‘Job Prison’ can hold only those who don’t look for freedom

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be in prison? The fear…the desperation…the frustration. It seems horrible, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you do just about anything to get out and lead your life in a meaningful, satisfying way?

Job prison is like that. I suspect some of you may know exactly what I mean. Job prison is feeling stuck in a job that you hate and having the sense that you are trapped and can’t get out.

I recently spoke to Gloria Dunn, author of, From Making a Living to Having a Life, (1998 Violin Publishing), about why people get stuck in jobs they hate and how to break out. I asked her how someone could tell if they were in job prison.

"You take a step back and listen to yourself. For example, you say everything is terrible. Your boss is horrendous; your co-workers are idiots. You think the work is stupid. But you rationalize it all by saying you have to stay because you’ve only got ten years to go and the pension is good, or the benefits are good, or whatever. The minute you walk in the door at work, you become another person. You have to change who you are to survive another day."

We all have reasons for staying on our jobs and many of them make perfect sense. But Dunn points out that some reasons are really excuses that trap us. For example,

  • I have good benefits and I’ll be vested soon.
  • I’m used to this, at least I know what to expect.
  • I might not like my co-workers but at least I understand them.
  • I’m not a quitter.
  • I don’t have enough of a financial cushion to fall back on.
  • I’m afraid of losing the lifestyle I’ve gotten used to.

Dunn hears these excuses in her work as a professional speaker and consultant. "These aren’t good enough," she says. "Why not do something because it gives you joy and satisfaction, instead of only doing it because it pays well? Ask yourself, ‘If I stay in my present job, what will my daily existence be like for the next five years?’ and then, ‘What are the benefits of taking charge and making a change right now? Is it possible that I can resolve my concerns and not let them block my way?’"

Making a job or career change can be easier said than done, however. I asked Dunn what holds some people back from taking the necessary steps. "I think people let old messages and old beliefs keep them stuck. For example, if you as a child were told, ‘You should be seen and not heard’, and you bought it, you may still have trouble speaking up in a meeting. Then you kick yourself later for not speaking your mind. Or, perhaps a parent or teacher said to you as a kid, ‘Who do you think you are?’ You begin to doubt yourself.

For example, I have a friend who is a great artist but his father told him, ‘You’ll never amount to much’. He sabotages himself to this day by missing entry dates to shows. People love his work but he negates compliments he receives. If you, as the impressionable child, bought the message, it can affect you for life, if you let it."

So how do you break out of that prison? According to Dunn, here are some characteristics of people who make things happen in their lives:

·         Vision-- They know what they want. We all have dreams and desires but the difference is these people can actually visualize themselves in their new conditions.

·         Strong intentions-- They make it real. They talk about it, think about it, read about it, explore it.

·         Unwavering belief-- Other people, sometimes believing that they are being helpful, say, "Hey don’t be a dreamer." Successful people are practical dreamers. They keep their goals high and their expectations in line. They say, "They can’t stop me from believing in my dreams just because they can’t believe in theirs."

·         Action approach-- Force yourself beyond the place where you are stuck and do something. Anything. By doing it you get more confident. We often want to be perfect right away. Let yourself learn as you go.

·         Focus-- There is so much that can interfere. Some people can focus for long periods, but many can’t. When you find yourself procrastinating, explore why you can’t stay focused. Make an appointment with yourself to get started, pick a small, easy piece to begin, create a checklist…do whatever it takes to give yourself a push.

·         Faith-- They know it’s going to happen, they just don’t know when. If they get unavoidably sidetracked, it doesn’t have a permanent effect.

There are a lot of people who blame everyone else, they let the prison walls close in and they don’t see that they had the key the whole time.

You can e-mail questions or comments to Gloria Dunn at gloriadunn@aol.com

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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