Have you ever felt like this? You slip into the monotonous loop of going to work, going home, waiting for the weekend. Each day blending into the next. Then one day you look back on your life. Goals still unachieved. Dreams still a dream. How did I get here? An awful mixture of dread begins to sink as you wish you had done more and want to make a change but you don’t know what to do or how to get unstuck.
Timothy Butler describes this despair and yearning as a psychological impasse. You get “this feeling of uncertainty about your next moves in life.” And sometimes uncertainty leads into paralysis. Since you don’t know the next step, you stay in the same spot.
You feel stuck.
If you’re reading this article, you probably feel like this and you want to know what you can do to get unstuck and quickly.
Here are four things to do when you’re itching to get unstuck and out of that rut.
1. It’s time for a brain dump
When we’re unable to take action in the physical world—whether it’s writing, exercising, painting, creating—a great way to start is your mental space. With the daily grind of making a paycheck, putting food on the table, and upholding your personal obligations, we forget to unwind our jumbled thoughts.
Give yourself the time and space to unburden your mind with a good brain dump. Unload everything—your emotional burdens, dreams, goals—onto paper. With a freed mind, you can welcome new ideas. Ideas that can progress you in your goals, especially when defining that first step to get you unstuck.
2. Remember to be patient
Has this ever happened to you? You take on a new a goal with burning determination but after a few weeks, that firework fizzles out? You feel discouraged because results are either too slow or non-existent. So, what happens next? You quit. Now you’re stuck at square one because you don’t want to try again only to be greeted with the same results. But the real problem you might not have realized is that you forgot to practice the critical virtue of patience. Progress is like climbing a steep hill. When you’re climbing a steep hill, there isn’t much of a view.
Mostly just the sloping grass surface in front of you. And when we’ve been climbing this hill for so long, we sometimes get bored of this view or maybe we get tired. We might stay in the same spot or we might roll back down the hill. But if you continue placing one step in front of the other, you will eventually reach the top. And your reward for your relentless efforts is that amazing pastoral view. Your progress is similar to that climb—you might be working and working but you won’t see any meaningful changes until you commit to the long-term.
Sometimes, it may take two months of dedicated nutrition and exercise until your figure noticeably improves. Or it may take over a dozen pitches before your book gets published. Just ask J.K. Rowling. Don’t let past experiences where you gave up allow you to remain stuck. Remember that change won’t always be visible. Commit to the process and the rewards will come to fruition in due time.
3. Let go of perfectionism
Do you know what my greatest struggle is when I’m feeling stuck? Procrastination by perfection. Which is difficult because the first challenge of getting unstuck is getting started. Perfectionism can be the downfall for many goals because if you’re like me, you feel that nothing is worth starting until that first step (and every step after) is perfectly according to plan. But the reality in this is that I’m using perfection as my excuse for staying stuck.
I remember chatting with a friend who struggled with losing weight. She complained that her figure suffered due to her busy schedules. When I encouraged her to walk during her breaks and lunches, she reasoned that such small acts weren’t worth it. That unless she was dressed in her workout gear and using her expensive gym membership, she might as well not get any exercise.
The problem with this is that life can be messy and the best plans can get derailed. Don’t let perfection get in the way of starting. Always remember this: progress over perfection.
4. If nothing else, just laugh!
Whenever I’m feeling stuck, I can go through an entire week or even a month where my mood either dips or flatlines. It can be the most disheartening feeling because everybody wants to feel happy and fulfilled, right? So, whenever my partner sees me in a funk like this, he knows exactly what to do: put on my favorite movie comedies (Legally Blonde and Penguins of Madagascar). Laughter can be incredibly therapeutic because laughing taps into an authentic source of joy within you. If you can laugh, you can feel joy.
I know that when you’re feeling stuck, joy can be the furthest thing from your mind. That’s why I encourage you to use your favorite movie comedies or watching a funny video to interrupt those burdensome spells. You immediately feel better and even if it’s just for the duration of that movie, your mindset shifts out of that loop of I can’t or I don’t feel like doing anything.
Laughing can be exactly what you need to get unstuck and on track with your goals again. As 18th-century British poet Lord Byron says: “Always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine.”
When you’re feeling stuck, it can be so easy to stay stuck. Whether the excuse is fear or self-doubt it remains just that—an excuse. And while feeling stuck may not feel as hard-hitting as a tangible tragedy like a breakup or a family death, the years of staying in the same place without growing can be just as detrimental.
Because what’s at risk is the potential that I know you are capable of. You have the power to be exactly who you want to be. So get unstuck with these four steps and leave all your excuses in the rut so that you can chase the life you want today.