My friend is having a hard time quitting his smoking habit.
He tries, all the time. Lasts about a few weeks, maybe a couple of months.
He’d been successful once. It was during the time he was working at this company where none of his colleagues smoked. Back then, there was no one to stand with outside in the cold; no one from whom he could bum a ciggy. He was off cigarettes for a couple of years.
He’s a social smoker, he tells me. It’s impossible to go out with his friends, enjoy a cold beer or two, and not light up.
I told him jokingly (but also a little bit not) maybe he needs new friends.
Be strong, be fearless, be beautiful. And believe that anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you. – Misty Copeland
As regards anything about ourselves that we’re trying to change, we can say a lot about willpower and self-discipline.
And if you’re the type of person who Gretchen Rubin (author of Better Than Before) refers to as an Upholder, maybe you’ll have a leg up. Upholders are self-directed and have little trouble meeting commitments, keeping resolutions, or meeting deadlines. I wrote about Upholders and the other 3 tendencies here.
But for many, having a supportive network could be the difference between making it or not.
Being around people who have the same objectives and hopes, or people who’ve gone through what you’re going through, helps a lot.
They understand. They can give you tips based on their own experiences. They can help you during those times when the willpower isn’t at full capacity—it never is when you need it the most!
And, they can help you with accountability.
This leads me to the third reason we get stuck: Absent Support.
Reason #1: Lack of Doable Options
Reason #2: The Know-How Gap
Reason #4: Unclear Destination
Imagine these messages:
- Just be happy you have a job. There are so many people out there looking for a job.
- Work harder and be patient. Your time will come.
- Focus on getting promoted to the next level. That will help.
- Ask for a raise.
- Nobody’s happy with their jobs. That’s why it’s called a job.
- You just need to take a vacation. Take a break.
These are just some examples. I’m sure you’ve heard a few more.
None of these statements are necessarily wrong. (Well, maybe except for the first one on the list. That rubs me the wrong way.)
The thing with all these messages is that none of them encourages you to make a break.
They all implicitly say, “Stay put, even if you’re unhappy where you are.”
Really. Go back and re-read the phrases again and listen to the underlying sentiment.
And sure, looking for a new job isn’t always the right answer. Sometime, if you’re able to move around the company or shift around your responsibilities, you could conceivably get yourself in a better position and be happier, without having to leave and find yourself a new job.
But notice that in the previous paragraph, you didn’t simply stay put. You didn’t get stuck. You made changes without changing companies.
Hearing supportive messages comes from being around supportive people.
If the people you talk to all the time are not inclined to make a move themselves and are willing to be stuck, it’s unlikely that you’ll hear encouraging messages from them.
And even if they encourage you to get unstuck, do your thing, or pursue your dream, they may not be able to give you the most relevant or actionable advice. Simply because they haven’t been there before. They’re not familiar with the challenges and the opportunities. The landmines and the major milestones.
If you think about it, that’s why support groups like AA are super effective to folks who are looking to get sober.
I want to be around people that dream and support and do things. —Amy Poehler
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not putting being stuck in a job or career that you no longer want in the same category as having a dependency on booze or cigarettes or what have you.
I’m talking about the effort it takes to change our situation and how having supportive people around can help us move that mountain.
Or conversely, how absent support can keep us stuck.
The longer you’ve been stuck in a job or career you no longer want, the harder it is to make the break you want. The greater the ask on your determination and willpower to make a move. But why do it alone? Why not enlist the support of others to push you forward?
If you feel that you’re in this boat and have been unable to make the job or career change you’ve been wanting to do, consider the kinds of messages (implicit or explicit) you’ve been absorbing and listening to.
That may be the invisible ball and chain you weren’t even paying attention to.