We all get stuck. Stuck, unstuck, stuck, stuck, unstuck, stuck again. Unstuck, unstuck, almost stuck, unstuck, stuck again. Such is life.
The trick is to not misinterpret your personal stuckness as evidence of your inherently flawed and/or undeserving character. With that view, you can only become more deeply entrenched, ultimately living from a belief system that is self-absorbed and narcissistic. Granted, it’s not a fun kind of self-absorption — I call it codependent arrogance: “I am the piece of crap the world revolves around.” Bottom line: this kind of thinking is self perpetuating; it takes on a life all its own. And it will expertly prove to you again and again that your short comings are the only constants in the universe.
Maybe that’s overstated. But then again, maybe it’s not. Here’s an example of this kind of thinking with a life of it’s own:
Horace reads the preceding paragraphs and identifies with what he has read. Horace thinks to himself, “Yeah, I understand that. I’m just like that, constantly believing the worst about myself, sabotaging myself.”
From the darkness of one corner of Horace’s mind comes an instant affirmative response from a familiar voice: “yes, you certainly are like that . . . and it just goes to prove what I have been telling you all along — YOU ARE HOPELESS.”
The voice in the corner of Horace’s mind, like the disease of alcoholism, is cunning, baffling and powerful — not to mention endlessly persistent and a major pain in the ass.
WHAT HORACE NEEDS
Horace needs support. Horace needs information. Horace needs a plan. And most of all, Horace needs to know that he can separate himself from the voice in the corner of his mind.
Growth moves from the inside out. So when we are feeling stuck, the first place to focus is on that one constant relationship, the for better or worse whether we like it or not relationship, the where ever you got here it is relationship . . . the relationship between you and you. Or more specifically, the relationship between you and that voice in the corner of your mind.
Guiding Principle for Horace (and for you & me)
What follows are seven (7) steps — a sort of map — for getting unstuck. To maximize the benefit of the 7 steps, it is important to accept that we are not our thoughts, that we each exist independently from our thoughts, that we are in relationship with our thoughts. The guiding principle here is this:
It’s not so much the thought that counts;
it’s your relationship to the thought.
THOUGHT: You are a miserable loser and this poor excuse for an article is just one more example of how inept you are.
ME: Oh, it’s you again: Mr. Sunshine! Yeah, yeah, I know that’s what you think. That’s what you think about everything. I just happen to disagree. I’m having a good time writing this article.
THOUGHT: Don’t forget that you have a tendency to get side tracked as you are writing, diverting your (and therefore, the reader’s) attention away from your main objective — which in this case is teaching the 7 steps for getting unstuck.
ME: Point taken. I do think that teaching readers to “relate to their thoughts” is relevant to this article, but I’ve made my point, so let’s get on with the 7steps.
SEVEN (7) STEPS TO GETTING UNSTUCK
As you read these 7 steps, keep in mind that you have choices about how you relate to your thoughts. Don’t settle for one or two responses to what you read, especially if those first thoughts are negative and self-defeating. Keep asking, “What else do I think?” Stick with it; persistence is the key to success. I hope these 7 steps will be a helpful addition to your ever-expanding set of tools.
1. Risk Wanting. Many of us are afraid to even think about what we want. Some feel undeserving; others are paralyzed by the danger of more disappointment; still others will be surrounded by voices (external and internal) that remind — more like haunt — them with the dreaded “you are sooo selfish” chant; and some are just too skeptical to believe that wanting could possibly make a difference. In your efforts to get unstuck, allowing –even pushing — yourself to get in touch with what you want is hardly self-indulgent. To risk wanting, you must face the very real dangers of heartache and disappointment. And when all is said and done, you may never get exactly what you want. On the other hand, if you don’t risk it, I guarantee that you will remain stuck.
Make a list of what you want.
2. Expand Your Options. When you remain stuck for any length of time you can bet that you are experiencing tunnel vision when it comes to evaluating your options. It seems a common human trait that we find comfort in the familiar, even if what is familiar is less than helpful, or even harmful. In getting unstuck, it is essential that you make every conscious effort to heal the tunnel vision and to refuse to settle for anything — familiar or not — that does not serve you well. This means that the next big risk is to become experimental as you evaluate and gather your options. You must make a decision to allow plenty of time and space for your brainstorms. Every step of the way you will hear messages telling you why this or that won’t work. Don’t argue with these “helpful little reminders;” for now just let them chatter and do your best to ignore them.
Have a brainstorm.
Write down as many ideas as you
can think of about how you could have what you want.
3. Identify Your Obstacles. All too often this is where many of us begin when we are stuck. Can you think of a worse way to get started than by taking inventory of all of the things (people, circumstances, negative messages, etc.) that stand in your way? I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to avoid the temptation to go here before you have spent plenty of quality time with steps one and two. Only then will you be equipped to assess your obstacles (real and those merely perceived) without collapsing into the discouragement that is the hallmark of being stuck.
Make a list of the obstacles in your way.
(Include negative beliefs about yourself.)
4. Confront Your Obstacles. There are two things that you will need to understand about step four: 1.) That step four is separate from step three. Do not fall to the temptation to address each of your obstacles while you are listing them. To do so makes fertile ground for discouragement and it will interfere with your brainstorming of all potential obstacles. 2.) Confront your obstacles slowly, one chunk at a time. Patience and persistence are the necessary tools for this task. Often the tendency is to take on too much too fast, sometimes because we are uncomfortable in this territory and want to get it over with, and sometimes because we are fired up, excited about the possibility of being unstuck. Either way, the danger is the same as a runner beginning a marathon at a full out sprint.
Choose one part of one obstacle and write a plan for confronting it.
5. Recognize Successes. Here is the problem: When we fail we take full blame. When we succeed, we consider it a fluke, or we credit someone or something else. Some of us will do anything to avoid acknowledging our successes. Often this is so ingrained that we may not even know when we have succeeded. Again, the inner objection to this step can be the “you are sooo selfish” chant, or it may be superstition. Countless people I have talked to about this report a moderate to severe superstition that if they acknowledge a success, it will be taken from them. Nevertheless, if you do not honor the importance of recognizing successes, you rob yourself of the chance to build a new history of giving yourself the credit (not just the blame) that you deserve. If you do not acknowledge your successes (and honest effort counts as success) the work you have done on the previous four steps will fall a part.
Make a list of things you have accepted the
blame for that probably were not your fault.
Make a list of successes (small, medium or large)
that you don’t give yourself credit for.
Write down one success from the past week.
6. Celebrate & Rest. This one is much tougher than it sounds. Some people have a tremendously difficult time celebrating themselves. Celebrating yourself doesn’t mean you have to throw a party or call the newspaper every time you succeed. But it does mean that you are fully on your own side, that you are rooting for yourself just like you would the main character in a book or a movie. One very powerful way to celebrate is to let yourself rest. More times than not, learning to rest is a major challenge. We know how to collapse, but relaxing is very different; relaxing is a way of refueling ourselves while collapsing is just the body’s natural defense to being treated with disrespect. Learning to rest can become a lifetime challenge, but it is well worth the effort.
Tell a friend about one of your successes.
Try taking full credit without disclaimers.
Make a list of some things you could do to relax (re-fuel).
7. (When you are ready) Start Over. We hear that life is a journey and not a destination. That can be a very helpful philosophy, but there are times when that little cliché makes me feel exhausted. If life is a journey and not a destination, do we never get to arrive anywhere?! I like this one better: Life is a journey with many destinations. With that in mind, you and I can set up camp here and there to rest, celebrate, brainstorm, whatever. And when we feel refueled (It is essential to living unstuck that we stop running on empty.) we can break camp and move on.
Write a declaration of independence, stating your
intention to be fully in charge of your own life.