Why You Feel Trapped By Your Work: A Coach’s Perspective

Feel like you’re “wearing golden handcuffs,” “chained to your desk,” or “a corporate cog?” You’re not alone, and there are real solutions that aren’t just hopping from job to job or going off the grid entirely.

To re-infuse your work with joy and meaning, you’ll likely need to do some internal work and self discovery. Because knowing you don’t belong or want to be where you are is the tip of the iceberg. You need to pinpoint what lights you up, which may require some experimentation, as well as understanding and releasing what keeps you in certain holding patterns so you don’t constantly perpetuate them.

It’s important not to underestimate these holding patterns because they can make or break the most earnest of change efforts. These are often the very things that have you chasing goals that aren’t totally serving you (and/or, have you neglecting your needs in some way) to begin with. However they started, these patterns live inside of you — they can look like perfectionism, people pleasing, overworking, or momentum-killing overanalysis.

They’ve worked for you in some way up to this point, so you can’t really blame them. But what helped you then isn’t helping now. You need a new modus operandi, new skills, and new habits. Step 1 is envisioning what freedom looks like, as well as identifying and releasing old patterns. Step 2 is cultivating and leaning on new or neglected knowledge and capacities. These steps are often iterative, exciting, scary, and difficult. It’s like learning to ride a bike at first or to swim, except now instead of just body mechanics you’re relearning how to relate to and manage all of you.

Another eyeopener is that feeling chained to your desk may ultimately have less to do with the job/career/organization itself or your fit for it and more to do with your relationship with yourself as well as gremlins of uncertainty, self-doubt, fears of failure and fears of rejection.

These gremlins may be what’s keeping you feeling trapped, unconfident, hopeless/cynical, and resentful. We all have them, it’s just that people who feel stuck or confined (when they aren’t) tend to have stronger defense mechanisms built up to avoid facing them. Until we’re aware of the gremlins, they’re unconscious. They look more like reality and less like projections.

I’m not one of those coaches who claims everything’s in your head. There are very real social ills, injustices and obstacles, toxic work cultures, every action has a consequence and there are always risks to change you can’t predict or control.

But there are also risks and opportunity costs of not changing. There is no space and permission for something new and different.

Awareness gives choice. Freedom and facing our fears isn’t always easy, but the rewards are unlimited.

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly tips and insights on living a joyful, creative work life at caseyonder.com.

Psychologist, success coach, believer in solid behavioral science and the power of tuning in.

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