Feeling just stuck in some part of your life is awful. Struggling to get yourself to the next level of your career, feeling like you're in the wrong relationship or just trying to figure out what needs to be different for you to feel better — these are all a part of stuck-ness. It happens to all of us. So, learning the art of getting unstuck is a solid life skill. Then you can blast yourself out of those ruts every time you find yourself caught in one.
Getting unstuck is all about recovering your momentum so that you're back to moving forward and actively doing something to get you where you want to go. Being stuck can be physical, like wanting to move out of an apartment but being unable to break the lease, but it can also be emotional or psychological. We've all had relationships with significant others or friends that we knew weren't serving us well, not to mention jobs that made us miserable. And yet we've all felt unwilling or unable to cut the strings tying us to those people and things.
The true heart of getting unstuck is learning agency and knowing we have the power to change our circumstances by first changing our mindsets. So often our sense of feeling stuck comes from a place of helplessness:
"I want to break up with her, but I don't know how."
"I'd quit this job, but I really need the money."
All those "buts" are a sign that we're afraid to make a big change.
Before you can make the changes you need to, you first have to figure out what those changes should be. Are you really unhappy with the company you work for or just with your position? If working in a different department or capacity would increase your job satisfaction, try moving in that direction rather than quitting outright. Considering breaking up with a friend or S.O.? Figure out what in the relationship isn't working and if it's something worth trying to fix before you make a permanent cut.
Too often, we stay in jobs and relationships we've outgrown because we feel we owe the company or the person, and the thought of leaving makes us feel guilty. But you have other feelings, too, and they matter. It's your life, after all. You need to do what makes sense and feels right to you. You can express gratitude to a person or place without handing over any more of the time and energy you should be spending growing in a different direction.
Sometimes we get stuck because we made a compromise. Maybe you took a position you weren't crazy about, but it boosted your paycheck. You were able to pay off your car sooner... but now the car's paid off and you're still basically tied to that paycheck. Figuring out how you ended up where you are now will help you trace back to that point where maybe you were on a professional or personal track that was more true to you.
A major component of getting unstuck is figuring out what you really need so you can start working in that direction. We spend so much of our time running around just fulfilling obligations. When did you last ask yourself if you were happy or what would make you feel happy right now? If having more flexibility in your schedule would make your days easier, better, happier — figure out how to make that happen. If you need a little more space from your partner or a little more attention from your friends, that's telling you what your personal needs are.
This kind of self work is hard. Unpacking personal or professional issues, acknowledging that your feelings matter and deserve your attention, isn't easy. There's no rule that says you have to do it all on your own. A therapist, wellness coach or even a career counselor are all excellent resources when you need to just talk things out and figure out a way to move forward.
Dream big, start small. Sit down with pen and paper and take the time to explore all the things you want to look different in your life. No subject is too big to tackle; no detail is too small to matter. Let it all spill out. And then list all the steps you need to take to turn those wants into reality. If there are a lot of things you want to change, pick one item and build a plan just for that. You have to start somewhere.
Because it's easy to become impatient, try to make big moves and big changes and jump steps. But big changes have small beginnings, and just like forming new or better habits, starting small and staying consistent with it is the key to true success. For example, before you quit the job you hate, you need to make sure your resume is updated and polished. And, you know, actually start applying for other positions.
Because at some point you're going to be ready for step two. You can only fiddle with your resume or cover letter for so long before you have to actually just send it already. Step one is preparing, and step two is doing. Once you're ready for that, why not make it kind of a big one? Why not go after the job that scares you as much as it excites you? The worst that can happen is you don't get hired. The point is that you tried something new and went after something different — and that's going to feed your momentum, whether you get the job or not.
That thing you just did? It was a chance, a leap. It was a change. Do it again. If you want to work in a new field, keep making contacts and networking; keep exploring and applying. If you ended a relationship that needed to be over, do something else that will enhance your relationship with yourself, and take care of your needs. Keep moving, keep trying and get your wheels out of the mud.
Falling back on old habits — back into the rut — is going to happen. At some point, you'll be tired and tempted to go back to the way things were. At least that path is familiar and comfortable. And if you're really making changes in your life, you're going to feel decidedly uncomfortable. It's okay to get scared and tired and think about calling it quits. So, go back to step one, and be honest about what you want. Do you really want to give up all these changes and the forward momentum you worked so hard to build? Or do you just want a day off?
The work you're doing to get unstuck is building muscles you'll have from now on. Anytime you come to a point of staleness or dissatisfaction in your life, you'll be able to look at where you are, evaluate what you want and what you don't and plan the steps to get you back to a place of satisfaction. These muscles are lifesavers, so make sure you stay in shape.
Getting unstuck isn't easy, but it's worth learning how to do it. Living your life in a way that's personally meaningful and professionally satisfying is work. You need to know how to kick your butt into gear and make all those big good changes happen.
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