“Oh, help!” said Pooh. “I’d better go back.”
“Oh, bother!” said Pooh. “I shall have to go on.”
“I can’t do either!” said Pooh. “Oh, help and bother!”
Do you identify with Pooh’s stuckness? What about with Elizabeth Gilbert? In this quote from Eat, Pray Love, Gilbert (2006) reaches despair over her married life sobbing on the bathroom floor. She explains, “[T}he only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving”. When you feel stuck it seems impossible to make a decision one way or another. Like Pooh, you don’t know which way to go. Like Gilbert, all options seem out of the question. Yet nothing remains intractable. It is not in the nature of things to remain unchanged. If you are feeling the pressure, tension and wrongness of things, if you don’t know what to do, here are some practical tips to help you become unstuck:
Reassess Your Values
Often we feel stuck because we are misaligned with what is important to us, and what gives us joy and meaning. Look at the landscape of your life. Is it a good fit for you? Are you in tune with what’s important to you? Is the suit-wearing, commute-involving, joyless, nine-to five-career how you’d foreseen your future? Are you working to pay the bills rather than with a sense of purpose? Are you fulfilled in your relationships? Are you attending to the needs of everyone else around you and becoming a shadow of your former self? Do you have painful longings, which seem unachievable? Work out why you feel stuck. What are your main sources of dissatisfaction? What are your wants, needs and desires? Are you honoring them? Write a list of what you value. Write a list of what you want. Compare your lists with what your life looks like right now. How well matched is your current life to what you value and desire?
In an article on becoming unstuck, Oprah Winfrey (2005) suggests becoming connected to the answers you have within yourself. She says:
“[W]hen you don’t know what to do, my best advice is to do nothing until clarity comes. Getting still, being able to hear your own voice and not the voices of the world, quickens clarity. Once you decide what you want, you make a commitment to that decision”.
Try not to push the answers. Things often occur in divine timing. If it’s not happening, the timing is not yet right. You can connect with yourself via meditation, journaling, creative work or walking in nature. Some people like to ask for answers in prayer, or for divine signs. Adriana Huffington (2014) writes “we all have within us a centered place of wisdom, harmony, and strength.”
Care For Your Thoughts
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
Henry David Thoreau
Your thoughts create your life. Period. What you focus on grows. Successful people think expectant, abundant, prosperous, grateful, happy thoughts. Unhappy people think worried, anxious, angry, resentful, lack-filled thoughts. If you keep telling yourself you are stuck, you will keep feeling, and experiencing, stuckness. If you affirm that you are free to make choices, you will feel freer and more empowered. To quote Gilbert (2006) again, you “… need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate.” Pay attention to what you are thinking. Your mind constructs stories. Unless you choose these stories mindfully they can exacerbate your stuckness. Are you telling yourself stories about why things can’t change? Stories like, “I don’t have enough money”, “I can’t leave my partner”, “I’m not clever enough”, “I’m too fat”. Our minds come up with endless excuses. If we deconstruct these thoughts, none of them are good enough. Change can be made. Replace negative and limiting beliefs with positive and affirmative ones.
Change Your Attitude
Like Winnie the Pooh, we feel as though we can’t go forward or back. Maybe, for now, we can’t, but we can change the way we think and feel. We can change our attitude. We can take responsibility for the way we react to our circumstances. Part of divine timing can be the requirement for us to become different in some way within ourselves. Maybe we need to develop characteristics in order to be equipped for the change that is coming. As Cheryl Richardson (2002) writes “[T]oo often when embarking on a journey, we focus on what needs to get done without looking at who we need to become in order to get there.”
Make a Commitment
John Paul Sartre says, “Commitment is an act, not a word.” You have reflected upon your values, wants and desires. You have become mindful of your thoughts. You have taken responsibility for your attitude and realized that no one but you can control how you choose to approach your circumstances. Now, make a commitment to yourself. Refuse to stay stuck. Commit to changing, piece by piece, that which you can. Plant an intention in your mind. Return to this intention anytime you begin to feel overwhelmed by what is happening in your life. Remind yourself you are not stuck.
Formulate a Plan
To get unstuck create a plan of action. Go back to your lists of wants and don’t wants. What can you do about your don’t wants? Are there things on your list that you can delegate to others? Are there duties that you can just say ‘no’ to doing? How would your list look if you chose to put yourself first? Are you in the wrong career? Is there another occupation that would thrill you more? Do you need to look at your finances? Where could you free-up money, downsize, or make temporary sacrifices? Do you need more time for the things you love? Where can you drop things from your current timetable and give yourself extra hours? Is there a dream that you have put off living? What can you do to start building momentum in the direction of your dream? Do you need a health overhaul? What can you do right now to take control of your health? Can you change your diet? Do you need to free up some finances for healthier food, start saying ‘no’ to the dietary requests of a demanding family, ring fence some time in the day for exercise and/or meditation?
Accept the Long Game
Some aspects of getting unstuck will be easy and immediate. Other parts will take many steps and more time. Don’t let the long game stop you from starting! You could tell yourself, “there’s no point” or “it’s not possible”. You could tell yourself these lies forever. Accept that making radical changes might take time but don’t let anything put you off from trying. Losing weight doesn’t happen overnight but can change the way you feel for the rest of your life. Selling a house, or working overseas, may require time. Anything is worth the effort if it gets you unstuck.
I have already mentioned turning within, and divine timing. Trust that everything is working out for you and that there are answers, which will become clear to you. As Steve Jobs (the founder of Apple) so eloquently describes in his Stanford Commencement Speech (2005), “[Y]ou can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
Let Go of Attachments
There is a paradox in getting unstuck. On the one hand, you are required to reflect and act, on the other, you are required to have patience and let go of investing too much in any particular outcome. Attempting to control what is going on around you, or being too desperate for any particular result, can cause resistance. Resistance holds solutions at bay. It feels tense and unpleasant. How does it feel when you just let everything be the way it is? Liberating! Nothing falls apart. Nothing stops working. The world keeps turning. You keep breathing. From this place of serenity, you create the space to make change. From this place of serenity, you can change your attitude. From this place of serenity, you can stop making such a huge deal of everything. From this place of serenity, you can breathe. From this place of serenity, you will be more assertive, have more clarity of thought and the strength to make the changes that you need to make.
Parkin (2014) writes:
“[T]he key to being able to let go of all the stuff you’re holding on to is knowing that you’ll be okay if you don’t have it. And that’s the truth. You can survive with very little. And though the passing of people and things can be painful, you will survive.”
Don’t Give Up Getting Unstuck
Don’t let fear stand in your way. Look boldly at your fears and speak to them. Tell them that you thank them for their assistance but that you need to make these changes and you are going to do so regardless of whether you feel afraid. Journal about your fears. Come to know them intimately. Look at any justifications you are making about why you can’t get unstuck. Challenge these justifications. Go beyond limited thinking and into the realm of infinite possibility. You really do have infinite possibility. What would you do if money were no object? What would you do if time were irrelevant? What did you love as a child? Don’t let the negative opinions of others stand in your way. Other people can be afraid of change and work hard to ensure that you stay the same. After all, if you’re making changes, then maybe, they need to make changes too.