In my job I come across a lot of people that feel they are Stuck in one way or another:
- a problem they can’t resolve
- sales that won’t grow
- people they don’t like
- their own behaviour
- a job they hate
- no job at all
- a life that’s unfulfilling
- a lack of joy and fun
- lack of money
- the same old things
- etc. etc. etc.
Now I wish I could tell you that I have the Secret to being Stuck and that if you do what I say, you’ll never have the problem again. The unfortunate truth is that I don’t… and the even more unfortunate truth is that I get stuck too.
So, what I can add to your situation other than empathy and an unwanted reminder of all your problems?
Well, although I have to admit to feeling stuck in certain aspects of my work and life, I can claim to having gained a better understanding, over the years, of what works for me and those that I’ve helped – and this is it:
1. Being Stuck is a Feeling
- Being Stuck is not a problem – it’s a feeling. Because it’s a feeling, it is not youand you are not it. Though it may sound like semantics, there is a world of difference between feeling stuck and being stuck. Unless, of course, you’re the dog in the picture!
- The all-too-human tendency to push the feeling away and regard it as an inconvenience is not helpful. Feeling Stuck has just as much validity as all the other feelings you experience, pleasant and unpleasant.
- Attributing the feeling of being Stuck to your circumstances, your mistakes or other people is usually counter-productive. Acknowledging that it’s a perfectly reasonable result of all the ideas, decisions and actions that you’ve been responsible for, to date, is far more positive.
So admitting that: ‘Being Stuck’ is a feeling that is both valid and reasonable is the best place to start.
2. The Power of Reflection
Once you’ve done your best to take this on board and realise it, the next step is to Reflect. And this is almost always best done with someone else: talking and discussing your situation, the impact that it’s having and the possible causes behind it. At this stage it’s really good to keep away from solutions. Paradoxically, this dialogue is more productive if you steer away from trying to fix the problem.
3. To Do or not To Do
The final step is to Act – and this is the tricky bit for 2 reasons:
- You will need to be unattached to the outcomes of your actions
- Acting in this context may well include not acting, by which I mean waiting.
Let me explain further: The reflective conversation that you have will almost certainly throw up several possible courses of action. You will not know which will work and which won’t. So you have to try them out. And the best way of testing them is to forget whatever you think the outcome may be. Your expectations can easily skew the result – especially if you are involved in the activity.
If the reflective conversation has felt good but no possible actions have emerged, or there is not the will to execute them, decide to do nothing and to wait. The reasons for this are best explained by Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
- Admit that ‘Being Stuck’ is a Feeling which is both valid and reasonable
- Have a Reflective Conversation with someone that avoids solutions
- Act without attachment and, if it feels right, do nothing and wait