In the past few weeks, I’ve talked to a few of you, and I heard the word “void” and the idiom “falling into a black hole” a couple of times. From personal experience, I can only describe the feeling of falling into a black hole as a period of pure hopelessness and confusion. It usually happens when one (or more) important things in your life suddenly end or fall apart: being fired, burnout, graduation, job hunting after ‘first job syndrome’, or not being able to execute your profession anymore due to (external) circumstances. Whatever it is, you have to deal with a void in your life and redefine your goals and purpose.
What does this void feel like?
When your circumstances change without warning, the world kind of crumbles around you. You’re left in this no man’s land, so to say. Let’s take being fired as an example as I have experienced this myself, and it’s easy to talk about. When fired, your daily routine changes from one day to the next. Your income changes. Your sense of purpose changes.
At first you have this sea of time where you get to process your feelings about what just happened. Then slowly after a while you get used to the idea and new situation. But then, not much later, comes this big, black hole. Days are really long. You no longer have the energy or motivation to get out of bed because you’re not needed. You also lose a sense of direction in your life. You no longer know what your next move is going to be. You might even lose a piece of your identity.
One thing’s for sure…
You want this situation to end. Sometimes you have the strength to get out of the void by reading books, speaking to friends, and finding new energy in exercise. Other times…you need a nudge. Either way, you will get out of this situation. Take your time! You are right where you are supposed to be in life.
In case you’re in a void right now, and you’re ready to get back on the horse, I’ve outlined the steps that helped me to recuperate.
How to get out of no man’s land
Remember there’s no timeline and that this is a process that varies per person. It also depends on how you got into the void in the first place. However, I do believe there are some main principles to follow if you want to leave no man’s land and get your sense of direction back. Here’s how I got out of my black holes (multiple times…).
Goals, vision, dreams
First things first – you need to know where you’re heading. There’s nothing more important to set a point on the horizon so that you can make decisions geared towards that goal. You can’t make empowered decisions if you don’t know where you’re headed.
It’s time to go back to the drawing board. What is you 1, 5 and 10 year vision for yourself? Is there something you’ve always dreamed of doing?
Don’t just write down your career goals. Better yet, leave those out at first. Answer questions like:
- where do you see yourself living in 5 years?
- what are your relationships like? Friends, family, romantic
- what goals do you have concerning your health?
- what goals do you have concerning your wealth?
- what type of person do I aspire to be?
After that, you can define career goals! What type of company do you see yourself working at? In what type of position? Who are you serving? What tasks are on your to-do list? Be as specific as possible. Visualize yourself living your best life. What does that look like?
Leave victim mode behind…
Whenever our life changes, it’s always easy to put the blame on others. “I was fired by my boss” or “my burnout happened because my boss kept pushing me over my limits” are easy to say. I’m going to be hard on you right now, but in my coaching practice, you only get to say this once or twice to blow off some steam, but then we’re done playing the victim. Why? Because as a grown adult, you are responsible for your own well-being, setting boundaries, personal development, happiness, success and life’s trajectory.
Sure, being fired because the economy has been affected by the pandemic is not your responsibility. You can’t control that. However, you can control how deep you go into this black hole. You can also control your emotional reaction to it and how long you take to pick up the pieces in order to move on. Yes, it’s always easier to speak of things in hindsight — “I should have done this or I should have done that”. But that, too, is not going to help you move the situation along. That is why forgiveness is such a big piece of stepping out of victim mode. Forgiveness of others (aka your boss), but also forgiveness of yourself – you did the best you could in the situation with the knowledge, power and resources you had at that time.
The beautiful thing about stepping out of victim mode is that you get to create a new life with your newfound knowledge. Now that you are aware of your ability to respond to situations, you get to be in the driver’s seat of your life and make decisions that empower you. You get to set boundaries that serve you!
I could write a book about how liberating this feeling is and why it’s so important to take responsibility of your life. But for now, I’m going to leave it at this for the sake of the length of this blog.
…and step into creation mode
I like creation mode better than action mode, but essentially they’re the same thing. There’s only one way to say this: the only way to get out of the situation is to go through it. Nothing changes by listening to others, reading more books, watching more documentaries….It only changes by you DOING the things you said you wanted to do.
Your next steps depend on your personal situation — and the goals you have defined for yourself. For some it’s applying to a new job, for others it’s starting a business. Again, you’re in the driver’s seat. You get to decide!
Important for creation mode is breaking down larger goals into smaller steps. Take one large goal (‘finding a new job’) and create subtasks (i.e. do research, select 5 jobs, create resume, write motivation letter). Realistically schedule the different tasks.
New habits = new life
To stay in creation mode, you’ll need to put some new, healthy, successful habits in place. This can range from putting up boundaries to food, exercise, sleep, networking, communicating and less screen time. What do you need to achieve your new goals?
Self-love for DAYS
Maybe the most important on this list: self-love, compassion & patience. There’s no reason to get down on yourself during this process. If you’ve done the things above, you are already on your way to success. With anything in life, there are days you feel great and there are days when things aren’t going as planned. The most important thing is getting back on the horse!
You can allow yourself a day on the couch to wallow. There’s nothing to feel guilty about. Down days are part of the process. Just make sure to re-commit every time!
Make life easier and fun for yourself. Do things that make you happy! Balance is important. So after a day of working hard on your new goals, schedule in an hour or two to get back to yourself by doing things you enjoy. Reward yourself during the journey.
Breathe – life has a way of working out. Always. Trust the process and trust yourself. It might feel as if you don’t have all the answers and you have no idea what your next steps are. But I promise that by stepping into creation mode with compassion for yourself is going to get you through. Do what you need to do: talk to professionals, talk to friends, read books/blogs, listen to podcasts, practice new skills….You get to decide your next steps!