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by Jaen Allen | April 01, 2009


After taking some time off over the holidays, I had trouble getting going again. My "I-can't-get-moving" mindset started me thinking about some of the phrases that are part of our collective conscious and about how embracing those words affects our attitudes and actions.

We have words that empower us and remind us to stay on track:

  • • One day at a time
  • • Work smarter, not harder
  • • First things first

But we also use many phrases symbolizing frustration, rejection and helplessness. Have any of these become part of your career change language?

  • • The door slammed in my face
  • • Stuck in a rut
  • • Out in the cold
  • • Running on empty
  • • Striking out
  • • Banging my head against a wall
  • • Flying blind

These statements are useful bits of shorthand communication. If you tell me that you "struck out" while trying to get an interview, I know that it didn't go well. We use this language-in-common to describe a challenging situation or event, and the listener understands. That's the positive side.

But how often do we accept one of those statements and get stuck there? Unable to move on, we focus on the negatives - the "no" received, the injustice of the situation or the despair that we feel.

Just the words themselves are intractably negative. Try saying, "The door slammed in my face" with joy and enthusiasm ... It doesn't work, does it? You are left feeling disappointed, deflated, dejected.

How about making use of those negative phrases to shift your self-talk to a positive action image? The language you use to describe the situation (or the feeling) can be the key to analyzing it. The next step is to start your creativity motor by brainstorming with those same words. For example:

  • • If a door slammed in your face, can you look for a window or a back door? Who else is inside and might open the door for you? Or should you move on and try knocking on a completely different door?


  • • Stuck in a rut? Try imagining a helicopter zooming down to lift you out. Who's on that helicopter, and where do you want it to take you?


  • • Out in the cold? Can you build a fire or find a blanket? Should you head for home or the nearest hotel? How might you get there?


  • • If you're running on empty, it's definitely time for a pit stop. What will refuel you? Do you need a quick stop or a full-service station? Is a tuneup advisable, too?


  • • Struck out? Did you try to hit a home run when a simple base hit would have been smarter? Are you going to retreat glumly to the dugout or get ready for your next at-bat? Do you need extra batting practice? Should you have a talk with the batting coach?


  • • Banging your head on a wall? For goodness sakes, stop! Step back and rethink possibilities. Can you go around the wall or over it or under it? Can you knock it down or make a hole in it? What equipment do you need and where can you find it? Imagine what it would be like to scale that wall. What would you see differently if you were perched on top of it?


  • • If you're flying blind, are you sure that the instruments on your plane are working properly? Are you flying through a fog? Are your eyes wide open? Are you on automatic pilot? Who would be a good co-pilot for you? Is there a passenger who could help? Maybe a change in altitude or speed is in order?


Pay attention to the words you're using. Have some fun with them instead of getting stuck in that place. Rather than a career change stopper, your language can be a jumping off point for soaring like an eagle and finding your window of opportunity!


Filed Under: Job Search