Most of us go through the experience of being “stuck” at least once in a while over the course of our life. We notice that things are not moving forward as quickly or effectively as we would like, or we become aware that we are repeating a pattern that has become unproductive. It is usually a transient experience, and we don’t make too big a deal of it, thinking that the issue will resolve itself.
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For some people, however, being stuck is not just a passing phase. It can be an enduring state of affairs that becomes frustrating and perhaps even exasperating. In the worst of circumstances, it can even be equated to falling into quick sand – any movement in any way only seems to exacerbate the problem. Trying harder is a natural reaction, but unfortunately it can also be utterly counter productive.
What are we to do, then, when we get stuck and we don’t know how to get out of it? When the journey of life ceases to move forward, how are we to re-engage in the voyage towards our destiny?
1. Keep, Stop, Start
One technique that helps resolve the challenge involves taking a written inventory of the things you do, and how you do them. Describe the stuck state you are experiencing in as much detail as possible, using the 5 W’s as a guide: Who, What, When, Where, Why. Who is involved? What happens? When does it happen? Where does it happen? Why does it happen? Make sure to capture the How as well: How does it happen?
When you have this information in detail, analyze it for common themes. Are there patterns that emerge? Can you group certain aspects of the situation into categories? Are there one, two, or three factors that jump out as the most evident?
Next, describe the unstuck state you wish to achieve in as much detail as possible, also using the 5 W’s as a guide: Who is involved? What happens? When does it happen? Where does it happen? Why does it happen? Make sure to capture the How as well: How does it happen?
With all this information in hand, your task now becomes to discern three all-important differentiating characteristics:
- What is it you ought to keep doing to get the results you want?
- What is it you ought to stop doing to avoid getting stuck?
- What is it you ought to start doing to get unstuck?
With the answers to these questions, you will find that you have established a game plan that can lead you forward towards success.
2. Change Your Perspective
Probably the most commonly cited answer to the problem of getting stuck is something along these lines: “Do something different.” The theory, as per well know quotes, is that if you keep doing what you always did, you’ll get what you always got. To get different results, therefore, you either need to do different things or you need to do things differently.
A less cited answer to the problem of getting stuck has to do with our mind set, particularly our perceptions and interpretations of our experiences. We all know that every journey involves various phases of rest. As animate beings we cannot be in perpetual motion, and yet we do not consider these periods of rest as being stuck. We understand them to be necessary parts of the grander voyage of life, to replenish and reinvigorate ourselves. What then is so different about “getting stuck”?
The difference is in perception. We often get stuck in certain situations because our perception of the situation is itself the glue that keeps us there. If we interpret a situation as being stuck rather than as a rest in the grander voyage of life, it is likely our perspective that needs to change. If movement and rest are complementary parts of the grander voyage, why can’t movement and stuckness also be complementary parts of a grander journey? At the risk of sounding facetious, part of the secret to getting unstuck is to unstick our perception of stuckness.
An old adage proclaims, “The altitude you achieve in life depends on your attitude.” We do not have to experience “getting stuck” even when things themselves get stuck, any more than we have to become frustrated or exasperated by life’s events. If it’s true that we can’t have a positive life with a negative attitude, it ought to be evident that we need a positive attitude to have a positive life.
But this is not just a superficial positivity along the lines of “put a smile on your face and the whole world smiles with you.” It’s more so a deep-seated positivity that predicates you will find your way forward no matter what the conditions or circumstances. It’s based on trusting yourself to figure things out as you go along, even if you don’t have all the answers. And it’s based on having confidence in yourself that you’ll arrive where you are meant to go, via one path or another.
In sum total, knowing what you can change, and changing them when required, is as imperative as knowing what you cannot change and letting them be. You get stuck only to the extent that you allow stuckness to stick to you. You free yourself to the extent that you allow freedom to uplift you and carry you forward. In that context, any step through stuckness is a good step.