The 5 best pieces of advice I've ever gotten for getting unstuck
One of the best parts of getting older is the ability to take on good advice without feeling like you're admitting failure in some way. I remember so often hearing good advice when I was younger and feeling that instant impulse to "Yes, but" argue with it.
Yes, but that wouldn't work in my case.
Yes, but I tried that already.
Yes, but you don't really understand me.
Yes, but I'm different.
Yes, but what about this?
I think at one time, there was a sense that everyone was supposed to figure things out on their own. Now, however, we live in an age of hacks, tips, and tricks, with a constant flow of expertise on social media, blogs, YouTube videos, podcasts, and online resources of all kinds. I guess it has taken some of the sting out of seeking out and accepting good advice.
Some of the advice is great and some of it is fairly generic and repetitive. Sometimes you get a sense that the advice you're getting is more theoretical than practical.
That got me thinking about some of the best advice I've ever gotten in real life. Advice that I've returned to again and again. Some of the advice I followed and it has never failed me. Some of the advice I didn't follow and I lived to regret it.
This advice is all good for helping you get unstuck, stay unstuck, or to set yourself up so that you won't get stuck in the future. Rest assured, this advice is all tried and true in real-world circumstances. I hope you'll find it helpful.
No. 1: If you're not sure what to do for a living, find a way to monetize something you're already good at.
This is not quite the same thing as "If you love what you do you'll never work a day in your life" because, of course, I work a lot. But when I was young, I really struggled to figure out what to major in and how to move forward with my education and, later, when I was ready to make a change in my profession.
I had dropped out of college for a year and a half, working and trying to figure out what to do next. My mother, as you may remember from one of my other posts, said, "You're only good at reading and writing. Go back to school and major in English."
As it turned out, that was good advice. Majoring in something that I was already good at made school easier, more fun, and more pleasant. It opened up a path that, eventually and by a long and circuitous route, led me to what I do today.
Some people find success by setting a professional goal that they know will be prestigious or will be lucrative. However, I think for most people, finding a way to make a living doing something that feels authentic and meaningful and that they enjoy is just going to work better.
I know that people have a lot of anxiety around this idea. Having been an English major, I've heard every iteration of that "What are you going to do with an English degree?" joke. Well, it's working out so far.
Understand, what I'm not saying is, "Major in anything and the money will magically appear." You need to figure out a way to monetize your interest, either by creating a business or content niche there or by pursuing an existing business opportunity.
What I am saying, however, is that things will be easier and more satisfying if you're doing something that you enjoy and are good at.
No. 2: Regardless of how secure you are in your relationship, have your own money and your own retirement plan.
This advice came from my brother and, unfortunately, it was advice that I did not follow. I think for many women, it's easy to get all of your finances mixed in with your husband's, and it's difficult to extricate those finances in the event of a divorce.
While I have a solid belief in my own earning ability, my retirement planning would be in a much better place if I had kept it more focused and more separate from my ex-husband's. During our divorce, I made a conscious decision to exchange some of our shared financial resources for a smoother, more civil, more expedited process. That's a risk, but it's one that felt worthwhile to me. YMMV.
No matter where you are in your relationship, it's worth putting some resources in place that are just for you. If you stay together, great. You can both benefit from the income you'll derive from those retirement funds.
If you do not stay together, you'll have separate funds for your own retirement and more individual security. The more secure each person is, the less you'll have to fight over or worry about in the event of a later-in-life separation.
No. 3: If you're a woman, you need additional help at home.
When I was a new mother and working full time, an older teacher at the school where I worked said this to me with a sense of awe. "I don't understand you young women working and raising children and trying to keep a house with no help. I never knew anyone who did all of that alone when I was young."
In the years since, I think this tendency has gotten worse instead of better. Young women seem to feel that they have to do everything and do it all perfectly while looking incredible, dressing like a celebrity, curating a perfect home, running a Fortune 500 company, and never raising their voice or saying anything wrong. It's exhausting.
Study after study shows that women in the US do much more work at home than their husbands and that has remained consistent for decades. Yet women continue to feel that they are supposed to handle everything on their own.
Normalize housekeepers, childcare help, grocery delivery, meal delivery, laundry service and other household help as standard. The things that keep the household running benefit both of the people who live there. It is long past time that women should stop shouldering those burdens alone, especially if they are also working.
Don't let your husband, his mother, or your mother make you feel bad about anything that you do to make your home life more manageable or your daily life more manageable. It's ridiculous that we're still having these conversations.
No. 4: Another [fill in the blank] won't make [someone] love you.
The exact wording of this was "Another piece of paper won't make your mother love you" and it was spoken to me by my ex-husband in relation to my notion of going to law school right after I had completed my master's degree.
While it sounds harsh, it was based on my ongoing need to seek my mother's approval by continuing to trot out new accomplishments, hoping that they would make her proud.
Many of us look for external markers of accomplishment to provide validation, especially in relationships with our parents. Maybe you're going for that big job that your parents can brag about at the country club. Maybe you believe that getting married or having kids will make them happy with you.
The reality is that your parents are probably proud of you and bragging about you to all of their friends, but they just don't tell you nice things to your face. Or maybe they're super critical and they aren't proud of you, in which case, see above — another piece of paper or promotion or whatever is not going to change things.
Relationships between parents and their adult children are complicated. They just are. Stop trying to plan your life around making your parents happy. Make yourself happy, if you can. That's a big enough job for one lifetime.
No. 5: If you can't change your circumstances and you can't walk away, you have to stop talking about the situation.
This one also came from my ex-husband and it has been really good advice for me over the years. Sometimes you find yourself spiraling in a bad situation where you're upset about something and you keep rehashing it. This is especially true if you have a friend who is endlessly patient and will rehash it with you.
At some point, if you can't get out of the situation and you can't change it, you have to stop talking about it and crying about it and spinning out. Just move forward and deal with the circumstances as they exist. It's not fun. You don't want to do it. It seems harsh, but it is what it is and there's nothing to do but handle it.
Maybe your job is shitty. Maybe your boss is a monster. Maybe your sister sucks or your kids are annoying or your dog pees on the rug. If you can't change it and you can't walk away from it, you have to stop talking about it.
The energy you put into continuing the conversation keeps you locked into a place of victimhood and makes you feel helpless and hopeless. Stop saying that to yourself and to anyone who will listen.
I'm not saying that you have to Power-of-Positive-Thinking-The-Secret yourself out of your circumstances (though, TBH, it might not hurt) but you've got to stop chewing over the thing you're upset about. And if you simply can't abide the situation? That's when you know you're ready to make a change and move forward.
Maybe you need to quit that job. Maybe you need to cut your toxic sister out of your life once and for all. Maybe you need to stop babying your kid and make them behave appropriately. Maybe you need to take the dog to obedience classes or get rid of the rug. Sometimes, once you stop talking, you can start to take action.
I hope you find one or more of these helpful. Feel free to leave your best advice down in the comments. And if you implement a piece of advice and it helps you, reach out and let me know. I'd love to hear from you.