You're Not Stuck; You're Afraid
Did you know that fear is a strong adhesive?
We all know that one person who is stuck on a job they hate, or who is stuck studying a course that doesn’t even inspire them to breathe. And for some reason they feel obliged to engage in that activity even though they are fully aware of the fact that it makes them unhappy.
“You come back home grumpy every evening and you complain over dinner about how much you hate your job. Why don’t you just quit?” I asked my cousin Pam two years ago. (Pam was working as a chartered accountant.) She looked at me like I wanted to ruin her life.
Pam: I can’t quit. How will I get another job?
Me: Jobs are everywhere, you just have to search.
Pam: And what if I don’t find another good one like this? I’ll either be even more miserable or unemployed. Everyone will think I’m a fool.
Me: So it's fear then?
Pam: Excuse me?
Me: Tell me; when you close your eyes and think about your dream life, what do you picture yourself doing?
She went on to say that she loved fashion design, and in fact if given the chance she would rather be a top-notch fashion designer. She’s much older than I am, but I encouraged her to quit her job and take the plunge into her desired field. Again she looked at me like I was trying to ruin her life. It took Pam four good months to make that decision; however, she’s a better person for it. She went to fashion designing school and launched her own fashion brand a year later. She did have moments when she felt like she had made the wrong decision and her boyfriend left her because he thought she was stupid (silly gold-digger!) but you need to see Pam now! She the happiest human I know.
When I hear people say, “I’m stuck here,” I always ask:
- Who "stuck" you?
- What did they use? Glue? Paper tape?
- Is the glue permanent?
Because really, you’re never really stuck! You can quit that job that makes you so unhappy. You can take a different course for your masters. You can leave your medical residency to build a start-up. You can switch from banking to making shoelaces (if that’s what makes you happy). You can do whatever you want with your life because you’re not stuck.
The fear of starting afresh is giving you the illusion that you’re stuck on that job. The fear of disappointing your family is giving you the illusion that you’re stuck studying Law. You’re scared of being seen as a quitter. It’s all in your fear. Imagine how sticky your fear can get.
The world may see you as a quitter because you didn’t leave to build an NGO or start up a multi-million dollar company that can change the world. Let them know, you quit to change your life, and consequently your world. The world could do with one less unhappy human. Come on, its not so bad to quit. It becomes bad when you are 70 years old and then you realize you haven’t fulfilled destiny because you stuck yourself! You refused to make that decision.
So what if you have to go back to school to study your dream course after being in the labor market for 10 years? It’s not a crime punishable by law. So what if it seems like you’re taking a step back? You need to pull a catapult backwards for greater impact.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t feel like you have to impress anybody. The standard of the world is for the standard people, the ordinary ones. The extraordinary ones are the people who dare to take that step, start that business, pursue that dream, or launch that start-up. They fought the world, some of them had to drop out of school. So what stopping you from being different and setting your own standards? Glue?
You’re not stuck darling, you’re afraid.
Whether it's from quotes of wisdom or from a really wise grandma, we have all heard the saying;
“No matter how far you have gone the wrong way, its not too late to go the right way.”
Turn around, don’t look back.