How does one find purpose in life when stuck in the day-to-day trenches? Mamta Gera, UK-based leadership consultant, emotional wellbeing coach, and public speaker, knows the feeling of being stuck, thanks to years spent working in tech and struggling in her personal life. Once she was able to break through, she has become a force for helping others do the same. Now a Scribd Coach author, her audiobook The Power Within You: Overcome Your Programmed Behaviors to Get Unstuck and Find Your Unique Purpose challenges listeners to make space and time to discover what they really want in life — and how to make a gameplan to get there. Here, Gera offers some of her best advice for getting started.
How did you get started in the coaching space?
Mamta Gera: I speak about being stuck, because for many years, I was. I would switch jobs and even move, but I was doing the same work, just in a different place. I was seeing the same thing again and again. I thought moving would make me feel better, but the work itself wasn’t fulfilling. I eventually realized that I really enjoyed the ‘people’ side of things, not the tech. That helped me make the shift. At first, I wasn’t a good leader: My Indian background meant that I had grown up as a people pleaser, and a very passive person. I actually sought coaching for myself and in doing that, I realized I wanted to bring that to other people. I had been in therapy, but working with the coach pushed me to move forward rather than being stuck in the past. It made me realize that I needed to look at myself as a whole person to be able to fulfill my purpose.
You mentioned therapy as well as coaching — do the two overlap?
Mamta Gera: Yes, for sure. Therapy often helps you understand your programmed behaviors from your childhood, and understand what triggers you and how to deal with that. Once you’ve done that work, it can make it easier to move into being coached and actually moving forward. I know some of my clients are in therapy and in coaching at the same time, and they complement each other nicely. And sometimes you’re not ready for one or the other, or one is more intimidating than the other, but just starting with something is helpful.
Why do people stay in these ’stuck’ jobs?
Mamta Gera: For me, I was in a quite insecure state in my 20s, which was why I stayed in my line of work, even as I switched companies. This isn’t just something young people do. For so many of us, we are too scared to move forward. We have this inner critic that says we’re not good enough. We think we have to be perfect before we can make any progress or make changes. Sometimes, we don’t even realize we are stuck.
How does one wake up to the fact that they’re stuck?
Mamta Gera: I think the first thing is being self aware and realizing that you're in this rut, basically. Some of the signs could be feeling unmotivated, not able to start new projects or tasks, feeling bored and unfulfilled, feeling like everyday is the same and you're plodding along. Typically, on weekends, you feel happy, but then you're back to being depressed on Monday. We stay in a job, because we're just not aware. But tuning into how you’re feeling can [be] hard. I always tell people to start journaling. I have them free-write their thoughts; basically, just writing things down about beliefs, bringing out what's in your head onto paper. Then you can start recognizing patterns.
How does someone find their purpose?
Mamta Gera: After you realize you’re stuck, the next thing is figuring out what’s next, right? That takes a lot of actual thought — most people don’t just trip into discovering their purpose. Look at your values: What means something to you, what brings you joy and happiness? What people do you admire, what communities do you want to be part of? It’s so helpful to find a community of people who have similar interests, where you can chat about your passions. You can try this in person or online. You can go to meetups, conferences, courses — just research one of your passions and try to dive into a community and see if it fits.
For someone who wants to make a change but can’t just quit their day job, what do you recommend?
Mamta Gera: This is common, and I don’t think everyone needs to switch careers. Many of us don’t have that option from a financial standpoint. But what you can do is have a willingness to speak up at your current job. For example, you could ask your boss for the chance to do a certain piece of work that’s not part of your job description but it’s more in line with your interests. Or you could ask for a mentor, or to shadow someone who is in a role that’s more interesting to you. That way, you’re still moving forward. So many of us just don’t ask!
Does imposter syndrome play into a person’s inability to change their jobs/lives?
Mamta Gera: Absolutely, and even if they move to a different workplace, that mindset remains and then they get stuck in the same rut again. Imposter syndrome has to do with being a perfectionist, it’s your inner critic not telling you that you’re not good enough. Ultimately, you have to know that you’re showing up for your purpose, and let that drive you forward. It’s not easy to convince yourself that you can do certain things, and if you’re struggling with those imposter syndrome feelings, I’m a fan of doing daily reflections where you write down things that you did accomplish today, in addition to things that gave you confidence during the day, or just made you feel good. Doing that daily will help boost your overall sense of self-esteem.
What’s one small thing we can start doing today?
Mamta Gera: We all have our own habits and routines. What happens is that we get into our usual routine and we can't come out of it. We go to the same coffee place, we have the same lunch, we take the same walk, we just don't change. Mix it up today. Get out of your routines! Get coffee from somewhere else, or change the route of your walk, call someone today that you haven't heard from for a long time. Those tiny changes give you the feeling of doing something different, which can give you greater motivation to actually make real changes. It’s also important to look up from work, especially if you work remotely at home right now: It’s easy to just have your head down and get completely stuck because you’re in the same place. But if you can just look out the window [and] up at the sky for a few mindful minutes every day, you're changing yourself. Become aware of the routines you’re stuck in, and a little bit at a time, start to actively change them for the better. In order to change your work habits, you have to change yourself. It all starts with you.