Do you ever feel like you are in a rut? Stuck in a pattern that feels old and out of date? The truth is that most of us, at some point in our lifetime, have felt like we are caught in a way of being that has felt limiting or even stifling to us. It can feel like we are in a holding pattern of sorts, a cycle of behaviour or experiences that don’t match the life we imagine for ourselves. We can feel misaligned or detached as aspects of our careers, our relationships, our lifestyle or simply our patterns and behaviours feel out of sync with what truly matters in our lives.
Why do we get stuck?
Most often, we feel stuck when there is a disconnect between how we want to live our life and how we are living it. In many ways, it’s like a car stuck in the snow. In those moments, we can clearly see where we want to go (out of that snow bank!), but we struggle to gain traction. Feeling stuck can be both painful and frustrating. It evokes a sensation of “spinning our wheels” and exhausting ourselves in the process. For example, there was a huge chunk of time near the end of my teaching career where I felt utterly stuck. I desperately wanted a change. I wanted a new way of being in the world, but I did not know where or how to start. It felt like there was this giant gap between where I was and where I wanted to be, and I had no idea how to bridge it. When in this place of misalignment, it can be easy to feel depressed or despondent and to believe you do not have the power to affect change in your own life.
So, how do we get unstuck?
1. Commit to change.
It might sound obvious, but to get unstuck, we must have a strong desire to get unstuck. As humans, we struggle with change. We can be fearful of the unknown aspects brought about by change, and our minds easily convince us that it is best to settle for the status quo. For me, it took years before I gathered the courage to leave my secure job as a teacher and follow my heart. Often, what we know, even if it is not working, can be preferable to the idea of stepping into unchartered territory.
2. Slow down.
As all seasoned Canadians know, when a car is stuck in the snow, the last thing we want to do is to push too hard on the accelerator. When the wheels of the car spin too fast, a rut in the snow is created and the car becomes even more stuck. By slowing down and taking the pressure off the ‘accelerator’ in our lives, we create the space and time needed to move forward with greater awareness and clearer intention. As a result, we become more connected to what is happening in the moment and tap into our feelings and responses. This is where we find our traction.
3. Look within.
When we feel stuck, often we look outside of ourselves for the reasons. If only our partner was different. If only we were more respected at work, or we had more money in our bank account. As humans, it is so easy to find ourselves in a victim mindset that disempowers us and leaves us at the mercy of the world around us, paralyzed by fear and inaction. The more we understand the landscape of our own interior, the better we understand the stories we tell ourselves and our ways of being that keep us in the patterns that no longer serve us.
4. Ask for help.
It is always a powerful move to reach out to those we trust to give us the support we need. When we feel stuck, there are often deep-seated conditioned beliefs that are at the root of our inaction. It could be the belief that we don’t deserve the thing we want, that we are incapable of change, or that our needs are not important. These conditioned beliefs operate at an unconscious level and, for most of us, it can be challenging to identify them on our own. By talking with a trusted friend, or working with a professional coach or therapist, we gain access to another set of eyes that can mirror back and help us more clearly see what is standing in our way.
5. Choose a new way.
If you have ever been stuck in the snow, you will know you often need to be creative in your approach to getting unstuck. Choosing to just drive forward and back in the same place not only creates deeper ruts, but also leads to a high level of frustration or stress. Instead, you need to turn the wheels, try different angles, even put something under the wheels for traction. When stuck, take action by choosing new and novel approaches. Enroll in that course you have being thinking about, read that book a friend has recommended, work with a coach or therapist or start to incorporate exercise back into your days. Stepping outside of our routines and creating new patterns in our lives help us to develop a greater understanding and intentionality around how we want our lives to be.
The Gifts of Feeling Stuck.
While feeling stuck can be a frustrating and possibility painful experience, it is not without its gifts. In fact, our greatest learning and growth is born from periods of challenge and misalignment. It is when we have the courage to not only recognize that we are stuck, but to consciously choose to work towards getting unstuck, that we are give ourselves the gift of a life that feels more authentic and aligned. Taking action could mean financial, social, emotional, physical or spiritual risk. It could mean facing the beliefs or patterns of behaviour that are limiting us. It could mean re-establishing boundaries in our relationships that better reflect our deepest values. But, as we more clearly define and embody the life that we imagine for ourselves and more consciously choose to enter the arena of change and growth, something magical happens - the ruts start to feel less deep and we realize that we have the power to affect real change in our lives.
Let's not let fear stifle that power.