It’s the end of February. The days are getting longer and warmer. I feel the call to get healthier with my eating and fitness because I want to do all the spring and summer activities I love with ease.
But it seems I’m stuck in a bit of a rut. Ever since Christmas, I’ve settled into an eating pattern that I know makes me feel crumby. Potato chips and Diet Coke 3-5 nights a week. After two months of this, I’m really starting to notice my achy joints, a foggy head, and just plain blah.
I’ve been thinking it needs to change for a number of weeks but just haven’t done anything about it yet. I know what I want to do and I know how to do…I just haven’t gotten past not wanting to do the hard work.
Maybe some of you are in the same pattern. It’s pretty typical for those of us who live in a cold winter environment.
So I decided to share what I’ve learned in my years of being a life coach about being stuck; the main reasons we get stuck and some strategies to get unstuck.
My belief is that the first step in making a change is getting clear on where the stuck point is. I hope the ideas help if you find yourself stuck.
I think we all feel stuck at some point. We know that we can’t go backwards but going forward is really scary. We have a destination in mind, but we don’t have a map to get there. We hear from others how great things could be or what we could have or what we could do if we just followed these steps…and yet we stay stuck standing in the same place. We can know exactly what we want, exactly how to get it, and yet we don’t take the action.
The stuck can be with things that are external to us. Stuck in a job that isn’t fulfilling our needs and drains us more than it fills us up. Stuck in a relationship that doesn’t seem mutual and therefore we feel used or under appreciated. Stuck in patterns of behaviour or habits that we know aren’t good for our health and we choose to accept the consequences. Stuck living in an environment that’s stagnant, boring, or uninspiring and we slowly begin to lose creativity and zest for life.
The stuck can be with things that are internal to us. It can sometimes be unclear where we’re stuck because everything on the outside seems okay and good enough, yet there exists an underlying feeling of anxiety or boredom or sadness or all around dis-ease. We can be stuck in a mindset that keeps us focused on problems rather than looking for possibilities. We can be stuck with beliefs about ourselves, that are likely not true, (for exampe, I’m too old to start my own business) that limit us from even trying or exploring.
Stuck is uncomfortable and painful and frustrating. Stuck sucks and yet we can stay stuck for weeks, months, or even years.
Sometimes stuck is being pulled in opposite directions and it feels like being ripped apart. Sometimes it’s like being at the bottom of a dark pit with no visible exit. Sometimes it’s like being in a mud hole when we see exactly where we want to go, we’re only a step away from dry land, and yet we simply can’t get the traction to move forward; we just spin our wheels. Sometimes we’re on the right path to the destination we desire but our backpack is too heavy to carry. It’s filled with all the things that no longer serve us and weigh us down; self-judgement, perfectionism, unresolved losses, guilt, blame.
Stuck is also a signal. It’s a signal that you have to do something different. Borrowing the well-known definition of insanity “stuck is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.
There are three main reasons why we stay stuck.
- We simply don’t know what to do.
- We know what to do but we don’t know how to do it.
- We know what to do, how to do it, but we don’t feel like doing it.
If you find yourself stuck, the first step is to figure out which of the above three barriers is keeping you from moving forward. This is so you can begin to explore the right strategies.
I’ll offer you three strategies for each barrier, but there are many others.
If you’re feeling stuck and you don’t know what to do:
- Do a free writing exercise (pen to paper, no editing, 5 or 10 minutes timed) exploring the question “Where am I stuck?” By getting thoughts onto paper through writing, they becomes clearer than if they just whirl around in our head.
- Complete some sort of life evaluator assessment. There are lots available on line. I have one I’ve customized for my clients called the “Life Satisfaction Wheel”. (If you’d like to use it, just send me an email to request it and I’ll send you a copy).
- Talk to someone that’s a good listener who will simply reflect what you’ve said. Sometimes it takes hearing your own words through someone else’s voice to really understand. Be very selective in who you choose to talk to. Most people who are close to us (family, friends) go into “fix it” mode and struggle to just listen. Professional support is often the best option and many coaches (myself included) offer a free consult.
If you’re feeling stuck and you know what you want to do but you don’t know how to do it.
- Google it! Information is abundant…sometimes to the point of being overwhelming. Explore a few websites that have ideas that address what you’re stuck with and see what resonates for you. There is typically more than one path to your destination so don’t look for just one answer.
- Think about a time in the past when you’ve been in a similar situation and have gotten yourself moving. What skills, tools and personal strengths did you use? How can you tap into those now?
- Connect with a mentor or professional who has the “know-how” for helping you. If you want to improve your strength, go to a strength trainer. If you want to improve your relationship, talk to a marriage and family therapist. If you want to stop feeling the pain of a past loss, connect with a grief recovery specialist (like me). In my opinion, the best support is when someone helps you come up with your own strategy rather than offering a one-size fits all plan.
If you’re feeling stuck and you know what you want to do and know how to do but just don’t feel like doing it. (we can probably name this “lack of motivation”).
There are lots of reasons for lacking motivation and ways to address it. I’m keeping to my limit of 3 with one strategy for each.
- We see ourselves as stuck because everyone around tells us we are. But in reality the change or movement simply isn’t that important to us. To get unstuck, do a values clarification exercise to identify you top values. If what you’re being told to do doesn’t match with your values, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be motivated to change. So put your energy into accepting where and who you are rather than thinking you have to change it.
- If we’re not confident that our efforts will bring about the results we desire, motivation will stay low. In order to build confidence, break the change down into the smallest possible step that is 100% doable. For example, if reducing stress is the what and daily, hour long meditation is the how, start with 5 minutes a day for five days. Once you experience success and feel more confident that you can do it, you can raise the expectations.
- If you feel alone and without accountability in regard the change you want to make, it can be hard to stay consistent and committed. One of the biggest benefits of partnering with a coach, either one-on-one or group coaching, is saying out loud what you’re going to do. As soon as our intentions/plans/goals have been heard and acknowledged by another human being, we’re far more likely to follow through.
One of the biggest challenges with being stuck is that it can begin to feel normal. The constant state of dis-ease settles in as familar and we are often more comfortable with somthing that is known rather than with something that is different, even if we anticipate it as better. Change is scary. Admitting we are stuck is scary. Asking for help is scary. But it’s better than the alternative…stuck sucks!
If you want to talk, why not schedule a free life coaching consult with me? It’s a chance to talk about where you feel currently stuck in your life and explore options for how you might move forward, with or without ongoing coaching support. I offer a safe space for you to be yourself and unload some of the heaviness you carry so you can grow forward into being your best self with more ease. Let’s connect.
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