Pushing and pushing and pushing and not getting anything but tired.
There are a lot of ways to think about this in our work lives. The feeling when we’re working, all day, and at the end of the day, not quite sure what we actually did. We might use euphemisms like “going to the salt mine” or “putting my nose to the grindstone” but usually, that’s just our casual indication that work is work and if we like our work, we’re somehow off.
But what if when you say a phrase like that, you don’t feel like you’re joking, at all. Or maybe you say it and then really believe it. You may be stuck. Not necessarily with your career, but in the moment, with a project, or with a situation. You might be stuck if you say things like:
I feel like I’m spinning my wheels
It just seems like I’m on a treadmill
I know I’m working but I’m not getting anywhere
Every day feels the same
I can see the goal, I just don’t see a way to get there
No matter what decision I make, I don’t think it’s going to be the right one
If you’ve ever felt this way (or do currently), please, please, take a moment to slow down and reflect on your situation. The feeling may be one-time, or more pervasive. If you think it’s more than even once per week, consider whether burnout is playing a part.
Now you know you’re stuck, you can see it, you can admit it. What do you do about it?
Identify or clarify your WHY. The WHY may be for this task, your role in the organization, your job or even your career. It is possible that if your stuckness is on the fringes or even outside your WHY, it will be very difficult to self-motivate. Additionally, in a traditional work environment, external motivators such as a bonus, tropical shirt Thursday, or Gunnery Sergeant Hartman-style “encouragement” tend to not produce the intended outcome, certainly not over the long-term.
Examine the gaps. What is it that is keeping you from getting unstuck? Is it a question of your motivation? Do you have a firm grasp of what is expected of you? Do you have the resources such as equipment, knowledge, time, support, or guidance to complete the task? Is there something else that is preventing you from closing the gap between where you are and where you need to be?
Are you pushing a wall? You may very well be expending a lot of energy, time, stress, and depleting your own satisfaction with absolutely no progress to show for it. Most of us can push on a brick wall all day and get really tired doing so, but as far as the wall is concerned, nothing changed. Maybe stop trying to push the wall over. Consider going around it. Maybe you can find someone with the right tools and convince them that the wall needs a door.
Outside of the wall metaphor, does this task need doing, are you the person who needs to do it, is there another way to get the same outcome that is not on this precise path?
If you do the same thing you’ve always done, you’ll get the same thing you’ve always got. Try a new point of view, try a new tact, ask for guidance, ask for help, ask for somebody to help you see what you can’t. If what you’re doing isn’t working, trying something new might be the answer.
Credit: Sgt. Hartman is a character played by R. Lee Ermey in the Warner Brothers film "Full Metal Jacket" released in 1987.