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11.21.2019 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

Why You Gotta Do the Work!

If you were listening to my podcast, The Other Side of Potential, a few months ago, you probably heard me say something like, “You gotta do the work!”

It’s a phrase I use often. One I assumed was fairly obvious given my profession, but my assumption was wrong because a colleague of mine recently asked, “What do you mean by doing the work”?

Such a great question. I will speak to this now as I know many of you are asking yourselves, how will 2020 be better or different?

First, let me say a bit about why it’s important to do the work.

Sometimes We Get Stuck

It might seem obvious. If you’re feeling stuck in life, for whatever reason, you’ve got to do something about it. The problem is, when you’re stuck, you often don’t know it. All you know is something’s not right.

Or, if you do know you’re stuck, you haven’t the faintest idea of how to get past whatever it is that’s keeping you stuck. Think about it. If you knew what to do, you wouldn’t be stuck, right?

Being stuck is like being caught in a deep dense fog. You can walk and talk, you just can’t see where you’re going.

Here’s some situations where I see my clients stumbling through the fog. You might recognize a few: divorce, death of a loved one, career transitions, financial loss, kids leaving for college, mid-life stuff that results in uncertainty or loss of self-esteem, millennials who lack self-confidence or direction, messy relationships, bad bosses, lack of clarity or purpose.

What amazes me most is that when we’re in the midst of these types of transitions, we often think we just need to go about business as usual and the frustration, fear, uncertainty, and pain will simply disappear.

Not so.

If we don’t do the work, what happens is that the fog becomes more and more dense. We think we’re moving along with great focus and clarity until suddenly we bump into yet another wall or, worse yet, get hit by the next train wreck.

In order to move past these transitional moments, you have to be able to see something beyond where you are. Difficult to do when you’re stuck in the fog.
So, what’s the answer?

How to Get Unstuck

Being stuck isn’t always a single event. It can be a culmination of many events over the years each one equating to some level of confusion or uncertainty. It’s something that happens to all of us at one time or another. Some of us just seem to crawl out of the fog a lot quicker than others.

There’s no right or wrong way to climb out. What matters is that you do.

I’ve noted that this process of getting out is often the hardest for people used to having it all together. If you’re someone who always seems to know exactly where you’re going, being stuck probably feels more like quicksand than fog.

For highly successful people, being stuck is foreign to their way of walking in the world.

This is where my mantra of “You Gotta Do the Work” comes in. The first step in doing the work is to simply notice what you’re resisting right now. Whatever you’re resisting will tell you exactly where to begin the work.

If, for example, you’re feeling stuck at work because your boss doesn’t seem to value your input, you begin by figuring out how to create a different relationship with your boss such that he gets who you are and what you contribute.

Sometimes when we’re stuck, however, it won’t be as easy to pinpoint exactly what’s going on. In this case, do a little reflective work. Or, consider working with someone who can walk along side you through the process of figuring it out.

Choose the Best Someone

By someone, I’m not necessarily talking about a spouse or best friend. While those relationships are important, they’re often too close to you or the situation to help you consider new possibilities.

You want to choose someone who is not as close to the messiness of your life. A mentor, life or business coach, therapist, exercise guru, priest, rabbi, spiritual advisor, attorney—the best person depends on the nature of the situation you’re in.

The point is, find an expert related to your particular life circumstance. Someone who can help you make sense of where you are and where you want to go.

Here are some other examples of doing the work that are useful:

Meditation, journaling, exercise, social networks, podcasts—life giving experiences that you are drawn to that will help you learn more about yourself in the context of the dilemma you’re facing.

Remember, small incremental changes over time create extraordinary results (another one of my mantras).

You don’t have to figure out how to get un-stuck on your own. In fact, chances are, you can’t because you’re too close to the situation.

Do the work now, in whatever form it takes, and the dividends will pay off. You’ll be better equipped to handle the next messy situation.

Achieving excellence and a higher purpose in life is less about having it all perfect all of the time. It’s more about how you move through being stuck such that you get to the other side a wiser person.

Think of it this way: Being stuck is a pathway to greater clarity and a bigger life. Ignore the work that needs to be done, and you’ll stay stuck forever. Not the best choice, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. November 21, 2019