How to escape from professional Groundhog Day

Monday through Friday you go to work, do your job, go home, then come back and do the same thing over again. And over again. And over again.

Do you think your professional life is a little bit like Groundhog’s Day?

Every February 2nd since 1887 we take direction from a large rodent who pops his head out from his cozy burrow, sees his shadow and goes back into hiding. A little crazy, isn’t it? But this process has repeated itself year after year after year – for the last 130 years to be exact.

That’s a lot of repeating.

For many, the concept of professional groundhog day resonates. We stay in our routine and comfortable dens. It’s easier. This is dandy if you’re completely satisfied with your career, but what if you’re not?

Why is it so difficult to break free?

This post provides seven strategies to help you escape from your groundhog-limiting routine:

  1. Quit trying to do it alone. Humans are social animals. Yet we can get stubbornly attached to the notion that we should do everything ourselves. We see help as a sign of weakness. We think we’re stronger or smarter or successful when we reach the top on our own. But this mindset is deceiving. While there may be times when you need to roll up your sleeves and get ‘er done, breaking from a known routine or changing jobs is not one of them. There’s a reason why we have book clubs, investing clubs, running clubs. We learn from each other. We are challenged and energized by each other. We are provided with a new way of thinking, a different way of being, or simply a great idea that moves us in a new direction. If you really want to escape from your daily groundhog day grind, find a friend, mentor, coach, counselor, teacher who will partner with you. This is especially important if your modus operandi is to go it alone. There is power in numbers.
  2. Change your relationship with fear. Fear is the #1 reason we stay where we are. We are biologically programmed to stay safe. If our subconscious associates making a job move (or even breaking from a familiar pattern) with risk, we’ll just stay underground and choose some amount of suffering as an acceptable price to pay. Fear is a funny thing because most people avoid it like the plague. But if we can see fear for what it is – a warning – then we can change how we relate to it. Instead of letting fear hold the power and prevent you from growth, pay attention to what it’s trying to tell you. Maybe there is an action you need to take. Great, then take it. But if fear is a knee-jerk response to change, just say thank you and push through. When you move fear from foe to friend, you see change from a new light. Your shadow may not be so scary after all.
  3. Get to know yourself. Lack of self-awareness or self-knowledge keeps us stuck. When you get to know what you value, what you need, where you are energized, and what makes you tick (and why), you start to notice that there are new choices all around you. There’s an inner strength in knowing what job roles are truly right for you and aligned with where you shine, and which are not. What are your career non-negotiables? What’s your kryptonite? Just this area alone is enough to unleash confidence and escape from your daily grind.
  4. Find clarity. Right behind lack of confidence and self-knowledge, lack of clarity can be a show-stopper. If we don’t know where we’re going, it makes perfect sense that we would stay right where we are! There are many ways to go about this. Liz Ryan, contributing writer for recommends journaling. Patti Dobrowolski, goal setting consultant and TedX speaker, professes drawing. My company hosts experiential career workshops. Another way to find clarity connects back to #1 above. If you are having a hard time with this escape plan, have a heart-to-heart with someone you trust and respect. Often others can see our potential before we can.
  5. Create space. We may have rock-solid confidence, be fully enlightened and have creative clarity galore. But our jobs are just too damn demanding. Add this to family responsibilities, board commitments, solving everyone else’s problems and there is Just No Space. What can you do when you can barely breathe? The short answer? Slowly but surely, take back your power. Busyness is a choice. You’ve chosen to say ‘yes’ one too many times to your co-workers, your kids’ teachers, your best friend, maybe even to your boss. But when you’re meeting everyone else’s needs, you lose the ability to take care of you. You’re empowering them, not yourself. Change takes space. If you really want to get unstuck and have room to grow, start redefining your boundaries. For some inspiration, peruse my blog on how to navigate 2017 with more ease.
  6. Let hope in. If we’re stuck in fear, don’t know what to do, have no idea where to go, and are lucky to catch a breath, it’s easy to lose hope. Don’t go there. Hope is one of the most powerful motivators. It provides us with perseverance and drive to push through hardship. Just ask Dr. Dale Archer, contributing writer for Psychology Today. He sums it up nicely, “As long as a patient, individual or victim has hope, they can recover from anything and everything.” Hope enables you to endure. It enables you to see possibilities. It can help you see an escape route you were previously blind to. Hope can be your secret weapon.
  7. Know how to reenergize. After a long workday, overflowing demands, and a laundry list of commitments, six more weeks of slumber is pretty seductive. Beware of this trap! Energy is everything. Knowing what energizes you – and doing it – can be a complete gamechanger. How do you recharge mentally? With solo or downtime? Or with people, nature, activity? How about physically? Are the foods you’re putting in your body energy vampires? (hello excess sugar) Or energy magnifiers? Your body will give you clues if you listen. Do you need to move more? Or rest? How about spiritually? I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about tapping into the energy of a greater power. God. The Universe. Nature. Light. Or a combination thereof. Protect your energy. It’s worth it. That extra spark can give you the oomph needed to disrupt business as usual.

Peering out at the landscape, seeing shadows, and walking forward anyway takes courage. Fortunately, you’re not Punxsutawney Phil. Find a good escape route to make this year your year. Channel Bill Murray if you need to (aka Phil Connors) to change your perspective, build some new skills, escape from your professional groundhog day and start the career you desire.


Julie Schaller is co-founder of M-Power Coaching and architect of the Career GPS System, a professional coaching program that enables you to find and land a career ideally suited for you. To gain confidence and career clarity (and escape from professional groundhog day), join us for the Clarity in 2017 workshop February 10th in Redmond, WA.

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