Three Questions To Help You Get Unstuck And Move Forward With Intention
Struggles with mental well-being do not discriminate by role or rank. A recent study by Deloitte found that about one out of three people are constantly struggling with fatigue and poor mental health, regardless of whether they are in the C-suite or a more junior role.
In what aspect of your life are you most struggling? Is it the strategic pivot you’re leading, the job you’re quietly quitting, the relationships you’re deprioritizing or the health that you’re ignoring? Whatever the circumstance, there are mental traps that can debilitate, if not paralyze, us—preventing us from moving forward and addressing our challenges.
Imagine you were empowered to confront and overcome those mental traps in a way that made you feel more authentic and purposeful. You would more adeptly and comfortably take on the risks that often accompany change. Now, imagine you also had the framework to weigh the tradeoffs and define how to move forward. You would realize unfulfilled hopes and create meaning from curveballs. You would turn stress drivers into energy sources. You would achieve peak potential.
Mental traps can span stress, fear, guilt, self-doubt, uncertainty and more. Believe me, I know. I was overcome by stress and burnout near the end of my long career in management consulting. I was consumed with fear when I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer while holding my newborn baby. I was filled with guilt when I couldn’t be the mother to my newborn that I desired to be. I struggled with self-doubt when I was laid off from a job that felt like my calling. I was overwhelmed with uncertainty when the pandemic hit and I had to pause my entrepreneurial journey to homeschool my two elementary school children. Through all those roller coasters, however, regardless of what I was struggling with, there was a commonality to the approach that enabled me to move forward with intention.
The approach involved asking myself three simple but profound questions. I have since leveraged these questions to help organizations, public figures, business leaders, entrepreneurs, patients, caregivers, parents and more navigate difficult decisions and thrive from change. Now, I share these questions with you to support you in your own professional and personal struggles. Their responses will empower you to act with agency, overcome what’s holding you back and define a path forward.
Question 1: Am I ready for things to improve?
When stuck at a crossroads or reeling from a setback, it is important to pause and experience your feelings. Resilience is not denying yourself human emotion but allowing yourself to understand it, accept it and bounce forward from it. In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross outlined the Change Curve Model, showing how our feelings fluctuate over time following a change or adverse event. Our morale initially improves as we move from shock to denial and then declines to frustration and depression as reality sets in. Those are real, natural emotions that should not be dismissed.
The turning point, however, comes when we decide we are ready for things to improve. It is upon this decision that we transition into the stages of acceptance, become willing to experiment with new ways of doing things and achieve new emotional heights. To begin the process of getting unstuck and moving forward, identify which stage of the change curve you’re in, consider whether you’re ready for things to improve and decide if you’re ready to take ownership of that change.
Question 2: How will I overcome what’s holding me back?
Often, even when we’re ready for things to improve, mental traps can prevent us from moving forward. These traps can be the stress of trying to do it all, the fear of not feeling accomplished, the guilt of spending less time with the kids, the grief of losing a loved one, the concern of financial security, or any other mindset, emotion or perception that is not serving us.
To overcome these mental traps, talk to yourself as if you were advising a friend. Would you suggest they reframe how they’re perceiving the situation? Seize whatever moments of empowerment they have in an otherwise uncontrollable time? Change the story by creating meaning from what happened? Or simply, consider letting go? Distance yourself from your situation and analyze it as an outsider to guide your introspective journey into what’s holding you back and what coping mechanisms will best help you prevail.
Question 3: What is my best path forward?
When moving forward, the key to thriving is knowing where you’re trying to go. Just like businesses have a North Star that their strategy pursues, we should have such clarity of vision in our individual lives as well. Accepting all unchangeable realities, what is your aspirational future state of the situation you’re looking to improve? What does that experience look like and feel like? Who else is there, and how do they show up for you? With that vision in mind, what decisions can you start making, what actions can you begin taking and what conversations can you begin having to bridge the gap from today to that future? I call the pursuit of this aspiration my Path of Least Regret. This decision-making paradigm has guided me through cancer treatment, career pivots, parenting and caregiving. Now, it can serve as a lens to help you define how, and where, to move forward.
In these rapidly changing times, we are increasingly in need of new ways of thinking that will better serve our mental and emotional well-being—at work and at home. The more often you apply these three questions to the struggles and setbacks in your life, the more your brain will rewire to strengthen your coping capabilities and bias for action. The decision to move forward lies with you.
Parul Somani is a life leadership speaker and coach and award-winning health advocate, empowering people and organizations to thrive | Silver Linings
Note: This article was originally written by Parul Somani and published in Forbes in October 2022 https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2022/10/18/three-questions-to-help-you-get-unstuck-and-move-forward-with-intention/