Would you love to switch careers but don’t know where to start? Are you stymied by a daunting project? Perhaps you’re just sick of the same old routine. If so, this workbook may be the nudge you need: It was created by SYPartners, a company that helps individuals and organizations tap into their full potential. The first step to getting unstuck, they say, is to determine your stuck personality, which depends on your temperament and problem. Ready? Think of a specific issue that’s irking you and fill out the scorecard below.
1. Ask Yourself: What problem has me stuck right now?
2: How Are You Feeling?
Grab a pen and paper and recreate the chart below. (As an alternative, you can also download a printable version of the chart.) Then choose three adjectives listed. For each one you choose, write the corresponding numbers in the indicated columns. (For example, if you circle “indecisive,” you’ll put 4 in column B and 3 in column C.)
3. What Are You Thinking?
Recreate the chart below on another piece of paper. (As an alternative, you can also download a printable version of the chart.) Then, for each thought that applies to you, write the corresponding number in the indicated column. (For instance, if you’re thinking, Change is hard, put 10 in column C.)
4. Add your totals from steps 2 and 3.
Which letter has the highest number? Find it below to get your personality type, and then scroll to the section where your type appears to learn strategies to move forward.
A: Idle Achiever
B: Wavering Waffler
C: Reluctant Adapter
D: Lone Leader
E: Deflated Doer
F: Tunnel Visionary
For you, the definition of contentment is knowing exactly what you believe in and what to expect. Change, on the other hand, sends you spinning. Even if you suspect something isn’t working anymore, you’d rather keep trying than plunge into the unknown.
Your Assignment: Trust in uncertainty.
Remember: Not changing is not natural.
If you’ve ever heard “Change is the only constant,” thank the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who believed that the universe is meant to be perpetually in flux. Seasons keep changing, rivers keep flowing—even our cells replace themselves.
POST-IT QUOTE: “What I like most about change is that it can be a synonym for ‘hope.’ If you are taking a risk, what you are really saying is ‘I believe in tomorrow, and I will be part of it.’”—Linda Ellerbee, journalist
Flip the script.
For every potential loss, there’s something to be gained. Pinpoint exactly what’s scaring you, then try asking,“Where’s the opportunity here?”
- What would be different? (e.g., I might go back to school.)
- What scares me? (I’d have to leave my coworkers.)
- What could be great? (I might make anew best friend.)
Write your memoir.
Look back over the past five years and think about the big changes in your life, the greatest obstacle for each, and how you overcame it. Now imagine it’s five years in the future and this struggle is behind you. Answer these questions:
- How did you get through?
- How did you use what you’d learned from the past?
Control the controllables.
Make a list of little ways you can maintain a sense of order.Sometimes it’s easier to face major uncertainty when you can depend on the minor details.
Lower the stakes.
Now think of little ways to shake things up: Instead of getting your afternoon cup of coffee, sit outside in the sun. Call a friend rather than texting her. Go to Google and click I’m Feeling Lucky.
You’re used to being in the loop and on top of things, but somehow you’ve lost your sense of perspective, and now all you can see is what’s right in front of you. Even little setbacks can bring you to a screeching halt. Why don’t the possibilities seem as open as they once did?
Your assignment: Step back and widen your view of the world.
Look at old things in new ways.
When we stare at the same problem for too long, we can’t see it anymore. Try looking at your surroundings with new eyes: Pick three ordinary objects (don’t overthink it),and for each one, spend three minutes brainstorming new ways to use it or present it.
What would they say?
How would you respond to your situation if you were…
- A 7-year-old child?
- A World War II fighter pilot?
- A 1960s hippie?
- A great-grandmother?
Your imaginary advisers may have fresh solutions.
Play Roving Reporter.
Try adopting another person’s point of view: Find a friend or coworker with an interest that you don’t really get—romance novels, stamp collecting—and interview her to find out what she loves about it. Or think of someone who baffles you and take her out for coffee.
Tell a Story.
Hearing your story out loud may help you find faulty logic or new possibilities. Describe your situation to someone and ask her to repeat it back to you. Ask questions like “What do you think is the crux of the problem?” and “Where do you see opportunity?”
Act as if.
Finish these sentences:
- I can’t…
- I don’t…
- I won’t…
Now cross out can’t, don’t, and won’t. Read those statements again. How would life be different if they were true? For just a week, can you live as if they are?
You’re an ideas machine, a big dreamer, a go-getter. You can do everything—but right now it’s hard to do anything. You keep stuttering forward and sputtering out, like you’re learning to drive a stick shift, and those best-laid plans of yours are just…lying there.
Your assignment: Harness your energy and get down to the details.
Dig for the roots.
Instead of focusing on the solution, get to the fundamental problem—which may surprise you. What’s your biggest obstacle?(e.g., I keep tearing up the last chapter of my novel.)
- …And why is that? (Because I want it to be great.)
- …And why is that? (Because I’ve been working on it for 20 years.)
- …And why is that? (Because it has to be brilliant.)
- …And why is that? (Because if it’s not genius, it’s a failure.)
- Look at that last answer. Is it really true?
Live by the Play-Doh Principle.
The path to success isn’t always linear:Play-Doh was originally sold as a wallpaper cleaner. A not-so-effective blood pressure medication became the blockbuster drug Viagra. Stop trying to do things perfectly and instead just do them. Even if the results aren’t what you envision, they could lead to something even better.
Think like Ike.
President Dwight Eisenhower once passed along this wisdom: “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”If you don’t know where to start with your to-do list, break it into categories:
- High Alert (Important—and the deadline’s coming up fast)
- Can Wait Till Tomorrow (Important, but not time-sensitive)
- Finish by Friday (Time-sensitive, but not urgent)
- When I Get to It (Anything you can delegate—or delete?)
Take shelter from your brainstorms.
If all your new ideas keep you from following through on old ones, create an archive in a notebook or with an app like Evernote, which lets you access notes on all your devices. Put them away for safekeeping until you’ve made some progress on your current project.
Get a coach.
Idle achievers like talking about plans—so find a friend to be your sounding board. Ask her for help establishing realistic expectations, and set up regular check-ins.
You’re happiest when you’re productive, checking off tasks one by one. But lately the daily grind is grinding away your sense of purpose. You plan to find more meaning in life—as soon as you get to the bottom of your to-do list.
Your assignment: Rise above your routine and find inspiration.
Try some blank verse.
Complete the sentences:
- Every day I get up and think _______.
- I really wish I could stop _______ because then I would have time to _______.
- And I really should _______ more often—it always makes me feel better.
- I don’t know why I keep_______—the world wouldn’t end if I stopped for just a week. I’m going to try it one time.
Pencil yourself in.
You love checking things off, so add yourself to the list.Just as you’d schedule a dentist appointment, blockout some time to pursue your grander goal—if you have one in mind—or do some creative thinking. Or pick a day and get up an hour earlier. If that works, try it again next week.
Make a don’t-do list.
Let something go once a day—or once a week.
Steal little moments to ponder the big questions:
- Doodle. Even if your efforts are closer to scrawling than sketching, doodling frees your mind from the constraints of straightforward linguistic thought, allowing you to evaluate ideas from a different angle, which can help you gain new insights.
- Listen to music. Music activates the brain regions involved in attention, planning, and memory. Just keep the volume at a moderate level; blasting tunes is not conducive to deep thought.
- Get up and take a walk. A Stanford study found that people who walk for just five to 16 minutes are significantly more creative than those who stay deskbound. Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain and increases the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain critical for learning and forming new memories.
A few questions to inspire big-picture thinking:
- How does today feel different from yesterday?
- Why do I buy what I buy?
- Why do I live where I live?
- Why am I bothered by the things that bother me?
- When am I happiest?
You’re a thoughtful person who considers all the angles—that’s why everybody seeks your advice. But now you’re overanalyzing, so busy looking that you can’t leap. The more time you spend thinking about what you should do, the less able you are to do anything at all.
Your assignment: Find something to believe in and commit to it.
Remember: Not choosing is a choice.
Consider the philosophical paradox of Buridan’s ass, who is standing an equal distance between two stacks of hay. Unable to decide between the two, he dies of hunger.
POST-IT QUOTE: “Sometimes, making the wrong choice is better than making no choice. You have the courage to go forward; that is rare. A person who stands at the fork, unable to pick, will never get anywhere.” —Terry Goodkind, Wizard’s First Rule
Give yourself a hard out.
No negotiating! You can think in terms of…
- TIME: I’ll decide after _______ days/hours.
- REPETITION: I’ll decide after _______ drafts/versions.
- RESEARCH: I’ll decide after I’ve checked _______ sources.
- INPUT: I’ll decide after I’ve discussed it with _______ people.
Lose your focus.
You’ll benefit from clearing the mental clutter, so for a set period, forget about the problem. Then try free association: Letting your mind wander calms your thoughts and makes way for feelings. Now consider your choices and write the first word that comes to mind. Then write the next word. Keep going and see what happens.
Do a gut check.
Write your choices on separate slips of paper and fold them into squares, then throw them in the air and pick the one that lands closest. When you read what’s inside, check your physical reaction. Are you holding your breath or sighing in relief? Do you feel lighter or heavier? Let your response be your guide.
Get your options in a row.
If you have several, create a master list with the benefits of each. It may not make your decision easier, but you’ll be less likely to regret the outcome. According to research from the Wharton School of the University ofPennsylvania, when we consider choices sequentially—should I do A or B? B or C? C or D?—we’re left thinking that something better could come along. When we consider all our options at once, it’s easier to manage our expectations.
You love being the one with all the answers and making everything look easy. The only area where you don’t excel: asking for help. But no one is an island, and sometimes you need support to take the next step.
Your assignment: Give yourself a break and let someone else help.
Lone Leaders may not ask for help because they don’t trust that anyone else will do a good job. To see the value of a new perspective, try this: Pick a question below and come
up with as many answers as you can. Then ask five or more people to answer and share their responses with you. Enjoy what’s possible through collaboration.
- How and why is beauty necessary?
- How much discomfort will people tolerate, and why?
- What are the elements of a well-spent life?
Practice being imperfect.
What are a few small ways you could get used to accepting help? Could you ask a coworker to take something off your plate for just a week? Can you ask your young niece to recommend an app she loves? Can you consult a stylish friend for shoe advice?
Get an assist.
You may not want to ask for support because you don’t want to be any trouble—or look incompetent. Actually, people love helping because it’s a way to build confidence and bond with others. When you’ve helped in the past, how did it make you feel?
Learn the art of asking.
- Explain why you’re consulting this particular person; for instance,“I always admire how you handle these things.”
- Request what you need, clearly and succinctly: “Could you read
my résumé and suggest ways to streamline it?” (Not “Here’s my résumé. Maybe two pages is too long, I don’t know….”)
- Avoid phrases that sound meek or desperate: “I hesitate to ask, but…” or “If you happen to have a chance….”
- Avoid phrases that sound reluctant or arrogant: “I’m forced to ask…” or “I’d do it myself, but…”
- Don’t forget to thank the helper. Often, eye contact and a sincerely said thank-you does the trick.
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