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Becoming Unstuck in 2021

Jan 11, 2021

Witty Sandle, King's Career and Vocational Counselor, shares a strategy for moving forward in 2021 while acknowledging your feelings.

You know that proverbial image of a hamster spinning round and round on a wheel, going nowhere? That’s what 2020 has felt like for many of us, resulting in disorientation and a kind of “stuckness.” Some days we have faithfully tried to do good work, and felt somewhat productive. On other days, perhaps more times than we care to admit, we have gone through the motions and we have floundered, throwing up our hands in capitulation as we head towards netflix and the cookie jar.

Do you recognize any of the following or similar sentiments?

  • “My grades/performance aren’t good enough.”
  • “Everyone else has it together. Why haven’t I?”
  • “Why do I feel so aimless?”
  • “Help. I don’t think I’m ok but I don’t know what to do about it.”
  • “I have no idea what I want to do when I graduate. Everyone else has a plan.”
  • “Am I in the right job / what’s the point of anything I’m doing right now?”

Such questions and thoughts take their toll, resulting in weariness and lethargy. As we start another year, we see more of the same in front of us and a kind of paralysis can set in as we wonder how we will get through. Can we realistically put any energy into thinking ahead when we can barely get through a week? How can we begin to discern our vocations and make plans for our futures when we have no idea what the future holds? I want to offer a way that can help you to become “unstuck”.

Create a “things that suck” list. [1]

First, get a blank sheet of paper and across the top, write your heading. Here are some example titles:

  • Things that sucked in 2020.”
  • “Things that have sucked this week / today.”
  • “Things that still suck.”
  • “Things that are going to suck.”

Subtitle it, “Becoming Unstuck,” as a reminder of why you are doing this exercise.

Second, make a list of everything that sucks as a series of statements. For instance, you might write, “It sucks that I’m paying all this tuition when there are no jobs anyway.” Or “Next semester is going to suck more than this one.”

Third, contemplate your “things that suck'' list. Literally stare at the words for a while. Maybe read them aloud so you can hear yourself saying them or at least repeat them slowly in your head. It helps to give voice to the words on your paper.

Fourth, allow your list to teach you. What stands out? Which of the items seems to carry more weight? Highlight them.

Fifth, take three of those statements you have highlighted and turn them into questions. Using our earlier examples, you could rephrase them as, “It sucks that I’m paying all this tuition. Will there be any jobs?.” “I wonder if next semester will suck more than this one?”

Finally, give yourself the task of answering your questions or simply allowing yourself to become curious about a possible answer. Write your responses down. For example,

with the statement, “It sucks that I’m paying all this tuition. Will there be any jobs?”-  you could start by doing some research [2], or you can book an appointment with CCC staff to start a conversation about your fears [3]. With the statement, “I wonder if next semester will suck more than this one?” you can respond by writing something like, “Actually, I don’t know. I’m assuming. Guess I’ll find out.”

This exercise gives you permission to be honest about how you feel as well as giving you a  starting process to help you take back some control. By adopting a posture of curiosity, you move from passivity to action and open yourself to imagining a different future. The hamster wheel will not stop its relentless spinning immediately. The pandemic is still with us. However, you will have slowed it down just enough for you to start 2021 feeling a little less stuck.

[1] Give yourself a break from your electronic device and use pen and paper. Check out:

 9 Incredible Benefits Of Writing By Hand

[2] See this resource as a starting point for research: Trend analysis explore job prospects

[3] Make an Appointment - Centre for Career and Calling

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