What to do when you’re stuck in black and white


Hey there

Last week I found myself in several coaching conversations that ended up having the same theme.  My guess is you are going to be VERY familiar with it.

I’m never quite sure if I create this (because it’s a theme that’s on my mind) or if it’s just that people kindly turn up to meet me in neatly grouped themes to show us that we’re all on the right track with something.

I like to think it’s the latter.  I’m a cup full kinda girl.

Here’s the (very) short outline of how it goes.  (You need background to get into the spirit of it.


‘Danielle, I’m stuck.

<insert heartfelt explanation of current situation in life>’

Me: ‘Great, I’d love to talk about that!

<insert selection of most excellent probing questions designed to gain context>’.

Wonderful Client: ‘So that’s WHY I’m stuck’.

Me: ‘Yes, I see that.  What are your options?’

Wonderful Client: (is she MAD??), ‘Er, options?  I don’t have any.  I’m stuck.’

Me (can see this might get a bit irritating): ‘Really? NO options?’

Wonderful Client: ‘OK, well I have THIS one or THIS one:

<insert two options, one of which involves exactly what they are already doing and is driving them slightly bonkers, and the second which is a minor form of Armageddon>

So you see (sigh), I HAVE to keep on with what I’m doing.  There is no other choice’.

Me: ‘Ah. I see’.

Except, obviously, I DO NOT SEE THAT AT ALL.

Here’s what I see:

  1. We love to make things black and white.  We seem to be great fans of only having two choices.  I’m not sure why this is.  Maybe it’s our attempt to keep things simple.  Experience shows me it is a sure fire route to a dead end.
  2. We love to predict what is going to happen in any given scenario without trying a single step contained within it, because WE ARE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE and therefore WE ALREADY KNOW exactly what is going to happen.  This means we regularly talk ourselves out of trying anything new in case of said bad thing actually happening.  Turns out, what we are masters of is creating SELF FULFILLING PROPHECIES.
  3. We love to work things out for ourselves, even though our track record says this is THE HARDEST WAY OF DOING IT.  Therefore, it wouldn’t cross our minds to ask for help or even IMAGINE that someone else might offer a different perspective on anything.  Thus meaning, when we are indeed stuck, no-one is around to shine a torch on the doorways that we are missing.
  4. We love to trap ourselves in the world’s tiniest box and say, ‘This is the best life can offer me right now’.  I mean, we don’t love BEING in the box, but it’s amazing just how often we put ourselves there.
  5. Even though EVERY SINGLE DAY there are thousands of variables that influence how our day could pan out (anyone seen that old classic, Sliding Doors?), we put on our blinkers and lose perspective of the INFINITE POSSIBILITIES THAT ARE AVAILABLE TO US.

Take me, writing this blog right now for example.

Pretend, right now, I have suddenly had total writers block.  In our traditional scenario I would have two options.  Most likely, CONTINUE or STOP (neat).

CONTINUE means, almost certainly (I have made up), that I will create a crap blog that is substandard and I am slightly ashamed of.  STOP means I will not get anything done that I have to do today, I am a LAZY UNWORTHY BEING, I will then have too much to do tomorrow.  By Thursday I will have FAILED to do the blog and if I keep going like this, the business will fail, we will go bust and Nic and I will have to break the news to our partners about 2 for 1 beans again.

Which essentially means, I MUST CONTINUE to create sub-standard unsatisfactory message and put it out to the world anyway or all hell will break loose.  AKA the lifelong message to ourselves of, SUCK IT UP LADY, THIS IS AS GOOD AS IT GETS.

Or I could realise that in fact I have more choices about what to do next than I can even imagine.

Here’s 10 to show you what I mean:

  1. I could thump my laptop angrily, shout that no-one in their right mind would try to write a blog about this topic and give up.  Consigning it to the ‘too hard, never to be finished’ Blog Graveyard.
  2. I could open up my French windows, and throw my laptop out of them straight into the River Forth (OK, I know this involves slightly better throwing skills than I actually have for sure, and go with me, I’m illustrating a point).
  3. I could sit and stare mindlessly at my screen in the hope that inspiration will come.
  4. I could set my meditation timer for three minutes and breathe for a while and see what happens.
  5. I could call a friend and seek some inspiration.
  6. I could get in my car and drive to the local bakery and get a cake. Because, you know, CAKE.
  7. I could decide to take the day off and go and play with my dog on the local beach.
  8. I could decide to get a bus to the very end of the line and walk 11 miles back.
  9. I could decide I don’t want to do this work anymore, call a recruitment agency and get a PROPER JOB.
  10. Or you know, if I really wanted to play with infinite possibilities, I could call my husband and tell him to meet me at the airport.  When we get there, we could buy a ticket to the first place on the departures board we see starting with the letter M (come on Universe, Mauritius and NOT Manchester!!).  We could get on the plane, with just the clothes on our back and go for three days, three weeks, three months, three years…and just SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

And that, my dear dear friends, is what I call INFINITE POSSIBILITIES.

Of course, they are not all smart things to do.  But they are all possible.  And each one of them offers a different insight, a different perspective from which to look at the problem you might be facing.  And suddenly, we have OPTIONS.

So, next time you find yourself backing yourself into that very tiniest of small cramped corners again, ask yourself this:

‘What if I gave myself just 10 minutes to explore 10 possibilities from this world of INFINITE CHOICES?’.

Who knows what might happen.

As for me, seems no need for Mauritius today after all… Shame really.  At least my laptop is still in one piece though.

Loving you, you funny people,

Danielle x

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