Once you have an idea where you are and where you ant to be, it helps to get some expert information. One of my clients, Willy, found himself needing expert help critically fast. Another had more time.
Willy, let me see if I understand your situation. Your boss is demeaning. You took your job because you had no other offers. Now twenty years have gone by and you really hate going to work. Your wife does not sympathize and your kids are off doing their own thing. You feel hopeless and that your life has no meaning.
You got it, doc.
We’ve established where you don’t want to be. What are some possibilities that excite you?
I have no choices. I can’t handle my wife’s nagging if I quit and I’m too young to retire. I need to stay at this crummy job to keep our health insurance. This is it for me.
If you had a choice, what might it look like?
I could kill myself. That would at least leave Linda with some cash.
It turned out that Willy had thought seriously about suicide, so I was left with no choice other than to call for immediate professional help and refer him to a therapist. (The only time I break a client’s confidence is when the law demands it. Such cases, for instance, child or elder abuse, suicidal or homicidal ideation, harassment, or by court order, are extremely rare.)
Willy called me a few months later with a much rosier outlook. He was nice to thank me for helping him see a therapist, but I told him the same thing I'll tell anyone.
The answer are in you. Sometimes, it takes a little nudge to get them out, but they're in you.
Willy referred me to a friend at the same company. Walt had been fired from his advertising job because his boss believed he “had no good ideas and lacked imagination.”
When I asked Walt about his choices, he listed six in a half minute. Walt could draw so he could work as a graphic artist. He wanted to know more about how to run a business so he thought about going back to school for a business degree. He loved sunshine, and could move from New Jersey to California. He had a great family and could probably join his father’s business back home. He liked to travel and thought about taking a kind of vagabond’s tour of Europe on $25 per day. On and on, Walt’s choices ranged from very practical to highly adventurous. It seemed to me that Walt’s imagination was very creative and I wondered if his boss was just a bad boss (something that turned out to be true, by the way).
When our session was complete, Walt saw the fork in the road very clearly. He could hunt up another advertising job, knowing that someday he would be the creative director for a large agency. Or, he could start his own shop, draw what he wanted to draw, live where he wanted to live, and see where that led him. One path was more secure. He knew that he’d land a high-paying job within a year and hit six figures within a decade. The other path was rocky and narrow, filled with uncertainties, but held more promise and adventure—things Walt valued. He was torn.
Someone famous once said, “All decisions are easy once you have enough information.” We decided to get more info, and that is the next step.