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Stuck on Purpose

Many people feel blocked from pursuing a dream, launching a new project or changing careers by their own inner voice. Being afraid of the unknown, we often turn to excuses rather than turning to face the uncertainty and clarifying it. Logic flies out the door, replaced by expressions like “I can’t…” or “What if...” and so on. Resolving excuses for not doing something specific can be managed in a calm and rational manner. Sometimes, people feel stuck with no apparent direction at all.

One of the most challenging ways to feel stuck is when the change happens to you and you have not prepared for what comes next. After a long career in a particular field, you find yourself out of work and searching for a productive new direction. For some, using the expertise gained from their work experience provides the opportunity, as they learn to apply their knowledge to help other businesses in a consulting capacity. Others remain stuck, not knowing what to do next and struggling to clarify their purpose.

Surprisingly, the answer they seek is often already within and known to them. Typically, the passion that tugs at their hearts pulls them in a direction that has nothing to do with their work or career background. Yet, they repeatedly find themselves in a situation where they cannot help inserting themselves into a conversation to add their perspective on the topic. The desire to help people in an area about which we are passionate is very strong.

The tug may reveal itself as frustration, such as feeling frustrated and upset each time the subject emerges. Consider the lifelong electrical engineer who became quite agitated each time he heard about high school dropouts. He would angrily slam his fist on the table saying, “Somebody has to do something about those poor kids!” Hello? Then there is the machine shop operator who, after a life changing experience with health issues, can’t stop himself from giving people advice on health and nutrition.

Whatever the source of the passion or frustration, these little tugs are strong clues to a purpose that drives you. Pursuing this purpose will be easy because you already have a passion and that will communicate authentic belief in your topic to whomever you share it. We feel stuck because the tug pulls away from what we think we already know. Indeed, there are many things to learn about the new direction. However, being stuck is not one of them.

Convert the fear of uncertainty into an action plan. The plan may be pure hypothetical, at first. List what you think the problem is, the desired outcome, what you propose to do about it, who is the customer or audience, what you must learn, where to learn about it and name people who have expertise that can be mentors. Talk to others you know about the topic and learn their interest and reaction to your thoughts. Soon you will be ready to develop a business model, a brand and serve your new customers.

Don’t ignore that little tug that ignites your passion or frustrations. The tug is a strong hint about what motivates you and it can be an important signpost when you feel lost. Ignoring it means being stuck on purpose while your purpose may be knocking on the door trying to get in. Learn to let go of preconceived notions of what you are and your mind will be open to discover your real purpose.

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