Perhaps you’re feeling stuck, or even trapped, in some area of your life. Maybe a job or a hobby which you once loved has turned into a chore – or a relationship has gone sour.
The problem is, you can’t quite imagine giving it up. You’re still clinging to the early hopes you had, or desperately trying to regain your past enthusiasm. Maybe you’ve been in your job, or engaged on a particular project, for so long that there really doesn’t seem to be an alternative.
There is: and to create it, you need to start by thinking yourself free.
What Would Happen If You Lost It?
Let’s say you’re not enjoying your job. (You wouldn’t be alone: statistics show that more than half of us dislike our jobs.) You might have been enthusiastic about your career field once, but now, you simply go through the motions.
If quitting seems unthinkable, try imagining how you’d feel if you were laid off, or if you had to leave due to circumstances beyond your control. Once the initial shock had passed, would you feel a sense of relief? Would you feel as though a burden had been lifted?
I’ve never had a problem with quitting jobs I disliked (it’s how I became a full-time freelancer, a year ago) – but a few months back, I was ploughing on with running a blog when my enthusiasm for it had died. It wasn’t until someone emailed me, asking how much it would cost to buy the blog, that I began to find the mental space to let it go.
(I didn’t sell it – but I did decide to only do minimal maintenance on the site. The funny thing is, nearly all the advertising revenue I’ve had from it has been since I stopped actively blogging there…)
Of course, quitting your job is a lot scarier than simply giving up on a blog or on another project that you’ve lost interest in. When I was working on leaving my day job, I asked myself…
What’s the Worst Case Scenario?
If you abandon the project, job or relationship that’s holding you trapped, what’s the worst that could happen? Think this through: would you be homeless? Starving? Broke? Or would even the worst possible consequences be ones that you could quite easily recover from?
When you clarify the worst case scenario in your mind, you’ll notice some interesting things:
• The consequences aren’t so dire as that vague cloud of fear in your mind suggested
• You can already see plenty of ways to recover if the worst does happen
• The worst case scenario seems pretty unlikely anyway
Don’t stay with the doom and gloom, though (even if it doesn’t seem so bad after all). Think about…
What’s the Good Stuff That Will Happen?
If you left your job, there’d be some negative consequences (like a lack of income), but there’d also be a ton of positive ones. Write down the ones that mean the most to you. Maybe:
• Having time to spend with your kids
• Not having to work with a boss or colleagues who don’t share your values
• Finally getting to pursue your dreams
• Being able to sleep better at night
Leaving a situation that has you feeling trapped will always result in a massive, empowering sense of freedom. Allowing yourself to visualise all these positive consequences can help you create the desire to actually get to them.
Once you’ve liberated yourself mentally from the chains of your dull job, draining relationship or flogging-a-dead-horse project, it’s time to take action. Spend a few minutes really visualizing your success: hold on to that sense of freedom. Then write down some immediate steps you can take to get yourself closer. You don’t need to know every single step on the path – you just need to have a map for where you’re going next.
In some cases, the steps might be pretty short. Perhaps you want to wrap up your project to make sure you still get something out of it: this could mean anything from selling off your materials to finding a suitable “end point”. If you want to drop out of college, perhaps you’ll decide to stick out the semester in order to get the credits for classes you’ve already started on.
If you want to leave your job, there are likely to be a few steps you want to take to avoid that worst case scenario. For many people, the first task is to establish an emergency fund (or to add to an existing one). Keeping your goal in mind can help you stay motivated to cut your spending and put money aside each week or month.
Keep thinking yourself free. Keep imagining your life without the situation that’s dragging you down. However tough life seems, or however trapped you feel – you’re not. There’s always a way out, and the first step to creating it is to imagine it.
Bio: Ali Hale writes about getting more from life on her blog, Aliventures: if you enjoyed this post, you’ll probably enjoy Life: Choose Your Own Adventure. Ali is also a freelance blogger for a number of other sites, and is taking a postgraduate degree in creative writing.