Tomorrow, I'll be starting a 7-day course on getting unstuck for people who may be feeling like they're getting nowhere fast. (Note--there are still slots available if this is you, so you may want to sign up.)
As I'm pulling final pieces together for the class, I'm thinking about the "frames" we set up around being stuck--the stories we tell ourselves when we find ourselves in this situation. Often it's the stories themselves that are keeping us stuck.
Probably the biggest story we tell ourselves is that we are, in fact, stuck. Just look at some of the synonyms for "stuck":
- At a standstill
- Without ideas
- Up against the wall
- At your wits end
The more I say "I'm stuck," the more real these feelings become for me. All I can think of is my "stuckness," which means all I can think of is how trapped, burdened and caught I am in my situation. And, of course, the more trapped I feel, the more I resist that feeling. But "stuckness" is like quicksand. The more we resist it, the more it pulls us downward. Not exactly a recipe for moving forward is it?
The other thing that happens when we think of ourselves as "stuck" is that we immediately start beating ourselves up for it. If you listen closely to your internal dialogue, you'll hear that little voice saying "Well you SHOULDN'T be stuck. What kind of person gets stuck? No one else is stuck--it's just you. There's clearly something wrong here and you SHOULD do something about it." We start judging and berating ourselves which, ironically, only makes us feel MORE stuck!
So what happens if we change the "frame"? If we stop seeing seeing ourselves as "stuck" and think of this pause as something else?
If we look at our lives as a journey, traveling on a path, then we know that in every journey there are times when you need to stop and rest. Sometimes we choose those moments, but sometimes those moments choose us. In any journey, there's the time you decide to stop for something to eat and there's the time that you get sick because you've been going too hard and have to stop for a few days. It's just how life works.
We also know that in any journey, if we look at a particular moment in time, then it feels like that moment goes on forever. But in reality it doesn't. Eventually we start moving again. We never stay in one place. You've been "stuck" before, but you didn't stay there forever. You always moved on. That's also how life works.
So what happens if I stop telling myself that I'm "stuck" and start telling myself that I'm just resting right now? What if I just accept that for whatever reason, I'm not ready to move forward? There's nothing wrong with me, I'm not a "bad" person because I'm not ready to move. It just is what it is.
If I think of myself as "resting," one thing I can see right away is that I can CHOOSE to rest. I automatically feel better because I'm not trapped into this place where I'm at today. This isn't a burden. I'm not up against the wall. I'm choosing it. In this case, choice is a wonderful thing. It can instantly make us feel better.
Thinking of myself as "resting," is also restorative and nurturing. We need rest in our lives, so maybe this rest that I'm taking is necessary. Maybe the very thing I need right now is this rest. Maybe I can use it to take a closer look at my situation and see what it's trying to teach me--how can I learn from this place that I'm at right now?
Finally, if we think of ourselves as "resting," then we can stop beating ourselves up so much for being where we're at. We can be kinder to ourselves and stop the negative self-talk that ends up making us feel more "stuck." We can just say to that berating inner voice, "I'm resting right now. I need this. Leave me alone."
I'm not saying that changing your story from "stuck" to "resting" is going to instantly change your life, but it does open up more opportunities for new ideas and action. It can give us the space we need to see another way. It can also show us the choices we have in this situation where we feel stuck, including the choice to look for new stories to tell about where we are.
This is a strategy I've used several times in my life over the past year for both personal and professional situations. It has opened up some major doorways in my thinking and really transformed how I approach those moments in my life when previously I thought of myself as "stuck."
So what happens if you stop thinking of yourself as "stuck" and start leaning into "resting"? How does it change the possibilities you see? And what other stories do you tell yourself when you're feeling "stuck?" How could those shift too?