Q:

“I’m not depressed, but I’m also not excited. It’s like I’m walking with no direction, which is making it very hard to get pumped about my future — or even picture what that future might look like. When I try to think about what’s wrong, I feel ungrateful. When I try to think about what’s right, I feel lost. I’ve had some successes in the past, so I know I’ve got more to give. I just can’t seem to figure out what I should do next. I’m stuck! How can I get my passion, clarity, and direction back?”


 

OUR EXPERT:

Christine Laperriere
Executive Director, Women of Influence Advancement Centre

Christine Laperriere is the executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.

 

A:

Let me start with this: we’ve all been there. Though we often think we should “just know” what we want to be when we grow up, if you study the careers of numerous successful people, it usually doesn’t play out that way. It’s a journey, and sometimes it’s a tough one. Feeling uninspired by your current situation doesn’t make you ungrateful, and feeling lost doesn’t make you abnormal — many of us know exactly how that feels. 

I’ve even been there myself, so I’m excited to give you some fresh ideas to consider to help you re-energize and get fired up for your future.

Before you get started on solving this issue, it can be helpful to think about what could be holding you back personally:

  • Are you having trouble finding clarity on your next step? 
  • Can you think about possible next steps, but can’t stay committed to taking action? 
  • Are you feeling so stressed that you don’t have the energy to focus your efforts on making a change?

Once you have a grasp of your personal roadblock, simply follow the process detailed below. Depending on the roadblock you are facing, you may find different parts more challenging — but the exercises are designed to make it easier to push through, get clear, and commit to your next step. 

  • Start with getting more clarity on which direction to go next.

Think about where you’d like to be in 3-5 years. If you find your mind immediately flooded with multiple options, draw a picture of yourself standing with those options laid out in front of you — like multiple forks in a road. At the end of each prong in the fork, note one option you could take. 

Now it’s time to review your drawing (yes, you should have literally sketched it out — but nobody is judging you on artistic merit). One at a time, picture yourself taking a fork in the road to your new destination. As you fully embrace all aspects of that new destination, notice which ones you have a physical or emotional response to. 

When you consider taking that new job, even though it might pay more, is “yuck” your gut response? Or, when you think of working for that startup, do you notice that you start to smile at the thought of the fast-paced environment? Rate your different options with a “gut feel” from 1 to 10. 

You should end up with a road map that points you in a more positive direction. But before you announce your resignation, follow the next step to get more clear.

  • Assess your values so you can better assess your options.

Our values are the things that make us excited to get out of bed in the morning — and it’s surprisingly easy to lose sight of them. When this issue comes up, I love to invite coaching clients to do an exercise called Tell Me About Your A-game. If you can, recruit someone you trust to help you with the process. They just need to be good at listening and capturing some notes.  

Start by closing your eyes and picturing a favourite moment in your career when you felt like you were at your best. Describe what it felt like. The specifics of the project are less important — focus instead on what it was about that experience that made it so positive for you. When I do this with my coaching clients, they’ll often say something like “I was solving a new problem” or “I loved leading a high-risk project” or “I loved that I had a great team working with me.” What is it about the best moment that you loved? 

As you describe the scenario, have your helper capture the items that come up. You can repeat the process with a few other moments when you were feeling very inspired. Just generating that list can be very insightful. And by comparing this list to your options in the previous exercise, you can better evaluate which fork in the road is best aligned with your values. 

 

“The biggest stumbling block for many women is choosing to make this investment in themselves. My question is always: “What’s the budget for your happiness?” When put in that perspective, it can be easier to set aside some funds to fuel your own growth.”

 

  • Commit to action, on a small scale. 

When great professionals feel stuck, they are often looking at each path forward as an “all or nothing” scenario. This ignores the small actions we can take — helping us to learn more about different changes we could create in life, without having to hand in a letter of resignation next week.

Now that you’ve reviewed the options you are considering and you’ve had a chance to reconnect with your values, take some time to brainstorm small steps you could take to explore your options. If the process starts to become stressful, think smaller! It could be as simple as attending a conference in a new field, reading a book on starting your own business, taking a workshop on leadership skills, or asking your boss or mentor for a stretch assignment. The goal is to get a taste of what this new path might look like, before committing to it wholly. 

  • Talk about your options. 

We often overlook the most obvious place we can go for help — supportive connections within our network and our trusted friends. If you’ve worked hard to build great relationships, don’t be afraid to reach out and book time with others to talk about the options you are considering, share your values, and assess some of the actions you plan to take. 

One big caveat with this exercise: stay away from nay-sayers. It won’t be helpful to engage with someone who has a tendency to shoot down everything because of their own negativity. 

 When you share this strategic thinking with others, most often you’ll find they want to support you on your journey, or can offer additional ideas. If you don’t have it all figured out, they may have insights and experiences that can give you further clarity. And best of all, even if you don’t specifically ask for their help, your friends and colleagues will often want to see you succeed, and volunteer to do things that can get you to where you want to be, faster.

  • Invest in yourself.

Getting your passion, clarity, and direction back is a process — and it can be a challenging one. Thankfully, if you are having trouble, there are numerous coaches and programs available to support you on your journey. In some cases, not only will you connect with a great coach, you can connect with other great professionals and grow your network. 

The biggest stumbling block for many women is choosing to make this investment in themselves. My question is always: “What’s the budget for your happiness?” When put in that perspective, it can be easier to set aside some funds to fuel your own growth. 

Consider your needs, and start evaluating options. What can fit into your budget? What can work with your existing life demands? You might find it easier to get clarity by taking a step back from everyday life and attending a retreat. For some, a shorter time commitment spread over a longer period works best. (And yes, we offer both options, through our Reignited 2020 program.) Even a small investment in yourself can go a long way to fueling your passion and excitement again.

 

Reignited 2020 includes virtual, small-group coaching as well as retreats — all designed to help you rethink what’s possible, and build the skills and relationships you need to get ahead. The Women of Influence Advancement Centre helps organizations create their future leaders, today, with development programs that give the women in your organization the tools they need to thrive, and that equip your leaders to support their journey. Want to learn more? Reach out to Christine directly at [email protected]


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