We all get stuck from time to time. We plateau, we get in a rut, we feel trapped. Today’s post is all about how to get unstuck.
You wake up to your alarm going off. 2 seconds later you realize that it’s only Tuesday and you have 4 more days to suffer through to get the weekend. Maybe you remember a looming deadline or maybe you’re in loggerheads with a client or coworker.
Or maybe your alarm is actually a child jumping up and down in your bed, at far too early. Again. So much energy for one who never seems to sleep.
Either way you drag yourself out of bed, and head straight for the coffee pot. Let’s get this over with. Nothing’s going to change. You chose this job, or decided to have (more) kids, or married that spouse.
You’ve made your bed, and now you must lie in it. In other words you’re stuck.
This is a dreadful feeling, but it’s something we all go through. And the longer that you’re in it, the more “normal” it starts to feel. You get the point where you can’t remember not feeling trapped in this job/life/relationship/feeling. This is just your life now.
Many think they would do anything to stop feeling stuck, but getting unstuck requires change — and change is scary. Even though you hate the sensation of feeling stuck, once faced with the realization that you have to change something to move on, you freeze up and remain stuck.
You’re trapped in the space between wanting to change and being able to actually do it.
Instead of acting, we spend our energy hoping for an external change to come and fix our situation. This is especially true if it’s not our fault we’re stuck. Maybe life didn’t go according to plan and now it seems like life better come over and fix this mess right now. Amiright?
Unfortunately, whether you made the decisions that led you to the path that got you stuck, or the crazy curveballs of life sent you there — you’re still responsible for unsticking yourself.
The good news is that it’s totally possible to get unstuck. Read on for 5 ways to help you start making progress again.
GETTING UNSTUCK ISN’T THE SOLUTION
Yes, this whole article is all about how to get unstuck, but getting unstuck isn’t the final destination.
The purpose of these tactics is to help you to get going. But getting going isn’t the final answer your problem.
If your marriage is on the rocks and you feel unable to even try to fix it, then getting unstuck will allow you to start to try. It won’t solve the actual problem. But if you don’t get unstuck, you won’t be able to ever start to fix the problem.
Imagine you want to drive to the grocery store. You go out to your car and get in. But you don’t do anything. You just sit there in your car. You’re stuck.
Getting unstuck is starting the car, putting it in drive and pushing down on the gas. These are the steps that will get you to your destination, but you don’t arrive at the grocery store as soon as you do them. You still have to do the driving first.
Having this understanding will help you get unstuck. When you realize you’re not going to traverse your entire journey all at once just by trying some of these suggestions, it takes some of the fear out of the change.
Your changes don’t have to be drastic to get you unstuck. In fact it’s the baby steps that will get you there faster than the giant leaps we all imagine we are capable of, but rarely ever manage to do.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR EXPERIENCE
While it is possible to feel totally stuck in every aspect of our lives, it’s not the norm. Often things will be going along swimmingly in one area, but in another they’re totally stagnated. Social life is banging, but work feels meh or you’re swinging for the fences and just got a promotion, but you haven’t been out with friends in months.
Different areas will always be in a state of stuck or flow depending on how much attention you’re giving to them.
That attention is a big portion of starting to get unstuck.
Often when things stagnate, we stop thinking about them. We take one look at the issue and then block it out. We know we need to change, but as soon as we start to think about actually changing our brain puts on the brakes and we go Netflix and chill instead.
When you’re in a situation where you feel stuck, pay attention to your feelings. Notice what you’re thinking about when you feel stuck. Notice how it’s affecting the way you think and feel.
Stuck isn’t an emotion. It’s a sensation, it can even be a feeling, but it’s not specific. What does stuck feel like? Is it anger, frustration, resentment, sadness? Label those emotions.
Then think about what makes you feel those things. Yes it’s the feeling of being stuck and potentially feeling unable to fix it. But what are you thinking about that makes you feel stuck? Are you trapped in ruminating about the past? Do you feel like a big fish in a small pond or vice versa? Do you want do something but fear that it won’t be good enough?
Getting this understanding will allow you to figure out how you’re going to move forward. If you don’t know why the car won’t move (it isn’t on, you’re out of gas, there’s a moose in your driveway…), then it’s going to be a lot harder to figure out what to fix to get to the store.
STOP LIVING IN THE PAST
We’ve all gotten stuck at one time or another reliving certain situations, wishing things had turned out differently. Maybe if you hadn’t said that in the interview you would’ve gotten the job? What if you hadn’t lost your temper? Why didn’t you speak up in that meeting?
We can’t get unstuck if we’re living in the past. Reliving the events that got you this life (for better or for worse) won’t move your forward. And the more you rehash it all, the more the overthinking becomes a habit.
Before you know it, you spend so much time in the past that you aren’t steering your present. Or analyzing your past has you so worried about making mistakes, that you’re afraid to do anything. Either way, the results are the same.
One of the best ways to get through these issues is forgiveness. You might need to forgive yourself or others— whether or not you can actually talk to the person that caused your situation.
Even in horrible situations where people have been abused or attacked, they speak of finding peace through forgiveness. They might need to forgive themselves for allowing it to happen, or to go on as long as it did, and/or they might need to forgive the person that did it to them.
As hard as it is to forgive, harboring the anger and resentment — either for yourself or others — is only poisoning yourself.
If you’re living in the past, you need to find your way to forgiving so that you can move on.
KICK YOUR NEGATIVE THOUGHT HABIT
Similar to living in the past, having a negative thought pattern will leave you idling in your driveway. You can get trapped in an endless circle of thinking that will leave you paralyzed — never doing anything but more thinking.
A big contributor to my burnout was having a negative thought pattern. Burnout is the ultimate in being stuck. Not only are you mentally stuck, you’re so fried that you can’t do anything about it.
In order to get unstuck I had to massively change my thinking. I would get into these heavily depressed states of thinking that I had to do it all or I wasn’t good enough. But then I would look around at all that needed doing and beat myself up for not being able to accomplish everything. This would make me more upset. And then I wouldn’t do anything.
You can get trapped like this about anything. You might hate being overweight but think you’re too fat to work out. Or you might want a promotion, but think you’re not good enough to get it — so you never build up the confidence to put in for it or to even try to improve your skills so you could get it.
Round and around and never getting anywhere.
To make matters worse, you can’t be creative in this negative place. The wrong part of your brain is running the show, so you won’t even be able to see your way out until you deal with your mental state.
In order to quit your habit you need to interrupt it. Whenever you notice you’re saying something negative to yourself you need to stop that thought and replace it with something positive. It will feel hard, and pointless, but the more you do it, the more you will think positive things instead of negative.
Once you’ve broken your thought habit you will have the strength to take a step in the right direction.
SAME OLD, SAME OLD
Sometimes you know you’re stuck but you just can’t pinpoint what’s wrong or why. All you know is that life feels boring and stagnant and you never have any good ideas anymore.
You go to the same restaurants, see the same people, have the same experiences every day. Some people thrive on routine, but at some point it might be too monotonous.
In order to break free of the stagnant feeling, you need to change your perspective. See things in a different way. Even taking a different route home from work can change the way you view things. It wakes up the senses.
So if you just feel blah, try doing something different. Meditate, travel, take a new class, try a new restaurant/bar, and generally change something around. Rearrange your living room if it helps.
Try shaking things up in one area and see if that gets you unstuck.
FIND YOUR PURPOSE
Many times when we’re feeling stuck it’s because we’re not exactly living our values. Maybe you took a job you didn’t really want, but needed the money and now you feel trapped.
Perhaps you settled on something because it was convenient but you don’t really feel inspired by it. When you examine that area of life, all you can think is why bother?
If this is how you’re feeling, it’s time to regain your purpose. To remember why you’re doing something. And if you can’t find a good reason, well it’s time to start doing something else instead.
In order to discover these things about yourself try asking these questions:
- What fills up your gas tank? (for more check out this post)
- What gets you in that “time flies when you’re having fun” state?
- What or who inspires you? (to do something or to be a better person)
- What makes you feel good?
These are all indicators of your purpose. When you tap into that, you can start taking steps to realign your present towards what you want for your future.
As I said earlier, we often wish for something to swoop down and fix our problem for us. When you’re stuck you feel helpless and hopeless. Getting in that state of mind often sucks our confidence, and will to take control.
When you’re looking at your life it can be daunting to realize you’re not where you want to be. The space from here to there is immense and you’re never going to get across it, so why even try?
There goes your confidence and your motivation and now you’re stuck.
But being stuck isn’t going to move you in the direction you want to go. Any progress is still progress. A single mile run over and over gets you to the finish line of a marathon. You don’t just leap over it in one step.
If this is how you’re feeling, start by working on your confidence. For help in this department, check out this post.
And if part of the reason you feel stuck here is because you’re comparing your journey to someone else’s please check out this post.
Remember that you may not be there yet, but you will be if you keep moving. Remaining in this stuck place will not get you to your dreams. And if you let life make all your decisions for you, you may end up even further from where you want to be.
TAKE BABY STEPS
I heard a story once about a woman who wanted to start exercising. She couldn’t bring herself to just sign up and go to the gym. It was too much to think about.
So one day she took out the phone book (yeah, yeah old story) and put it by the phone.
The next day she opened it to the page for the gym.
The next day she called to get info.
The day after she signed up.
The following day she went and worked out for 1 minute and left.
The next day it was 2 minutes.
The day after for 3.
This is baby steps. These small, seemingly inconsequential actions led up to her being able to conquer her stuckness and move forward.
When thinking about finding the gym, signing up and going for 30-60 minutes sounds like too much, just do the one small thing.
Then do then next small thing. Then the next and the next.
This takes you from your whirlwind of overwhelmed thoughts into the small, every day actions that lead to success.
Feeling stuck here and there is totally normally and part of life, but staying stuck is a choice. If you really want to get unstuck you need to figure out why you’re there and the appropriate action to get you going again.
If you’re stuck and you can’t figure out how to get out, contact me here. Coaching with me is a great way to figure out why you’re stuck and how to free yourself.