes work. Our work:
1. Make ourselves as light as possible. We shed stuff, we make ourselves lighter as we speak in truth and courage—never whitewashing, never as a Pollyanna, never as a doormat. 
**Reflect on what do we need to shed, to discard, to make ourselves lighter. It becomes a discernment-practice of spring cleaning: you shed the old, the stuff that “doesn’t spark joy,” and you scrub out the grease and gunk to reveal something shiny, cleaner. 
2. Take a few steps backwards. We reflect, think back, examine what has happened in our career-lives in the past; and what we need to do, in our actions, to move forward in a life giving way. 
**Reflect by using your imagination: what would you need to have or do, to move forward.
3. Keep our arms up! That looks like being in a ready-position. Arms up look like a lot of things. It can look like the victory up-arms you see after a marathoner crosses the finish line. It can look like being in a classroom, knowing the right answer, and shooting up our arms with enthusiasm. **Reflect on “what it would” take to get your arms up.
4. Reach. We need to reach out, to grab hold of something: a branch, another person. That reaching-out can look like having coffee with a trusted mentor, or participating in a “branch” of your local business networking opportunity. 
**Reflect on what reaching out can look like for you: who or what can you invite in, in your outreach?
5. Take deep breaths. Breath in, breath out. This is hard work, and a self-care practice that uses the breath can work wonders. Self-care can come via meditation, yoga, hiking in nature, a sweaty cardio workout. 
**Reflect on where you can take a deep breath, what your self-care practice can look like. 
6. Move slowly and deliberately. We need to have discerning hearts and minds, and it’s a slow, patient process to listen to our gut. Don’t run it through frantic, jerky motions. 
**Reflect on what the "gift of time," the patient process of discernment looks like for you.

We’ll all have quicksand moments in our lives. The work to get unstuck, while it can take time, in the long-run will be life-giving. May we all get unstuck, and walk on the soft and firm sand of a vast, life-giving beach.