A LONG TIME AGO, I was once given the advice, “Find the thing that you want to do most with your life, and then do one thing every day to get yourself closer to that goal.” I remembered and repeated these words to a friend recently, hoping it would help with what she was going through at the moment, to which she replied, butsometimes we get stuck.
This article is for her, and for everyone who has ever been stuck. In a rut, a job, a bad routine or a negative way of thinking, or any of the many number of ways it’s possible to be held back somehow from moving forward. It is something that happens to many of us at one time or another. At the beginning of this year, I wrote out my New Year’s Resolutions as usual, and the first one was to “Begin every morning with a book.” The reason why I had made this resolution was that I, myself, had become stuck.
It’s easy to fall into a rut, to have goals that seem out of reach, to judge yourself too harshly, creating low expectations and a low sense of self-worth. Worry and disappointment from past situations can also weight to the situation, preventing you from making positive changes.
When we become stuck, we somehow end up waiting for external changes to happen, but the truth of the matter is that change does not happen to us, but rather, change comes from within us. Because change is difficult for most of us, it is often easier to keep on doing as we’ve always done. If you feel that you’re holding yourself back from reaching your potential, or you feel stuck where you are, it may be time to make a change. Here are five ways that will (hopefully) help inspire you to become unstuck…
Change is difficult, and even more so when you’re stuck, so it’s perfectly okay to start by setting small, manageable goals every day and building upon these steps. Change stimulates different areas of the brain that affect creativity and clarity. Start small by moving things around your house, going to new places (restaurants, museums, parks), take up a new sport or hobby, begin a new exercise routine, speak to new people and make new friends. I once signed up for a pottery class one drab January in Edinburgh and it was one of the most rewarding and enjoyable new skills I have ever learned. Your usual surroundings may also be draining your inspiration and keeping you stuck, so try changing up your work environment by taking your laptop to bustling café, restaurant or park.
Changing something small in your daily routine can have a major impact. The one small change, mentioned earlier, of reading instead of looking at my phone at the beginning of the day has made an enormous difference to not just this year, but to my life as a whole. I am now beginning each day in a much more positive way by spending time doing something worthwhile, and not letting the noise of social media and all of its (possibly negative) psychological affects in before I am properly awake. As Thoreau says, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
By starting with small changes, it makes it more difficult to get discouraged. Often the hardest part about getting started on something new is becoming overwhelmed by the sheer size of the goal that you’ve set for yourself. Breaking it up into smaller steps will help make it seem more attainable. After a while, the accumulation of small changes will help you accomplish your goal and you will begin feeling unstuck.
Taking charge in one small area of your life can help you regain control of your life in other areas as well and help you move toward running your life, instead of running from it.
Gain a new perspective
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” (Oprah said that.) In other words, if you see what you have in terms of what you don’t, nothing will ever be enough. But if you look at what you already have with a sense of thankfulness, you will begin to see that you have more than you need.
When you’re stuck, one of the best things you can do is change your perspective on things, and the most productive way of doing so is by looking at life with gratefulness and hopefulness.
Perhaps you’ve experienced enough disappointment in your life to feel helpless, or use pessimism as a protective mechanism. Finding a way to look at life in a hopeful manner does not come naturally to many people. Whether you try meditation to help in this way of thinking or reading inspirational books, being hopeful is something that takes practice and needs to be worked on everyday. Always remember that, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” (Marcus Aurelius)
Embrace the prospect of failure
There is a line in an old Coldplay song that goes, “…and if you never try, you’ll never know just what you’re worth.” If you find yourself stuck, perhaps the solution is to stop letting yourself be paralyzed by fear. Whether is fear of failure or of what others think, always remember that if you try your very best and still fail, all is not lost, for you will have learned something valuable from the experience that will prepare you for whatever else may come. If your fear stops you from even trying, all that will be left is regret. Trust that you can reach (and even surpass) your highest expectations. Deep-seated fears are limiting beliefs that will only make you sabotage your own progress (whether consciously or not), so stop fearing failure and believe in yourself again. Remember the words of George Bernard Shaw, “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
Stop comparing yourself to others
It has been said that comparison is the thief of joy. One of the reasons you may find yourself stuck is because you’re comparing yourself to others. It’s easy to do when you’re constantly bombarded with the filtered squares of others’ perfect lives. Comparing your real life to others’ social media profiles does not often end well. Unless you know their circumstances as well as your own, it is not at all productive to compare where you’re currently at in life with what you believe others have achieved. Instead, if you compare yourself to where you started, you’ll see just how far you’ve come, and can begin making plans for where you’re headed.
Rediscover your purpose
Wondering why we’re here or what our purpose is, is not only saved for existential crises. The purpose of our lives goes beyond our jobs, our families and friends, or goals and accomplishments. Having a purpose means having something that makes you come alive, something you are truly passionate about and that you feel is worth fighting for. Perhaps you want to help others, or care about causes close to your heart such as the climate emergency, or homelessness or protecting animals. Perhaps there are things about yourself that you would like to improve. If you no longer feel inspired by your life’s purpose, it may be time to change it. If you don’t know your purpose or feel that you have one, now might be the time to find it. Reconnect with what makes you happy. Rediscover all of the things you love to do so much that you lose all track of time. Think about what your talents are, who inspires you and what makes you happy to be alive.
Hopefully one or all of these things will help you to become unstuck. “It’s the small habits. How you spend your mornings. How you talk to yourself. What you read and what you watch. Who you share your energy with. Who has access to you. That will change your life.” (Michael Tonge).