Updated: Jun 22, 2020
In this post, I would like to answer one of the most common questions that my clients ask me:
“What do you do when you begin feeling stuck in life?”
Let me begin by indicating that feeling stuck is a completely unnatural state because we, like any other living organism, are meant to be in constant motion, growing, changing, and evolving. If we are feeling stuck, it means that we, in some way, are preventing this natural process. And although it may seem like we are doing everything we can to break through, nothing is helping. There are several reasons why you may be feeling stuck and we are going to identify some of them. We will also select easy and effective strategies that will get you unstuck.
Reason #1 – Lack of Goals
You see, if you are feeling stuck, it may be because you have nothing to reach for. You are just tangled up in your routine, day in and day out. You are so busy with your daily responsibilities that you barely have the energy to keep it together, let alone bring something new onto the picture. Maybe, you feel so hopeless that you don’t even bother to set any goals or make plans for the future to avoid disappointment if things don’t work out.
Actually, not having any goals is what will keep you stuck. This is how it works in life, in order for us to activate the motion, we need something to move towards because we are always pulled towards what we want. For example, if you want a particular car, you start seeing that model anywhere you go, you hear people talk about it, and it even appears in movies you watch. When we clearly and fearlessly identify what we desire, we naturally begin to gravitate to it.
So, what is the solution? Yes, get a pen and paper and start setting some goals for yourself.
If deciding on your goals seems challenging, you can start with a simpler task. I advise my clients who can’t set clear goals for themselves, to first identify their values and priorities in life. What’s important to you? Once you clarify that what is important, then write three examples that would represent the subject of your importance in your life.
For example: if being productive is important, then your examples may include:
1) Getting a promotion at work
2) Cooking a homemade meal for the family 4 times a week
3) Decluttering your garage
And just like that, now you have 3 new goals to move towards. You see, your goals don’t have to be fight-the-world-hunger kind of goals, they just have to excite you and get you moving.
Reason #2 - The Running Away Mode
The running away mode happens, when you do set your goals, but they are set in reverse. Let me explain. You see, in order for you to notice any kind of improvement in your life, you not only need to set your goals, but you also need to do it correctly. I am not referring to SMART goals, although you are more than welcome to utilize this strategy, I am talking about the moving-away-from VS moving-towards goal-setting styles. An example of a moving-away-from goal would be something like “I don’t want to be ill” or “I don’t want to be poor”. When you are setting your goals in this fashion, you are actually chaining yourself to the discomfort you are trying to get away from. Although it may seem like you are running pretty fast to only realize that you are running in circles around the discomfort you were so determined to eliminate. When you are saying “I don’t want to be ill” or “I don’t want to be poor” you, without suspecting it, are holding onto the illness or poverty, and not improving at all or improving very slowly. This is why you feel stuck.
Solution: Restructure your goals. Simply decide what you want to have, or be, or do. If you do not want to be poor, begin affirming that you want to be wealthy.
Please note that restructuring your goals also includes your self-talk and conversations with others. The chances are that by now you have already formed a strong habit to state your goals in this errored manner. Begin monitoring the way you express yourself in relationship to your goals.
And if you want to be even more advanced, do not be afraid to utilize the SMART goal-setting model:
Here is an example of SMART goal: I want to lose 10 lb in 3 months by changing my diet and exercising.
This goal is being Specific by stating how you are planning to execute your goal (the opposite of that would be "I want to lose 10 lb" because there can be many ways to do it besides just improving your eating habits and exercise routine). The goal is Measurable because you are indicating the exact number of pounds you attempt to lose. If you were to set your goal as "I want to lose some weight by changing my diet and doing yoga 3 times a week, that would not deem your goal is measurable. Whether the goal you are setting is Attainable or not depends on how realistic it is for you to achieve it within the framework of conditions you are in. For example, if you weigh 180 lb, it is very possible to lose 10 lb in 3 months by changing your diet and incorporating an exercise routine. But what if you are anorexic and weigh 90 lb while being 6 ft tall? Now this goal is not only not attainable, but also pretty dangerous. The Relevancy of your goal is decided upon whether or not it aligns with your values and larger long-term goals. If you are setting the goal above because overall you want to be healthier, look better, and be more active that your goal is relevant. But if you want to lose weight because you think it is going to make you more likable and to help you converse with others more easily, than maybe you should consider a different goal for this purpose, like taking a course on building communication skills? Lastly, our goal also needs to be Time-Based, meaning that you have to set a deadline for achieving your goal. This way, the chances that you will stick to your goal are a lot higher.
Reason #3 - Lack of Energy
Here I am referring to your physical health that is being compromised by unhealthy habits. Based on the laws of physics, we know that in order for us to perform any kind of activity we need energy. And if your energy is stalled and you get a feeling of being stuck, you absolutely must reconsider your exercise routine, diet, and consumption of alcohol, recreational, and prescribed medications. How often do you exercise? How many glasses of plain water do you drink a day? Does your diet include fresh fruits and vegetables? What about sugar, gluten, fried, and fat foods that literally clog up your organs and prevent the energy to flow freely? How often do you drink alcohol, smoke, or use any other drugs? For many people, these unhealthy habits may be the only reason why they find themselves feeling stuck.
What’s the solution? Exercise at least 4 hours/week, eat foods that benefit and detox your body, and eliminate or at least reduce to the minimum your consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs.
Reason #4 – Misuse of Concentration
The subject of concentration is so important that it requires a whole separate article, if not a book. But we will discuss this concept only in its relationship to feeling stuck in life. As we discussed above, in order for you to move effortlessly through life and not feel stuck, you need something to move towards and you need energy. However, one of the most valuable and important tools that can make you fly from one accomplishment to another is your concentration. But if you misuse it, and sadly many do, you will find yourself feeling stuck and not progressing much.
There are several ways how you can misuse your concentration:
1) The first one is when you focus on many things at the same time. This mistake, for the most part, is prompted by the overly stimulated society we are living in. This is how it works: in order for you to move from point A to point B, where point B is your ultimate goal, you need to concentrate on point B for a prolonged period of time. But living in the environment that pretty much competes for your attention – we are talking about commercials and media, that want you to buy their products, politicians, who want you to vote for them, and all of the responsibilities you assigned yourself to - you may not be focusing on point B long enough to initiate the movement. This also may happen when you have too many goals that are unrelated or contradict one another. Your concentration is uncontrollably splashed all over the place and you are not making any progress anywhere. When this happens, you find yourself at exactly the same place - stuck.
2) The misuse of concentration also happens when you, instead of focusing on your goal, begin focusing on the means of how to get there or you are constantly taking a score of how much you have accomplished. In either of these cases, you are not keeping your focus on the end result. When you do that, the fear of not being capable or adequate to achieve your goals takes over, and you run back to your comfort zone. Again, you begin feeling stuck.
3) One of the most common and futile ways a human being misuses his/her concentration is by clinging to the past.
When are we going to learn that there is absolutely no benefit in clinging to the past?
The time you spend ruminating, thinking about what went wrong, what could have been if you did something different, looking for closure (don't we all love doing that?), etc. is simply the time wasted! In these moments, you are murdering your precious present moments, no less. Stop!
In all cases, the solution is the same – you must train yourself to concentrate on the end goal without an intermission. Make a strong decision about what is important to you; envision your goal; stay focused. You do not need to know all the steps that will take you to your desired destination because it will be revealed to you in the process. Everything you need is to clearly know what you want and the action that is accessible to you now. All the necessary steps will unfold as you continue moving towards your goal.
Feeling stuck is a completely deliberating state because it restrains your natural abilities to create and enjoy life. However, just minor changes in your habits and perspective can make a big difference. I truly hope that the information presented above added some clarity to why you may find yourself feeling stuck, as well as how to get back in motion.