How to give yourself a choice when it feels hopeless.
Sometimes in life it feels as it you have no choice.
How often in your life have you felt forced down a particular path, believing things were hopeless and that you had to accept what circumstances – or previous decisions – had dished up for you? For example:
- Feeling stuck in a job you hate but you can’t leave because the mortgage has to be paid.
- Hanging on to a loveless relationship for the sake of the kids, and because you can’t afford to run two households.
- Struggling on with a business that causes you enormous stress, because giving up after investing all that time, energy and money would mean you’re a failure.
- Plugging away at a course or qualification that’s lost its appeal because you’ve come so far down that road and it would be a waste of time to give up.
- Labouring under a huge sense of responsibility to family or friends and constantly having to put their priorities before yours.
Situations like these can feel like a hopeless dead-end. You can’t move forward or back without breaking not only your own eggs, but everyone else’s too. It’s stressful. You feel trapped and resentful. You believe you can’t do anything to fix the situation. You can’t say what you really think. So you struggle on, watching the days of your life drain away.
You feel that you have no choice…
Except that you do.
There’s always a choice, even when the situation feels hopeless
As I see it, you actually have three choices when you feel powerless to change a situation:
1. Do nothing
In which case, either nothing will change, the situation might improve on its own, or it could get worse. The message you’re sending to your mind is “I will continue to tolerate something I don’t like because it’s safer/easier to do nothing”. Effectively, you are choosing to be complicit in maintaining that situation.
2. Try to change or influence the situation.
When you start thinking analytically about what’s happening, and looking to see whether there’s anything you can do – however small – that might make things more tolerable, you provide your mind with proof that you can take yourself off auto-pilot and become an action taker. The message you’re sending to your mind is: “I’m not helpless”.
This is positive, however you could find that you reach a dead end, with resources exhausted, if you don’t at the same time do number 3…
3. Change your VIEW of the situation.
How you think creates your reality, so changing the way you think about something – and about yourself and others in that situation – can transform the actual event.
A few year ago, one of my clients – I’ll call her Claire – ran a business with a friend, Jenny. Claire was concerned because Jenny was no longer pulling her weight and her erratic behaviour was becoming a liability. She got an order wrong and landed them with expensive stock they couldn’t use, and she flew off the handle with an important customer.
They had words and Jenny went into emotional meltdown and accused Claire of trying to push her out. The relationship was at breaking point and Claire felt helpless and trapped. She said to me, “I feel hopeless because I feel I have no choice but to watch our business and our hard work going down the drain. I’m stuck.”
And of course she was right. As long as she believed she had no choice, the situation had little chance of improving and she was going to continue to feel hopeless.
So we did some work on it. By going through her PACES, digging out the demands that were keeping her stuck and looking at the situation with curiosity and compassion, rather than hopelessness and judgement, and by focusing on solutions, rather than problems, Claire found a way through.
She dug deep with Jenny and it turned out that her business partner was going through a tough time. Jenny was trying to cope with a difficult menopause, her mother had been diagnosed with dementia and her son had abandoned his university course and confessed to more than £5000 worth of online gambling debts. Jenny had felt too ashamed to share her burdens with Claire, who was 12 years younger and had no children. It was hardly surprising that the older woman was feeling and behaving below par.
The result was that Claire, with Jenny’s full agreement, temporarily took on more of the responsibility for running the business while her partner sorted out her personal life. Within a year, Jenny decided to leave and Claire bought her out, which meant she was able to take the business in a direction that excited her.
And all of this came about because she changed her mindset about a seemingly hopeless situation.
The truth is, when you change one thing, you change everything.
If that one thing you change is your mindset, then you always have the power to influence a situation.
Simply by choosing to question your beliefs and think about things in a solution-focused way, you give yourself options. In short, you take back your power and move yourself from a position of feeling hopeless to being resilient, resourceful and able to find solutions.
If you feel stuck about your business, career or your future, I may be able to help you to transform your mindset and get moving again. You can find me at www.carolineferguson.com/contact.
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