Stop Living in a Box! How to Get Unstuck

I was in my late thirties and stuck. I had been a factory worker for most of my adult life. While I appreciated my job and the 401K I had new desires. The problem was I didn’t believe in myself or my dreams.

The story I had about myself created suffering. I was too old. It was too late. I wasn’t educated.

There was plenty of evidence to support that story.

For several years I searched for a sign—a breakthrough. Looking back, I realize I was hoping for a fairy Godmother, or a prince charming or a guru to guide the way.

I got what I was looking for—a guru.

I had signed up experiential retreat of sorts where you get down-and-dirty with your stuff, and your belief system gets challenged to the core.

At the retreat on day two, the guru asked a provocative question: “Marlene, what do you really want?”

Without hesitation, I said, “I want to be as dancer.”

The guru said, “Then why aren’t you dancing?”

“Because I’m in my mid-thirties, and live in Springfield Missouri, and it’s too late.”

“What’s your second choice?” the guru asked.
“To become a motivational speaker,” I said.

“Then why aren’t you speaking?”

What an idiot. Can’t he see the truth? His questions provoked anger and defensiveness.“I’ll tell you why! Because I’m thirty-six! I don’t even have a college degree and I’ve worked in a factory for almost 20 years! I work by the same people every day. I wear a hair net and uniform and the best part of your day is when you look up at the clock and realize it’s time to rotate!”

The room became stone cold silent.

After a long pause, the guru spoke.

No, he screamed at me with a loud booming voice that shook me to the core.

“MARLENE YOU ARE LIVING IN A BOX!  That’s your story and you just want to be right!!”

A few years later I jumped. Without any plan, I left my factory job, finished my bachelor’s degree at Drury University. Then I got my master’s degree at Webster University where my capstone was entitled, “Drama in the Workplace Hampers Productivity: The effect of relationships on the bottom line.”

Fast forward now over two decades: I have spoken across the country as a motivational speaker, turned workshop leader, evolving into a consultant and executive educator. I’ve authored four books (including my first self-published book, Success is a Given.)  I’ve worked with Linked In Learning as a content expert in Anger Management, Difficult Conversations, Difficult Conversations for Managers, and Working with High Conflict People.

What I’ve Learned

  1. The story you tell is the life you will live.
  2. Our stories are the source of our suffering or the source of our possibilities.
  3. You are the creator of your stories.

We all stand at a point of choice offered to us by the COVID-19 pandemic. The choice is to live in an old narrative or to create a new one. Now is the best time to become the author and creator of you next chapter. What story are you telling?

Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and the author of Stop Workplace Drama” (Wiley 2011), “No-Drama Leadership” (Bibliomotion 2015) and “7 Ways to Stop Drama in Your Healthcare Practice” (Greenbranch 2018).  Download “The Bottom Line: How Executive Conversations Drive Results.” Connect with Chism via LinkedInFacebook and Twitter and at