September 21, 2021

Episode 4: Getting unstuck

You feel stuck because you’re unknowingly facing an impossible choice. This episode lays out the method to assess what’s at stake and how to get unstuck.

What you will discover

  • What not tapping into your potential looks like
  • How to determine the real issue at stake
  • How to create a better alternative
  • The steps to take to get unstuck


Mixed and produced by Adrien Grenier

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Episode Transcript

What if I can have it all? What would that look like?

Hi, and welcome to the Excellent Rider podcast. I'm Mélanie, I'm a certified life coach and I specialize in helping people like you get things done, find ease and motivation again and get unstuck when it feels like you've lost your mojo. I want to talk to you today about what I call an impossible choice.

What I'm referring to is all the situations that my clients described to me in which they feel completely stuck. They try different things, nothing works, and they are completely clueless as to what they need to do in order to get unstuck. And so today, what I want to do with you is to look at what's possibly at stake when you're feeling stuck and of course, how to get unstuck.

So let me start with an example. Many of you who come to see me have questions about what you do next in your career. You've been in a given position for a little while. There are challenges, and it's interesting and all. And you do like it, but not at all in the way that you did in the beginning. It feels like you're pretty much going through the motions.

You have this feeling that you're not exactly tapping into your potential, that you're meant to be doing something else. Yes. But what exactly?! You wonder what could be possible, you dream of exciting adventures and roles, but they're so far away from what you're currently doing or what you're trained and experienced for, that it seems unrealistic.

And all this while, you have this feeling that time is ticking and that you're wasting precious life doing things that are okay, but really just meh.  So let me describe an example of what you're presenting yourself with. Typically you're telling yourself that you like your job a lot and that you could absolutely continue doing it.

But you're curious to see what it would be like for example, if you would join a startup, say. So maybe you've had a few opportunities to work with startups before, and it's an environment that you've loved each time.  You feel that the pulse is energizing. There's so much more freedom. What you do has a real and direct impact that you can actually see.

Whereas in your corporate world where you're currently working, for a big company, the pace is slow, everything follows a process. Everything is compliant to tons of rules and regulations, decisions take months. And it's pretty frustrating. Anything that sounds like anything I might have done in my life before is a pure coincidence, of course.

And in the startup, you get the feeling that what you do does matter, and that you have a purpose that.  That you would feel alive. But at the same time, the startup world is a bit more brutal really than what you're used to. And many startups don't make it. So there's also that risk to consider. And at the end of the day, what really matters to you is family.

And you want to be a loyal and strong support to your family. So you don't want to take unnecessary risks, especially not a financial risk. So staying in your current job makes a lot of sense. At least for a few more years until the kids are done with their studies and start to fly with their own wings.  And then you think “a few more years? That feels like eternity...”

It seems that life is going to be passing you by. You get this picture of you like an old geezer, you know, stiff and pickled in corporate benefits and with no pulse at all.  You have this feeling that when you're old and looking back on your life, what will have mattered is that you have explored life in every sense; that you have investigated what was possible, that you have no regrets.

So you think about joining a startup, but it's not like you have a clear network of people who are interested in what you can do, or even an idea of what kind of startup you could make a difference in. You have no structured approach really on how to investigate the possibilities. You're not really sure if that's because you're a bit lazy and reluctant to give up the comfort of your current life.

Maybe it's because you've lost your edge or perhaps it's just aging, but at the same time, you're getting a little tired of the context you're in. You want to see yourself in motion or on the way to somewhere. You want to experience flow and excitement. And so sometimes you feel stuck. You're going back and forth between, you know, startup corporate startup corporate.

You've been in bed, lying in bed a few times now, staring at the ceiling and mulling things over, wondering what choice you really have in front of you. And the issue here, what I would like to offer is that it's the way you're presenting the choice to yourself.

You're basically telling yourself that either you look for a job in a startup and it's exciting, and you're going to feel alive and in flow and accomplishing things and making a difference.  But you are going to put your family in a very difficult financial situation. And perhaps also the startup context is too brutal for you and you don't have what it takes to make the cut.

And the other side of the alternative that you're presenting to yourself is that you stay in your current job and it's nice and comfortable, and you know the ropes and it's easy to provide a nice life to your family, but you're feeling like you're dying inside, and life is passing you by and you will regret this later.

So when you present it to yourself like that, no wonder you stare at the ceiling and mull over things at night. I mean, it sounds like a horrible choice because whatever you do in that scenario, you're screwed.  You basically are telling yourself that the only choice is between being a foolish and selfish person or doing the right thing and dying inside.  Nobody can choose.

It's impossible to choose in that situation. So you've, you've created a situation for yourself where it is not possible to choose. So, what you need to do is to make sure that you have a real alternative in front of you, a choice that's actually enticing. And the way to do that is to find out how each of the two options could actually be much more interesting than what you're currently showing yourself.

So what does that mean? It means that you need to spend some time investigating what would be needed in order for the start-up option to be financially acceptable. What if it were possible, what would that look like? Is there anything that you can do or that would need to happen that would make working for a startup okay from a family safety point of view?

And you need to go into this exploration with no strings attached. Let your mind wander, do it over several days. Be creative. Think in terms of solutions.  Don't try to make yourself decide or find something that will work immediately. Just be open-minded, be creative.

Just let your mind find all the possible ways that it could be possible for you to go into the startup world and anyway, be in a situation that's financially okay. And there's, there's tons and millions of choices and options that are possible as soon as you start to explore. But you can just go in with an open mind and no need for you to take a decision.

Just think in terms of solutions. And then you need to do the same for the other option. So what if staying in your current company could be an opportunity to have a super exciting job where you're truly making an impact? Where you feel the pulse, where you feel energized by what's going on. What would that look like? What would be needed for this to happen? What can you do to make it happen?

And as you explore those two options, maybe a third and maybe a fourth option that you had not thought of might open.  And the key to do this exploration is really to give yourself the time and space to really you know brainstorm and be open-minded without forcing yourself to come to a decision right away.

Just spend all the time that you were spending arguing back and forth between startup and corporate world; spend it exploring the possibilities. And when both options will sound like fun and interesting opportunities – whether it's staying in your current company or even in your current job or looking for a startup that will benefit from your experience and skillset – then you can make a decision about what to pursue.

But by then, it will be like choosing between two different flavors of ice cream, equally delicious, just offering a different experience.  A creamy, vanilla ice cream and a wild strawberry sorbet, for example. And they're both delicious and they will just open up for a different experience, different sensation, that’s all.  But whichever way will be amazing.

So notice what you're telling yourself about each option and then ask yourself, “What if I can have it all, what would that look like?” And you can also ask yourself, “What can I do right now that can prepare or open up for all of this to be possible.”  So you can brainstorm that by yourself; and I recommend that you start by brainstorming that by yourself.

But you can also bring those questions to a discussion with a number of people.  People that you normally like to discuss things with, or people who are currently working for startups or currently working for exciting projects instead of a company. And you will see that all of a sudden it starts to be fun and exciting again, to just explore the possibilities.

I'll give you another example of these, what I call impossible choices. So perhaps you want to progress in your career and you have long ago identified that developing new skills is an important part of that plan.  And that the most efficient way for you to do that is to read books in the evening before you go to bed.

So you like to read the books about, you know, different management techniques, for example, or different skills that you can improve on. So you work a lot and you usually come home, it's a bit late and you're tired.  And what you would like to do after dinner is to spend 30 to 60 minutes reading before starting to get ready for bed.

And often your kids would like you to spend the time after dinner to play with them, or maybe to watch a bit of TV with them. And so you often comply because you love your kids and you want to spend time with them.  But quite quickly, as you're engaging in the game, or as you're watching TV, you start thinking that this is a waste of your time and that you should be reading your book instead.

And so that's… From time to time – you don't always do it – but from time to time, you get up and you go read your book. And then when you read your book, you feel very guilty because the kids might think that you don't want to spend time with them. But at the same time, you're annoyed with yourself because you think there's no point in having a family, if you're not going to spend time with them.

And you do want to connect with them and enjoy their company and show them your love. And so there's also this sort of low-level stress building up because you're not leveling up your skills, and so it feels like your career is not pointing in the right direction and that you're going to end up hating yourself for being a failure professionally at some point.

So basically what you're presenting yourself is with the following choice: you're telling yourself that it's easier, I should spend time with my family, but I'm not really fully present with them because all the time I'm actually wondering how will I compensate for the learning that I'm not doing?  Or, the other side of the alternative is: I make time for my development.

I choose to make time for my development. But then I can't really focus on reading and I don't remember anything I've read because I felt guilty about not spending time with my family the whole time. So when you look at it that way, same thing here, it's impossible to choose.  Whatever you do, you're going to feel horrible and whatever you do, you're going to think that you're a bad person.

Either you're a bad professional or you're a bad parent, but in both cases, it's lose / lose.  So what you can do here is to spend some time investigating how investing in yourself by reading and learning is actually a good way to care for your family too.  Perhaps because it will make you more relaxed and available when you do spend time with them.

Perhaps, because you will get better career opportunities and be able to provide better for them, perhaps because you're setting an example for your children of what it means to make complex things work out…  I mean, find your own solution and your own explanation, but just investigate how spending time reading is actually also a way to support your family and to be a good parent.

And then also explore: when you play with your kids, or when you watch TV with them, how this makes you feel connected and feel their love for you and feel your love for them.  And that makes you enjoy yourself and feel relaxed and how all of that is also a great asset for your career.

Because when you feel relaxed and love and important and all of these good feelings, you're building strength and resilience and you're paving the way for the kind of creativity and open mind that you will need in business.  And that creativity and open-minded comes from playfulness and from feeling loved and all of those good things.

So once you have explored how each of these option actually contributes to your different goals, just in different ways; then you can choose each day how you want to spend your time. Do you want to spend that day reading a book or do you want to spend that day or that time that you have during that day playing with your kids?

So whenever you feel stuck, one of the first things that you can do is to check what are you telling yourself? What are you, what kind of options are you presenting for yourself and how are you describing those options to yourself? And you can do this little exercise, which is to imagine that you're describing the options in exactly the same way to somebody else.

And then you're asking them to make a decision. And based on the information you have shared with them, would it be easy for them to choose or would you just be placing them in front of an impossible choice where there is something to lose in each side of the alternative? And so basically it's impossible for them to choose.

Because you're asking them to choose between “Would you like to lose an arm or would you prefer to lose a leg?” Nobody wants to be in front of this kind of choice. If you liked what you heard, go to my website (so it’s Excellent Rider in one word dot com) and get the episode notes.  They are organized in a structured way that makes them easy to remember.

And there are additional exercises and illustrations that you don't get in the audio. And if you really liked what you heard, you can go to your podcast platform and leave me a review (you can Google how to do that if you're not sure how to proceed). This helps the podcast be more visible. And it means that it will be easier to find for other people who need to hear exactly this message.

And it's also a great encouragement for me.  If you felt that this information was valuable, it's the absolute best and nicest way to let me know. And I personally answer everyone who is kind enough to leave a review.  So thanks so much for listening today, and I hope to talk to you again very soon.

Because you, my friends, even when you can’t get yourself to do what you want, even when you're stuck in negative emotions and unpleasant thought loops; and even when you don't believe it, especially when you don't believe it: you absolutely rock and you'll very soon be an Excellent Rider.  Because there's no bad horses. Only untrained riders.

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