The 7 Life and Career Cages that Kill Your Dreams


WingBuilder’s mission is to inspire you to lift your heart, launch your dream, and love your life.

But… if you are stuck in a cage, it’s hard to lift, launch, or love anything.

What cage is keeping you trapped, holding you back, and killing your dream?

1. The Cage of Conformity

Are you just doing what you do each day because you think it’s what you are supposed to do?  Did you choose a lifestyle, job, or career path because it’s what someone in your family expected of you, or what everyone else seemed to think was a good idea at the time?

If you are afraid of what people might think, then this could be a difficult cage to break free from.  There will always be people who think you are making wrong choices, no matter what you decide to do next.

Wouldn’t you rather live a life of your own design than one designed by public opinion?

If your life has a lot of “should” hitting the fan, maybe it’s time to think about what you really want to do next and allow yourself to think outside the cage.

2. The Cage of Confusion

Sometimes people stay stuck in a lifestyle, job, or career cage because they can’t make up their minds.    There are so many possibilities, and there are so many details to figure out to get from here to there.

So it’s easier just to sit in the cage and think… and think… and think some more… until you decide it is all just too confusing, so you better just stay where you are.

The best course of action when you are not sure which action to take is ANY action at all.

Make some phone calls and talk to people in the field of work you are considering.  Do a little research and make a list of possibilities.   Put together a new resume and send it out to a few potential employers.   Take a class on how to start your own business.  Plan a new trip, take a class, or go on an adventure that has nothing to do with work.  Get a coach to help you sort through the options and create a strategy.

As you get started and put your dream into motion, the confusion will start to lift like a fog and you will find your way… maybe not all at once, but tiny step by step until you get momentum.

3. The Cage of Chaos

Take a look at your schedule.   How many commitments do you have, and who is depending on you?

Is there any time in there for you?

If you tell people you are “crazy busy” all the time and seldom have a moment to catch your breath, then you may be trapped in the cage of chaos.

Take a look around your house or apartment.   How many piles of dishes, laundry, and errands are backed up because of your crazy busy life?   Does walking into your home after a long day feel like you are settling into a comforting sanctuary, or does your decor style lean more toward “hurricane-esque”?

Chaos usually sneaks up on us slowly until overwhelm becomes a habit.   If you have no time or space in your life to allow a new dream to grow, then this is a cage is slowly killing your dream.

4. The Cage of Cowardice

When it comes to dreaming big dreams for your life, career, or business, everyone is scared of something.

The most common fear is money.   How will you afford to make a change right now?  Will following your dream mean you have to give up a secure salary and a regular paycheck?

What about health benefits and retirement?    What if you get sick and can’t afford a doctor?  How much will paying out of pocket cost if you go part-time or decide to launch a business?

There are other fears, too.  The fear of failure.  The fear of looking like an idiot.  The fear of the unknown.

Here’s the thing.   There will always be something to be afraid of.   Courage is not about eliminating fear, it’s about feeling fear and moving forward anyway.

Your current job might feel secure – but is it really?

Industries change; mergers happen.  People get laid off unexpectedly. Staying in a career for 30 years is a thing of the past.

Nothing is a sure thing any more.So, your feelings of safety in this job may be false anyway.

Why not go ahead and take a different kind of risk – the kind that lights you up and makes you feel alive again?

If it’s something you want badly enough, there is almost always a way to save up the money, work two jobs, or design an exit plan from your soul-sucking job that works for your individual and family situation.

If there is some bucket list activity in your life you have wanted to do for years, how many more years are you willing to wait before you make it happen?

Don’t let fear control you.  Make a plan.  Overcome the obstacle.  Ride your dragon!

5. The Cage of Comfort and Complacency

This one is a little bit like fear and cowardice, but it’s cozier.

It’s that relaxing feeling of “everything is just fine, so let’s glide along merrily and not rock the boat.”

The only trouble is that things are just… fine.    This doesn’t really do much to help your obituary writer or memorial service planner, now, does it?    Is that really all you want them to say?

“She led a life that was… fine.”

This is another one of those sad golden cages that people don’t realize they have fallen for until they have spent so much time doing nothing out of the ordinary that they get to a point that they just settle for the ordinary.   So much potential for deep personal fulfillment and making a positive impact on the world is lost forever.

Those trapped in the cage of comfort and complacency aren’t really happy, but they are content.   In some ways, they are asleep.  Until they realize that the window for dream opportunities is closing…or they are on their death bed.

Then the golden cage doesn’t look quite as cozy.

6. The Cage of Career Constipation

(Caught and Constrained by a Cubicle, Corner office, or Classroom)

So, you have been at the same career or job for… how many years now?   Ten? Fifteen?  Twenty -five?

Why are you still there?  Is it job satisfaction, loyalty, or something else?

Maybe you have built up a strong sense of identity in your current position.   You like the feeling of knowing exactly what your job is and all the ins and outs of the company culture.   You are one of the “old dogs” now, and with that comes a sense of pride and legacy.

Or perhaps you have been working your way up the ladder for so long that you never gave much thought to whether or not it was leaning on the wall you really wanted to climb.

But now you are starting to feel a new dream fluttering in your heart.   Something is waiting to emerge from this cage and burst forth from the old, tired career that just doesn’t make your heart sing anymore.

Take a look at  your surroundings.   Have you made work a second home?   Are you so entrenched in this job that it would feel like ripping off a limb to leave at this point?    And if so, does that scare you because you don’t really love the job any more?

If you know in your gut it’s time to let something go, then let it go…or get off the pot.

7. Common Core

(and other Crazy, Corrupt, Controversial, Complicated CRAP that Crushes Creativity)!

Ok, I couldn’t help it.  Maybe that’s too much alliteration.

It’s the last of the eight cages, though, so I had to throw in as many “c” words as I could before closing this post.   Humor me.   I’m a former English teacher, after all.

If you are not a teacher or a parent of a school-aged child, then this particular cage may not be familiar to you.  I have included it because ultimately it was one of the most disheartening cages in my own life before I left my teaching career.

Common Core is the bane of public education.

It’s one of the reasons why children in classrooms all over the U.S.A. are being tested to death in a “race to the top” of an educational hill that we never should have started running up in the first place.

I could go on about what I hate about standardized testing, but I already covered that in another earlier post.    Let’s just say that it is killing the hearts and souls of creative teachers and students. If we truly want to help all students reach their potential and teachers do their best work to make that happen, then we need an education revolution.

Schools are not the only organizations that are being strangled by misguided policies.  There are soul-crushing systems in many companies and organizations that do not support and acknowledge the unique gifts and strengths that every individual was born to bring to this world.

Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. explain the importance of strengths-based revolution in their book, Now, Discover Your Strengths.   Old-school administrators, employers, and others in positions of authority often fail to recognize the damage they are doing to their employees and their organizations when they fail to recognize how to harness the potential and passion of their employees.

And the saddest thing of all is that so many people are stuck in the old cage that says… if I don’t fit in, there must be something wrong with me.    So many amazing, creative people with potential to change the world through their contributions are being crushed and held down because it’s just not part of the job.

If you hate your job, chances are there is absolutely nothing wrong with you at all.  Maybe you just don’t have a boss who is actively seeking to build your strengths and give you freedom to fly.

You are not an ugly duck.   You are a swan who needs to find the right job or career where you can be fully yourself and soar.

How to Break Free

Do you see yourself living in any of these cages?   Do you want to break free?

The great thing about these cages is that the lock is on the inside.   The first thing you need to do to break free is realize that you are in the cage.  Then open the door, and fly out.

It’s a big, scary, wild, fun, amazing world out there.

With CREATIVITY, COURAGE, and COMPASSION for yourself and for the world, you can leave your cage behind and launch a life you truly love.

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