Dear Tiff: I'm stuck
Why can't I apply focus to my romantic and work lives when I want to make a change?
I’ve allowed things to get stagnant in some important areas of my life. I ended a big relationship last year and would like to start dating, but for some reason can’t get it together to make that happen. I’m glad I gave myself time to process the break up, and I’m pretty sure I’m now ready for some romance, if not a new relationship. But I prioritise everything else in my life over the admin involved in setting up and going on dates.
I’m in a similar situation (I think) with my career. It’s fine in many ways, but I’m not satisfied and I’d really like to be doing something else. I even have ideas for what that something else might be. But dealing with this feels like a chore even though it’s what I want, and I’m not taking any steps to make a change.
I don’t have a history of being a lazy or ineffective person, and have achieved plenty of things over the years. I’m constantly making and executing plans in other areas of life (though admittedly less significant ones). So why can’t I apply the same focus to my romantic and work lives now, when they’re so in need of attention? Why do I treat everything else on my mental to-do list as though it’s more important? And how can I get unstuck?
Dear Ms. Stuck,
I can tell a lot from the language you’ve used in your letter. You tell me that you would like to start dating and that you’re pretty sure you’re now ready for romance. Reading your letter, I feel an overwhelming sense of apathy and so I’m not surprised that you’re not doing anything about these changes you might, possibly, maybe like to happen.
What you need, my dear is some conviction! You need to want something so badly that it hurts to not have it. OR to be so unbelievably miserable in your current scenario that you have no choice but to face those fears (because changes is scary) and CHANGE.
However, what I’m sensing from you is that you’re kind of fine but there’s something quietly niggling away at you that perhaps you should do something about, but until that grows into an urgent, hungry, visceral desire, you’re not going to do much about it.
Because change is hard. It takes a long time, it’s risky, exposing and confronting. And, as you point out in your letter, it can also be a bit boring. Again, the words you use tell me a lot about your mindset around change. You describe what could be a grand adventure to find love and bring romance into your life as ‘the admin involved in setting up and going on dates’ and how a career change ‘feels like a chore’. Well yeah, when you put it like that, why on earth would you do that? Sounds rubbish!
And heck, you’re right. Online dating is a lot of admin! But isn’t literally everything in life? I’m beginning to realise that life is a series of admin tasks. I’ve just moved house and that’s a lot of admin, but I didn’t let the fact that packing sucks stop me from moving. I wasn’t like ‘fuck this, I can’t be bothered to call Virgin media, so I’ll just stay put. NO! Why? Because I had conviction and wanted to move. I wanted to move so badly that I gave no thought to the admin involved.
Is career change a chore? Why do you presume it to be so? Like with dating, you could choose to see it as an adventure and a place of exploration. It could actually be a lot of fun. I’m a big career changer. I keep doing it! I’m three years into a career change into writing. Has it been hard? Yes. Have I made sacrifices? Yes. But a chore? NO! And I can also add that the path to having my book come out has been far more rewarding than the end result of it being published.
I think you see making change in your work and romantic lives as miserable and boring processes to reach goals that you may or may not be happier when you reach them. But the reality is, that life isn’t about achieving goals but striving towards them. There is no end destination. Say you switch careers or find romance, new problems (and more admin) will arise. But I believe it’s in the path towards something where the happiness and fulfilment lies rather than in achieving the goal.
Career change can take around three years, finding love can take your whole life. But don’t let that put you off! This isn’t bleak, but exciting. These are adventures you can embark on. This is a path you can step on that will bend, stretch, challenge and grow you. Here lies the opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people, try (and fail) at new things. It’s new, shiny, enlightening and exciting! It’s what it means to be alive. Who cares what comes at the end?
Career change many involve meeting up with people and asking what they do. It may involve training. It may involve going on a flower arranging course, travelling the world, doing work experience with a barrister. Dating could mean trying new bars, meeting new people (perhaps some with interesting careers) and learning more about yourself and your values. Do you know what else it all means? Not feeling stagnant!
But first, you need conviction. You have a bit more of that when it comes to your career because you said that you’d really like to be doing something else. You also mention ideas, so even though they’re possibly just swimming about, they’re still there. You possess some twinklings of imagination and the early signs of what could grow to be excitement. Seize these ideas! Start creating conviction. Build on those niggling thoughts and solidify them into wants, desires, cravings. Take some time to work on answering the question - ‘what do I want?’
I so often ask people, ‘what do you want’ and they so often hesitate. It’s actually very scary to articulate what you want because it means opening up yourself to the vulnerability of saying your needs and risking the disappointment that you may not get it. So admitting what we want carries risk, but you certainly won’t get what you want if you aren’t able to say outloud what it is.
You may not know the what - which new job, what type of partner etc. so start with how you want to feel. Or what your values are and how you want those to be aligned with your partner or career. Why are you dissatisfied in your career? What is lacking in your romantic life? Maybe you want to get laid and think your colleagues are stupid. That’s a great place to start! You can translate that into wants.
What does good look or feel like? Be honest with yourself. Talk to people, write it down, build a vision for what you want and the conviction will follow. The more you play with what you want and bring it to life, the stronger the desire will feel and one day, it’ll be so strong that it BURNS. My writing career was born out of an early desire to sit by myself in a tracksuit all day. Clarity and the what follows from these littler thoughts.
Your letter read with a tone of ‘what’s wrong with me?’ But enough of the self-criticism. You’re doing well A break up is a huge step forward and a massive moment of action. So stop berating yourself and start imagining, dreaming and get excited about the paths that lie ahead, regardless of the outcome.
Let’s say you go on some dates and you don’t find romance? So what? You would have had fun along the way. Who cares if you lose hours to swiping and chatting on Hinge instead of bingeing on Netflix? I don’t believe that time is ever really wasted. Let’s say you start exploring career ideas. Maybe you train in something and don’t use it. So what? I trained as a life coach and then decided not to become one. Does it matter? Not really. Life is about exploring, adventure, meeting new people, learning new skills, expanding our minds and yes, indeed, quite a lot of admin.