Do you ever get so wrapped about the axle fretting over a decision that you become paralyzed and can't move forward? You become caged by your fears. You can't think straight. Your stomach is constantly in knots.
Talk about a New Year's resolution buzz kill.
At the top of my 10-year career as the head of AOL's corporate training, I desperately wanted a change. I had recently been accepted to grad school and I quickly determined that continuing to do 60-hour weeks along with studying for grad school while finalizing my divorce was just too much. I was beyond weary and maxed. I desperately wanted to ask my manager for what I really wanted - to go part-time - but I was stuck and scared.
My current responsibilities demanded full-time attention. And part-time positions didn't exist in AOL's crazy, hyper-speed, high-tech environment. In fact, part-time seemed like an oxymoron. Would my manager go for it? Could we even talk about it? Or would I be raising a huge red flag that I was no longer as committed to the organization, perhaps even being asked to leave the organization altogether? Could I mentally, emotionally and physically push on through and forget about the whole idea?
Then a way to get unstuck came to me. Maybe it was my engineering training talking or maybe it was a virtual "get a grip girlfriend" slap from my beleaguered spirit, I don't know. But, it worked. You can use it, too, for your own sticky, stucky moments:
1. Imagine the worst case.
Make yourself go to that bad place, emotionally and psychologically. Write it out and share with someone you trust the absolute worst thing that could happen. In detail. Paint the complete picture with all the events, people, and your feelings. From your cozy chair, experience as much as possible what the worst case would feel like.
For me, worst case was that my manager would say sayonara and ask me to pack up my belongings. After a successful 10-year career starting as an $8 an hour customer service rep and working my way up the corporate ladder, this felt awful. And who knows what kind of scar it would put on my resume, maybe even be a huge speed bump to my next career!
2. Ask yourself "What would I do if the worse case happened?"
What actions would you take? What would you say and to whom? How might they react? How would you respond to them?
If you can answer these kinds of questions, then you can handle it. It may not be fun, it may not be pretty, but you can handle it. Give yourself some credit. Chances are you dealt with an intense situation before. Remember?
Oh, I remembered. Figuring out how to safely leave an abusive husband ranked up there in my most intense situations. In a flash I realized that if my manager told me to pack my bags, it would hurt, but I could handle it. This was my career, but it wasn't my personal emotional and physical well-being. I had talent, experience and tenacity. Someone smarter than my boss would hire me.
3. Ask yourself "What's the likelihood of the worst case happening?"
Most of the time, we paint the most horrible picture, and then it doesn't materialize. It's a great monument to our imagination. Perhaps more of us should write movie screenplays. Something between "Terrific!" and "Ugh!" is most often reality. Hey, good news! You've already determined you can handle that, too. Piece of cake.
Thing is, my performance was strong and I was well liked by my boss and my boss' boss. Unless there was some mysterious undercurrent, chances were more that my manager would be bummed that I wanted to pull-back.
4. Make a decision and go for it!
By making any decision you are, by definition, unstuck. You are in motion one way or another. And even science reveals that when an object is in motion it has more energy and can change direction more easily.
Calming down and putting myself through the paces gave me a much more realistic view of the situation and the courage to talk with my boss. Turns out he was bummed, very bummed. So was my boss' boss. Which worked in my favor. They created a new part-time position for me because they valued my contribution enough to want some of me, even if they couldn't get all of me. It required me to step down from my leadership role and take a less demanding role as a training specialist, but my ego could handle it because in the bigger picture, I was getting exactly what I wanted - at least for now.