Updated: Apr 14, 2022
Many of us have times when we feel like our lives are on pause. A big move, a new baby, financial difficulties, graduating, or changing jobs bring times when we feel like we have to wait and catch our breath before moving forward. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions around the globe to all feel this pause.
But what happens when it’s time to press play again? It can be scary and overwhelming to think about changes when you’re stuck. It feels easier and more comfortable to just stay where you are.
The first step to getting unstuck is to practice emotional self-awareness. Get to the root of exactly how you are feeling and why you are feeling “stuck.” It could be restlessness, isolation, disorientation, being overwhelmed, etc. Use the graphic below to help you put a name on the feelings you have.
Once you’re able to accurately describe what you’re feeling, you can figure out the best way to get unstuck. These seven mindset shifts can help you move from stagnation to inspiration.
Limited Thinking -> Unlimited Possibilities
Right now, in your stuck mode, your thinking is limited. You can only see the walls around you and the problems associated with moving forward. It’s a tough spot to be in and you can’t see any way out.
When you feel stuck, look back to what your dreams or goals were before you got stuck. Thinking back to where you were going before you got lost can help you find a new way to move forward again.
Pivot away from the limited thinking to seek new perspectives that can get you to where you want to go. The possibilities can be limitless once you remove the limit you place on yourself.
Fear of Failure -> No Regrets
Getting stuck because you’re afraid to fail is a common problem. You may know what you need to do, but the anxiety about how things will turn out makes it hard to take that next step.
However, you’ll never reach your goals or move forward either if you are stuck in fear. If you don’t experiment and get creative, you will guarantee failure. Would you rather stay in your comfort zone and wonder what you might have missed out on, or would you rather live your life with no regrets?
Work on being more flexible so you have no regrets. Get your courage muscle going and take a chance. You may not succeed, but what if you do? Turn your imagination to focus on what could go right instead of what could go wrong.
Oliver Wendell Holmes observed that, “Many people die with their music still in them." I encourage you to not leave anything on the table as you live your best life!
Self-Doubt -> Belief in Yourself
When you’re feeling stuck in your current situation, it’s easy to fall into the trap of self-doubt. You wonder what you’ve done wrong to get to this point. You fear you won’t be able to get out. You don’t think you can make the right decision to get yourself going again.
But if you fall prey to self-doubt, you’re only digging yourself into a deeper hole. Instead, when you find the negative feelings creeping in, cut them off before they have time to take root.
As I’ve said before, looking back at your previous achievements provides so many benefits. It’ll help increase your confidence when you see how far you’ve come and that you’ve been able to overcome difficulties before.
Return to positive reviews, letters, comments, etc. that you’ve received from others over the years. These words from friends and colleagues will lift your self-confidence. I’ve often recommended that every person should have a “kudos” file that can be revisited – if you don’t have one – start creating it today!
Also remember that everything you’ve done or experienced has prepared you for THIS moment! You’ve got this!
Fear of the Unknown -> Embrace Change
Another common reason that may people get stuck is fear of the unknown. You might be miserable in your current job, and it’s scary to think about switching. What if a new company is even worse? What if you can’t find a new job? All the what ifs can be overwhelming and keep you paralyzed.
When you find yourself unable to move forward because you’re afraid of what might be, remember that change can be a good thing. Yes, you’re anxious about how things might go wrong, but think about how many ways things could go right with a clean slate and a new opportunity to demonstrate your strengths.
We grow personally and professionally with change. If you’re desiring progress, change is necessary. No matter what - change is going to come whether you embrace it or not. Embracing it is a proactive stance, although uncomfortable, in the long-term you will be farther ahead that many others that stay stuck because of the inability or unwillingness to change.
Unfocused -> Clarity of Purpose
Sometimes feeling stuck is more of a problem of focus. Too many distractions and ideas competing for your attention can make it hard to know how you should move forward, so you just stay where you are.
If you’re frozen by too many competing priorities, it’s time to look back and revisit your why. Remembering what your purpose is will help you realign your focus with the most important things.
When you’re unfocused, you’re wasting time on actions and thoughts that don’t matter in the long-term or help you reach your goals. Taking time to revisit your why will guide your actions in a more productive way.
What if you don’t know your why? Now’s the time to figure it out! If you need help, thought leaders like Simon Sinek have plenty of ideas to help you find yours.
Not Starting -> Begin Where You Are
Maybe you’re feeling stuck because you’re just not sure where or how to start. Taking that big first step is a lot of pressure sometimes and it can paralyze us into inaction. Or maybe starting a long journey seems overwhelming and you don’t think you can do it.
Instead of being afraid to start, begin where you are. You don’t need to immediately be perfect at something or become an expert overnight. Instead, accept that it takes time to grow and give yourself the grace to become the person you want to be.
Identify what an outcome is that you want and take just one step toward that vision. This can be as simple as finding 30 focused minutes to decide what it is that you want.
Inaction -> Intentionality
During times of feeling stuck, it’s tempting to “wait and see” or just hope that things will get better without having to make a decision or act. But you don’t know how long you might be waiting around, and things may never change. Waiting for something to happen takes the control of your life out of your hands.
Instead of inaction, try to be intentional. As John Maxwell calls it, have a “bias toward action.” This allows you to take control of the situation and choose what happens instead of just waiting for something to happen to you.
Your action can be something as simple as reading a motivational article or a book in your area of interest. Writing down your goals gets you one step closer to achieving them. Create a plan of action to help you make intentional moves toward your goals.
The feeling of being stuck can come from a variety of emotions and situations, but no matter what your state is, you can get out of it and move forward again.
Oprah Winfrey once said, “If you’re stuck, it’s because you’re delaying a decision.” What can you decide today to get unstuck?
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