This post is for anyone who is feeling stuck. Stuck in a job they don’t love. Stuck in a phase of life they would prefer not to be in. Stuck in a problem that, despite their many efforts, they just cannot solve.
I know when I feel stuck there are a swirl of thoughts going through my head. Why can’t I get out of this? Why can’t I figure this out? I can’t do this everyday. I should have a better attitude about this situation. Shouldn’t I be thankful I at least have what I have?
Will it be this way forever?
IS IT OKAY TO BE UNHAPPY?
For me, I have struggled with my job. And the aforementioned swirl of thoughts has been the inner workings of my brain on many days.
I would flit between “I deserve better for my life” and “Why can’t I just be grateful” in a mere 60 seconds.
I would recognize the many positives about my job – being in a field of interest and within my training. Working at a job that helps others and is a cause I care about. There is also plenty of vacation time, sick time, and insurance benefits. Why would I be unhappy? And am I even allowed to be unhappy? Why can’t I just be grateful for what I have?
When these weird back and forths would occur in my head, they would usually conclude with the belief that I am blessed so I need to stop being dissatisfied. And then I would stuff and squash all the other desires that were inside of me.
Can you relate?
DISSATISFACTION IS A GIFT
Just because you are not satisfied does not mean you are not grateful.
Being dissatisfied simply means you are longing for more, which is a wonderful way to be living.
Maybe you keep thinking to yourself Why can’t I just be content? But let’s be real – we’ve met those people and we don’t want to be like them. Contentedness is dangerously close to complacency. Complacent people have no self growth. They are not on a path and they are not going anywhere.
Now, my goal is not put down on anyone or different lifestyles. I just want you to realize that having desires is a gift. Who you are and how you are is a gift. It is a gift that not everyone receives.
You may look around and think that no one else is having as many problems as you. Well, it’s true, you might create problems where others wouldn’t. But let’s re-frame that as a positive character trait, not a negative one.
Take for instance, how you might react upon hearing the statistic of how many children go hungry every night. You hear it, you think about it, and it causes you dissonance because you are not doing anything about it. Suddenly, it has become your new problem.
Guess what? There are plenty of people who hear that statistic and carry on unaffected. But you, you feel the dissonance and have unrest. That is good. That means you are a world changer. Of course, pick your battles and don’t try to solve every problem you hear about. But also don’t underestimate that greatness of your unrest.
As for the dissatisfaction with yourself or your life right now – this is you feeling dissonance again. If you are feeling dissonance at a job or a role you are in, maybe it is because you have potential you are not using there. Don’t stuff this feeling. Don’t pretend these gifts and talents aren’t inside you.
Have you ever heard this lovely quote by Howard Thurman?
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
We can’t always be where we want to be in life. But don’t pretend there is not an aliveness in you. You need it. Your friends and family need it. The world needs it.
Be grateful. Be grateful for your job, your family, your house, your friends..for it all. But also let yourself be a little dissatisfied…it just might lead you to a something wonderful you really don’t want to miss.
So, if you are like me, you also can very easily get caught in black and white thinking. Either you are in the mindset of I am quitting my job and following my dreams tomorrow! Or Nothing is ever going to change and I need to settle in for the long haul.
Of course, life is never black and white so it is silly for us to think this way.
It’s true, we may need some patience. We may hear well-meaning podcasters or pastors tell us to quit our job and chase our dreams. Maybe that’s just the push you needed. But for most of us, it’s not that easy, or we would have done it already. We have mouths to feed, or at least our own. If it’s something other than a job where you are stuck, it still may be a responsibility that is keeping you there. We need not throw all responsibilities out the window. Maybe you could stand to let go of a little responsibility and live a little more on the edge. But to follow your dreams, you do not need to be reckless and irresponsible.
So what is active patience? It is exactly what is sounds like. Life requires patience. If you don’t have this skill, now is a great time to develop it. You will need this skill for the rest of your life. But patience is not staying stuck in a bad situation forever. Active patience is accepting your current situation while also taking all opportunities to move in the direction you want to be in. Read books and listen to podcasts about how others reached the place you want to be. Take classes that will help you develop a skill you would like to develop. Talk to a counselor or a mentor who will keep you on the right track and in good perspective. Good perspective is important. Be careful not to get too consumed with the future dream that you forget where you are currently. You do not need to accept your current situation as unchangeable, but you do need to develop a positive attitude within your present circumstance.
We must also cultivate creative openness. What do I mean by this? Think back to other problems you have had in your life. Was the problem ever fixed in a way you just didn’t expect? Sometimes we get stuck because our thinking is stuck. You must be creative and be able to come up with solutions that are unique, and maybe even seem a little weird. You need to have openness that a problem could be solved in a way you did not originally imagine.
When I was younger I was very set on the goal of getting married and tirelessly searched for my husband. I was SURE college was where I would find him. But four years passed and he was not there. Then I moved back to my hometown where I was SURE there would be no one I would want to marry. And SURE enough, that’s where he was.
Again, these kind of stories are not uncommon, everyone has them. It’s harder to think this way when you are in the middle of your story and haven’t heard the ending yet. The problem you are having right now – you are probably SURE you have tried every possible solution and it is not working. Guess what, you have felt that way before, and a solution you didn’t expect appeared.
Creativity and openness are similar. Let me me give you an idea of what I mean by creativity. I reflect on a (somewhat odd) example that was given in the book Do One Thing Different by Bill O’Hanlon. He references a couple that could not stop fighting. And when they fought they would yell and scream. It would become very escalated very quickly. They both really wanted to work on it, but in the heat of the moment, just could not calm down. They had tried de-escalating by following all the traditional advice that was out there. Nothing was working. When they went in for couples counseling they were given the instruction that every time their fights escalated they had to commit to take the fight to the bathroom. To make it even weirder, the wife had to sit on the toilet (fully clothed) while the husband had to de-clothe and awkwardly sit naked in the tub. And then they were allowed to continue the fight.
This was obviously very awkward. But, because of the awkwardness, they had trouble carrying on the heated nature of their fight. This immediately de-escalated them and they could then converse more calmly. Eventually, this practice taught them the de-escalation skills they needed and they no longer had to “take it to the bathroom” every time they fought.
Again, I know this was a weird example. And I am not saying your solution involves awkward moments in a bathroom. But I am saying that weird solutions do solve problems, especially ones that have yet to be fixed by traditional means. Let yourself be open to non-traditional solutions. Let yourself be open to creativity. Maybe you had a “weird” idea for a solution once, but did not follow it, for the simple fact that it was weird. Just remember, not following your dreams in life or not ever getting to where you want to be, is a lot worse than being a little bit weird.
WILL IT BE THIS WAY FOREVER?
The answer is no. Nothing stays the same forever. Life is not static, it is dynamic. Things are always changing.
Will you have problems forever? Yes. You will at some point “solve” this problem. And guess what, you will have new and different problems. I don’t say this to be discouraging. This is just how life is, and to be honest, things might get a little boring if it wasn’t this way. To have new and different problems means you and your life are full of growth and progression, and that is a good thing.
So here lies the importance of not placing your joy on the other side of the challenge. There will be joy in overcoming the challenge. But there can also be joy in anticipation of things to come. You can experience the joy before you get there. Haven’t you ever done this for an upcoming vacation or event you were looking forward to?
You just have to trust it is coming. If you don’t trust it is coming, you can’t experience the joy of anticipation. And of course, your life has plenty of little joys all around it now. Friends. Family. A good book. Your church. Cooking. It’s different for everyone, but there are gifts in your life. Enjoy what is here now and excitedly anticipate the joys of the future.
I know that I have gained a lot from reading blog entries and I also know if I took the time and journaled about them for a few minutes they would affect me in an even deeper way and bring me to some truths I may have not come to otherwise. So if you have a few extra minutes and your journal handy…here you go!
Where are you stuck right now? Is is a job? Phase of life? Problem you just cannot solve? What are the thoughts that swirl around in your head?
Would you be willing to believe that dissatisfaction can be a gift or be positive in any way? How could you re-frame how you think about your dissatisfaction?
Have you tried stuffing or squashing a desire that you have in fear of being ungrateful? What is this desire? What makes you feel fully alive?
What are some ways you could develop active patience or creative openness in your life? Can you think of some problems in your past that were fixed in ways you did not expect?
Is joy on the other side of your challenge, or are you willing to experience joy now? Could you trust that there will be change and anticipate what is to come? Are you able to experience the small joys all around you in the meantime?