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When you're really, truly stuck

Every so often I get an email like this:
"Cathy, I will be calling to book an appointment. I am miserable. I hate my job. I hate where I'm living."

I send what I hope is a gracious response, offering a "get acquainted" call as a first step to some creative career coaching. Griselda never responds.

Two months later, Griselda writes, "Cathy, I just ordered your book. As soon as I finish I will call. I saw a counselor who said I should move. I just can't make up my mind! "

Amazingly, Griselda writes a third time: "I just spent two hundred dollars for an astrology consultation. I am still miserable. When I finish your book, I will call you."

Have you ever watched a car, stuck in snow, spin its wheels?

That's what Griselda is doing. If she keeps trying to move, she'll just spin her wheels. She needs to step back from the situation -- like getting out of the car -- and push. Here are three ways to get started.

1. Quit thinking about the problem. Go cold turkey for at least a month. Declare a moratorium on buying self-help books, wondering if you need a coach, and baring your soul.
When someone asks how you're doing, say, "Wonderful!" or at least, "Fine!" and resist the temptation to talk about your confusion..

Sounds like breaking an addiction? Well, you can get addicted to being miserable.

2.Take it one day at a time. When you find yourself thinking about your dilemma, flip your mind to another topic, as if you turned off one light and turned on another.

Focus on anything but your problem: your cat or dog, an escape novel, a movie, a garden -- the possibilities are endless.

3. Be aware that deep blocks and self-sabotage are the province of therapists. Forget about coaches, astrologers, online aptitude tests and even self-help books. Bite the bullet, find yourself a competent resource and stay with the process until you make changes.

If Griselda asked, I'd tell her to get back in touch when she found herself using words like "move" and "action." I would ask her to complete a few of my forms and try some tentative actions before she reached for her credit card.

Research shows that people change when they get ready, sometimes because they've hit bottom and sometimes because of a defining, crystallizing moment of truth.

A seemingly trivial episode can trigger a major lifetime change. Yolanda (interviewed for a fitness project) began an exercise program after a relative rudely asked her, at a holiday dinner, "Do you really need that piece of pie?" Ten years later, she wins marathons and enjoys pies, cake and ice cream, too.

When you are ready, you will know -- and others will know, because you look and speak differently. This time, if you decide to hire a coach, you'll complete the pre-call forms in half an hour and grab the first appointment available. And you'll be on your way to a new career and new life.

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast move to career freedom. Visit her site or call 505-534-4294.

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Career and life transition