How to Get Unstuck: 15 Eye-Opening Ways to Transform and Move On

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How to Get Unstuck: 15 Eye-Opening Ways to Transform and Move On
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How to Get Unstuck: 15 Eye-Opening Ways to Transform and Move On

Do you remember the last time you were stuck in an airport for several hours? After browsing gift shops and drinking an overpriced beer, listlessness takes over. At this point, most of us find a place to put up our feet, put on some headphones, and people-watch. Or we curl up in a corner to take a nap.

Some stages of life feel like one of those moving walkways at airports. We’re progressing at glacial speed, and everything surrounding us is drab and uninspiring. Except, in this scenario, there’s no end in sight.

Maybe we’re flummoxed over a big life choice, feel trapped in a lifestyle, or overcome with confusion after a life-altering event.

Who, at these times, doesn’t have a twinge of envy for the life of a bear? Our strongest inclination is to numb out, eat a pan of brownies and hide under the covers for several months.

However, taking action is part and parcel to getting unstuck. According to Newton’s law of motion, an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion.

Our lives are no different. Taking the right action gets us moving, and creates the momentum to take off to the next phase.

But how to know the right gate and terminal?

Although there are no open and shut methods, here are fifteen approaches to finding a way through episodes of transition and stagnation, and making a safe landing on the other side.

Dust Up a Routine

1. Dust Up a Routine

You know how when you move furniture around in a room, it makes the space fresh and new? It becomes refreshing just to walk through the room.

We all know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Sometimes, in order to freshen up our lives, our routines just need a little vacuuming, dusting up, and shifting things around.

Think back to a time in your life when you had more momentum—maybe there’s something you were doing then that’s missing now.

Things like taking a brisk walk in the mornings, tweaking a work schedule, or fitting in some quiet reading time before dinner makes a routine feel new.

Sometimes it takes just a simple alteration to go from being in a rut to getting into a groove!

Imagine the Possibilities

2. Imagine the Possibilities

“There is mad power when you are facing a challenge that you created instead of the one the world threw at you….in challenging yourself instead of just reacting,” says self-help guru Rachel Hollis.

It’s so common to end up in a place because you were reacting to something. Oftentimes, people feel forced to quit a job due to a toxic work culture, and have to scramble and accept any position they can find. Others pursue a career because they need a certain income, or due to pressure from parents.

These scenarios make us feel like we’re the subjects, not the objects, of our lives, and we’re at the mercy of whatever’s up around the bend.

In order to work through feelings of entrapment, try thinking big. Take a step back and consider what it is you most want. What would your perfect day look like? Where would you live, if you could live anywhere? And what would your ideal career be?

When you really dig deep and let go of confines and limitations, you may be surprised at the discoveries you unearth about yourself.

Finding clarity around our hopes and dreams presents us with a new challenge: achieving them. But, as Hollis says, it’s a whole different ball game to face a challenge we create for ourselves.

3. Take Strong (Not Weak) Action

Have you ever gotten a small splinter stuck in your finger, and tried to twease it out a few times, then just gave up and got on with things?

Getting to the other side of a transition phase requires decisive action. This means persistently doing things that either teach you, or make you risk failure.

Doing things within our comfort zone, rather, are just going to keep us stuck.

For example, say you felt stuck socially and wanted to bring new relationships into your life. Scrolling through facebook and liking and commenting isn’t going to do the trick.

Rather, it’s necessary to really put yourself out there: join a club, or attend Meetups regularly. This latter sort of action, which risks being rejected or unwelcome, is a move in the right direction.

Or, say you want to change a career. Browsing through positions on Monster or Indeed is a start, but won’t get you too far. It’s necessary to really dig: identify the skills necessary for the new career, seek out how to receive the training, and then buy a book, or enroll in a course. Or, network with all of your friends and acquaintances, to make the right connections.

Taking strong action repeatedly and consistently is a sure path to getting dislodged and ushering yourself into a new phase.

Challenge Your Comfort Zone

4. Challenge Your Comfort Zone

It’s wonderful to have supportive people in our lives. However, a boss who never seems to notice when we’re running late, a spouse who doesn’t mind if we sleep all day, or friends who consistently have our backs aren’t always doing us a favor.

Getting our life out of a ditch takes work, and a plan. When no one in our immediate circle expects more of us, it’s on us to seek out ways to prevent further backsliding.

Fortunately, the internet and bookstores are teeming with content to challenge and inspire. Seek out a podcaster, a course, or a series of TED talks, and dedicate yourself to the methods they outline.

Effective solutions are only a few steps away!

5. Send Yourself the Right Message

“Often people talk about how they feel stuck in a situation. You’re never stuck! You may be a little frustrated, you may not have clear answers, but you’re not stuck. The minute you represent the situation to yourself as being stuck, though, that’s exactly how you’ll feel. We must be very careful about the metaphors we allow ourselves to use,” says hypnotist and life coach Tony Robbins.

You know how when you learn something new, you start to see or hear about it everywhere you go?

The brain is wired to realize and perceive whatever we tell it.

It’s important to understand what we tell ourselves about the area of our life where we feel stuck. This requires a close examination of our thought process. One way to do this is with a brain dump into a journal.

What are the messages we repeat to ourselves? “This is impossible,” “I hate my job” and “I am not good at this” are dead-end messages that keep our wheels spinning.

Getting out of muddy, entrenched places and putting rubber to the road means reframing these thoughts.

Saying things like: “I am in this job for a season, and I will make the most of it” and “I am not good at this yet, but I am learning” creates possibility.

It’s a challenge to reprogram our thoughts. But by reframing these messages into solutions, we redirect our lives toward transformation.

Revise Your Life Story

6. Revise Your Life Story

When you take off from a tropical climate like Florida, all the backyard pools look recognizable, at first. Then, as you start to rise, they look more and more like hundreds of tiny aqua circles, smaller than the head of a pin.

We all have our own life story. Even though we’ll probably never write it down and put it up for sale on Amazon, we tell it to ourselves every single day.

It’s common to have a fixed idea of who we are based on the story we tell ourselves. Maybe we were never good at math in school, and so believe that we can’t keep a good personal budget. Or we struggled to find a community in college, and so are convinced that we’re forever socially awkward.

However, as our lives climb to higher elevations of knowledge and experience, these episodes from our past look much different!

Based on everything you understand about life and who you are now, how would you edit the story of your past?

Most of us would entirely re-write a few chapters, for sure.

It’s easy to stay stuck when we have limited beliefs about ourselves. Telling ourselves a new story allows us to move past stagnation and grow.

Fight Flummox

7. Fight Flummox

In his poem “The Road Not Taken,” author Robert Frost struggles over an irreversible life decision from his past: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both, and be one traveler long I stood, and looked down one as far as I could, to where it bent in the undergrowth.”

Making big life decisions is scary. Should I uproot myself and move to a new place? Should I change my career?

We can look down the path to where a decision would take us, but eventually it bends and we can’t see the outcome.

It’s easy, like Frost, to shuffle our feet and stall. Fear of making the wrong choice keeps us from moving forward.

In order to move past indecision, it’s helpful to take a step back and ask yourself, “What if I couldn’t make the wrong decision? In that instance, what would I choose, and why?”

Taking fear and anxiety out of the situation allows intuition to be our guide.
And when you do make a choice, tell yourself that you have your own back.

8. Develop Habits and Keep Showing Up

When we’re hopeless or confused, our lives feel like a mound of formless, jiggly jello.

And our day-to-day living may take on a similar sort of shapelessness. Watching movies into the wee hours of the morning, sleeping well past the alarm, and eating take-out and pizza can easily become a way of life.

However, we can’t properly gel into a new phase when our lives have no mold or structure.

We need to create the space in which to process things. This means having habits around daily routines.

Things like hitting the alarm every morning at six, then journaling morning pages, regardless of how we feel, or going to the gym several nights a week, creates a healthy framework for growth.

Change takes place in the day-to-day. Routinely showing up for our life allows things to happen. Situations, which may feel like immovable icebergs, start to melt and we’re able to move on.

Purge and Process Emotions

9. Purge and Process Emotions

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life,” says Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa, the 6th Installment of the Rocky series.

Sometimes we get stuck because life is just so dang hard. The loss of a job, a divorce, or the death of a loved one are devastating blows. It’s really no wonder that we feel completely knocked out.

Have you ever been really sick, and knew that if you threw up you’d feel much better?

Even though it’s difficult, it’s necessary to work through these life traumas. It’s the only way to process and release ourselves from the pain.

Talking things through with a counselor or good friends, or writing them out in a journal, helps us move past the pain and into a freer space.

10. Find Your North Star

Before the invention of the magnetic compass, ships couldn’t navigate on cloudy nights. Rather than getting miles off course, they’d put up anchor until conditions cleared up.

Similarly, in our own lives, it’s hard to move through periods of confusion when we have an incoherent idea of where we’re going.

Writing down clear objectives, both personal or professional, allows the clouds to part. We then know the direction in which to steer our lives.

By consistently taking steps in that direction, the fog of uncertainty evaporates and our path forward becomes more and more recognizable.

11. Record Daily Victories

In her memoir Wild, Cheryl Strayed hikes 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, across mountains, deserts, rivers and forests, to arrive at the Bridge of the Gods in Oregon.

She really covered some ground over 94 days. Hour by hour, however, it probably didn’t feel like she had accomplished much.

Every significant achievement or milestone is the result of thousands of tiny steps. In the day-to-day, though, it’s easy to feel like we’re stuck in the middle of a dense forest.

A practice of acknowledging daily accomplishments reminds us that we’re making progress toward a goal.

For example, at the end of each day, write down three things you accomplished or learned. Then, make a habit of reading and reflecting on this list at the end of each week and month.

Reminding yourself of daily accomplishments encourages you to trek onward, and eventually cross over the bridge to your destination.

Assign New Meaning to Experiences

12. Assign New Meaning to Experiences

If someone showed you a spoon and asked you how it was meant to be used, you’d immediately say it was for eating.

However, supposing you’d never seen a spoon before, how might you answer? Maybe you’d think it was a small shovel, a lever, a shoehorn, or something else entirely.

Just like daily objects, we’ve been enculturated to assign specific meanings to experiences. But we needn’t hold ourselves to them.

Losing a job, chronic unemployment, or a divorce are generally given negative meanings. And so when these things happen to us, our immediate tendency is to think we’ve failed.

Changing their meaning allows us to understand the experience differently. Maybe losing a job compelled us to finally go back to school. In this sense, then, it meant growth.

It takes some work crawling out of pigeon-holed notions, and re-forming the meaning we ascribe to things. But it’s an effective way to get ourselves unstuck.

Act, Even When it Feels Difficult to Do So

13. Act, Even When it Feels Difficult to Do So

“The reason you don’t follow through is because there is something you’re unwilling to feel emotionally. And it’s so powerful to start recognizing that,” says health coach Courtney Townley.

Can you remember as far back as your first day of school? You probably had a mixture of excitement, nervousness, and terror twirling inside of you. Had your parents not guided you through it, do you think you would have continued to show up, day after day?

Sometimes we know what we need to do in order to get unstuck. Maybe it’s moving to a new place, branching out and meeting new people, or finding a different job.

However, all of the difficult emotions these changes bring—uncertainty, frustration, awkwardness–stops us dead in our tracks.

The antidote to stagnation, Townley says, is to build courage: determine that you will go through the awkward phase of developing a new skill, and the anxiety of not knowing how a new endeavor will turn out.

When we choose to accept feelings, it opens our lives to so many experiences and allows us to get unstuck.

14. Bring Yourself to a Higher Level of Thinking

“We can’t solve our problems from the same level of thinking that created them,” said Albert Einstein.

Have you ever had an experience that completely changed the way you saw things? Maybe you traveled to the other side of the world, or dove into a book on a subject you knew nothing about.

Introducing ourselves to new people, places and ideas changes our outlook and way of perceiving the world. As Einstein implies, it puts us into a new frame of mind. And from this place, we can better approach the conundrums in our lives.

If you’re feeling stuck, try setting the issues aside for a time. Then go about taking a new course, learning a new skill, or meeting new people.

Some time later, look at your problem again. You may well see solutions you never saw before!

Practice Self-Care

15. Practice Self-Care

How would you treat a good friend who came to you with a big problem? Chances are, you’d (metaphorically or literally) start by giving them a big hug.

Action, as we’ve made clear, is part and parcel to getting unstuck.

However, if we’re working too hard at it, or berating ourselves, the action can actually be counterproductive.

It’s also important to be tender with ourselves. Being stuck is a natural part of life. Acceptance and patience are part of the process of moving on.

Some days, allow yourself to press pause. Curl up with a good book and crank up the tunes, knowing you’ll get your head back in the game the following day.

Dislodge the Iceberg

After his father’s death, Beach Boys singer and songwriter Brian Wilson became a recluse for almost two years! He rarely left the house and spent most of his days in his pajamas. It was only through the help of a personal trainer and an intense treatment program that he was able to crawl out of his funk.

Obstacles and roadblocks are a part of life. The best of us struggle to navigate paths over and around them.

And our lives aren’t always where we want them to be, but that’s also fundamental to the journey.

Fortunately, as humans, we’re wired to solve problems. From deciding what to put on in the morning, to determining the best route to take to work, to figuring out how to handle unruly kids, we solve hundreds of problems every day.

A steady commitment to taking action allows us to dislodge from seemingly immovable places.

And like a melting iceberg, we gently float into a new way of being.


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