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You Don’t Need to Stay Stuck – 5 Ways to Get Unstuck

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: foilman

Frustration, although quite painful at times, is a very positive and essential part of success.

— Bo Bennett

Everybody gets stuck occasionally.  By its very nature, being stuck is uncomfortable.  It feels like being out of control because we don’t choose being stuck.  Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we’re stuck until a significant amount of time has passed.

That’s what happened to me.  This last weekend was a holiday weekend for me.  I had been looking forward to three whole days of catching up on sleep, relaxing reading, and studying.

Then, the weekend came… and I couldn’t seem to get any traction on getting things done.  Not only that, but although I felt guilty, I really didn’t care.

Initially, I didn’t know I was stuck.  I thought that I was just feeling low.

The result was that I didn’t get nearly as much done as I’d hoped and I felt guilty all weekend because I wasn’t being productive.

Miserable.  And it took me two whole days to figure out that I was stuck.

How Do You Know You’re Stuck?

Figuring out that you’re stuck is at least half the battle.  How do you know when you’re stuck?

It may be different for everyone, but, in retrospect I noticed a few clues:

  • Because Friday was the beginning of a long weekend, many people had created an even longer weekend by taking Friday off.  I couldn’t get the answers I needed for the project I’m working on.  It was frustrating!
  • I had three non-fiction books and several blogs I wanted to dig into and I couldn’t drum up any interest in any of them.  Worst of all, I couldn’t seem to drum up interest in fiction either.
    For me, this was awful.  When I feel bad, I read… and I couldn’t find anything I wanted to read.
  • Since the beginning of the year, my weight hasn’t moved.  The good news is that it’s not moving in the wrong direction, but it isn’t moving in the right direction either.  It really had nothing to do with this weekend, but I was very conscious of it all weekend and it made me feel like there was no progress anywhere in my life.  More frustration!
  • Not being able to find anything I wanted to do, I was bored.

I couldn’t identify an area in which I was making progress or even cared if I was making progress.  I identified three clues:

  • Frustration
  • Feeling awful
  • Boredom

I moped.  I wandered aimlessly.  I slept a lot.  I tried to find something to read that would keep my attention.  Finally, I just gave up.

I was definitely stuck!

What Do You Do?

What do you do when you get stuck?

  • Give up?
  • Throw a hissy fit?
  • Blame someone?
  • Knuckle under?
  • Step up?

Whatever your reaction to getting stuck, it’s important to recognize when you’re stuck and not let it throw you off course.  Getting stuck is one of those challenges that can push you off course because it feels bigger than it is.  You’re moving right along and POW! You hit the wall – hard.

All of the sudden, you’re sitting on your tuchus (pronounced took – us, aka your a**), staring at the wall that just appeared in front of you.

Where did it come from?

Who put it there?

To me, that’s the worst part of getting stuck.  Everything is fine.  You’re doing great – and then… you aren’t.  If you’re not careful you’ll generalize your temporary lack of progress to your future expected progress and decide that nothing’ll ever happen because you’re not making progress now.

The Fault, Dear Reader, is Not in Our Stars

The hardest thing to do when you’re demoralized is to find the energy to do something.  It’s amazing to me how quickly we can go from enthusiastic to despondent.  Things just snowball.  Something doesn’t work out and suddenly, we’re thinking that nothing will work out.

The way we feel when we’re stuck isn’t the result of reality, it’s the result of perspective, or in this case, a lack of perspective.

Not to put too fine a point on it – the problem is all in our heads.  What I’ve noticed is that I’m not getting depressed about what is, I’m getting despondent about the irrational consequences that I imagine based on my being stuck in one little area:

  • I can’t get answers today – I’ll never get answers.
  • I can’t find anything interesting to read – I’ll never find anything interesting to read – ever again.
  • To quote the King of Siam in The King and I – Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!

To avoid this potential stumbling block, here are 5 things that can help you stay on an even keel and get unstuck quickly.

  1. Stay here, now.  Don’t go borrowing trouble as they say.  We all do it.  The car makes a little noise and before we’ve even confirmed that it isn’t a cup rolling around in the back seat, we’re worried about how we’re going to pay for a new car.  Stay in the present.
  2. Walk away from what’s got you stuck and do something else.  Since I was stuck, I started cleaning house.  It’s not my favorite form of entertainment but it’s better than just sitting and feeling crummy because I can’t find anything interesting to do.  (It occurs to me that this is probably how I felt when I told my folks that “there’s nothing to do.”)  I felt better because the house looked better and I was super motivated to find an alternative to being stuck so I could stop doing housework.
  3. Talk to a friend.  I called up a friend and confessed that I was stuck.  We talked about the issue and although we didn’t solve the problem, several stray thoughts during our conversation gave me ideas about possibilities I might try.  Just having something to try worked wonders.
  4. Focus in an area in which you’re not stuck.  Can’t go for a walk because it’s pouring outside?  Clean out the closet that you promised yourself you’d clean out by the end of March.  When you can’t make progress in an area, change areas.
  5. Get more information.  Sometimes you can’t move forward because you don’t know what to do.  Poke around on the web.  These days, you can research most things from the comfort of your own home.  The groups that have the information you need probably have a presence on the web.  Figure out what you don’t know and go get the answers.

You can probably come up with 5 more strategies for getting unstuck.  The good thing about getting unstuck is that once you find possibilities in one area, your creativity flows back and everything starts to look better…  until next time.

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Cup o’ Inspiration

cup with steam swirl

Take a short break and consider the following:

“One can dream of something more horrible than a hell where one suffers; it’s a hell where one would get bored.”

Victor Hugo

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