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Do You Feel Trapped At Work? 3 Mindfulness Steps Can Move You Forward

One of the most common complaints I hear from workshop participants is “I feel trapped.” And, the often accompanying question, “How did I get here?” This sentiment does not seem tied to organization level or compensation. I have heard these words come from those who are struggling financially or dealing with some difficult work dynamics. But I have also heard them from those who are highly compensated and have what looks like a dream job. Trapped is trapped.

Do you sometimes feel this way? What do you do when these thoughts and feelings arise? It may be tempting to try to push them away, put your head down and keep moving. Or, as one of my favorite students once shared, “I told myself to ‘suck it up, buttercup!’”

We spend an enormous amount of our precious life at work, about 90,000 hours, so trying to push this away and move on may not be the best solution. And, besides, it won’t work. Have you noticed that the sentiments come back? So, then, how do we begin to free ourselves from the trap?

The first step is to notice what has kept us from freeing ourselves in the past. Often we will find that we have become frozen in place. The idea of trying to find a way out of the trap seems like an enormous undertaking so we come up with lots of reasons not to try. Where to start? What if I fail? No one will listen. It is too risky. I should just be grateful. And on and on and on. It begins to become an ever-increasing wall too big to climb and so we don’t. We just try again to push it out of our mind.

What if you change the questions and use a little mindful leadership reflection?

Step 1. Find a quiet space and allow your mind and body to settle into the present moment. Meditating with the breath for a few moments can be helpful.

Step 2. Call to mind your current work experience. Make a list of the elements that are forming the trap that has you in its grasp. Take your time with this reflection and be specific. Write them down.

Step 3. Quietly reflect with this question:What is one small step that can begin to loosen one element? Choose something that is easily doable and small. What do you notice?

Breaking this down into small pieces is the way to move forward. Continue to explore these three steps, making small changes and looking anew at the effects. What is happening to the feeling of “being trapped?”

Like any change in our life, when we think of it as a life changing move, we can become overwhelmed. And when we are overwhelmed, we often freeze. But one small step changes the dance, and one small change has the potential to create a new reality.

If you are interested in a deeper dive into Mindful Leadership, join Janice at the Edith Macy Center for the Mindful Leadership for the 21st Century© Retreat in November.