Have you ever felt completely stuck as a professional— trying to find work you love, or having to do work you do not love at all? It happens to everyone at certain times, really jarring your sense of yourself as a competent, resourceful, purposeful, even worthwhile, person in the world.
What can you do when you feel stuck like that to get your creative juice going again? One thing you can do is get into a radically different perspective from the one you
are in. If you can’t do it for yourself, get in contact with a friend or colleague who’s empathic, but not stuck, and allow something new to emerge in talking together that turns your mind in a totally different direction. Coaching, too, can offer this kind of experience, as I shared once in a rather dramatic encounter.
It was early in my coaching career, and I was invited to give a presentation at a support group for people in mid-life seeking jobs. I came early to watch how the group worked together and found myself looking several times at a participant who moved very strangely, I thought. He wasn’t disabled, but his body seemed all at odds with himself. Even standing still, one shoulder was significantly higher than the other, and his whole torso was somewhat askew. But most particularly, his face looked out vaguely, seemingly without focus.
From my training as a somatic facilitator, I had an intuitive thought that he might be inwardly distressed from the sheer drudgery of waking up daily for months, maybe more than a year, to the endless round of the job search process.
Then it was my time to talk to the group about career transitions. Throughout the room, the energy was tired, low, and discouraged, so I led some exercises designed to help people expand their vision or sense of possibilities. I felt it might be interesting to the group to offer a mini-coaching session for one person that everyone else could tune into.
There was only one concern I had— I hoped I wouldn’t have to coach this particular man, who seemed so out of touch with himself, in a limited, 15-minute session. Of course, he was the only person to raise his hand.
He literally shuffled forward to the front of the room. His energy level was almost at zero. I asked him what he’d like to be coached on. He mumbled something about finding a new job. In response to my question about what he’d really like to be doing for work, he responded with litanies of positions he’d held and positions he was applying for. There was no uplift to his voice anywhere, no opening I could elicit.
I felt myself as stuck as I’ve ever been as a coach until, out of sheer desperation, I seized upon an inspiration. “Barry,” I said, “What is it that you can tell us about yourself that none of us here knows?”
Suddenly, there was an amazing shift in Barry’s posture and stance. His body literally unwound and righted itself. He took the microphone in his hand, actually smiled, and, speaking clearly and audibly to the group, told us about his joy in volunteering as an auctioneer to raise money for a nonprofit group he supported. He had such poise and passion as he told us about what he did with this work, that the group in front of him clapped and cheered. He beamed. For the first time in a long time Barry received affirmation for what he truly loved to do and who he truly was as a whole person.
In the 2013 movie Her, Theodore, a professional writer of personal letters, is emotionally and professionally stuck. His upset over the failure of his marriage leads him to start a new, unorthodox relationship with a specialized operating system in his computer named Samantha. Having a completely open mind without conventional limitations, Samantha invites him to join her in a connection that will bend his mind open and jumpstart his whole life.
When Theodore asks her how she works, she replies, “Well, basically I have intuition . . . But what makes me me is my ability to grow through my experiences. So basically, in every moment I’m evolving, just like you.”
Falling in love with Samantha, Theodore finds that he’s opening to a more playful and expansive approach to life that unsettles him, but brings him new awareness and fulfillment with his intimate and professional relationships.
I don’t know what happened next with Barry’s job quest, but it was clear that he’d had a transformative and breakthrough moment. He finally acknowledged to his support group that he knew what it was to work in a heart-centered way— and that that was what he really wanted.