3 Ways to Get Unstuck

We humans are creatures of habit. From checking our favorite websites to buying tried-and-true items at the grocery store to frequenting the local coffeehouse, routines offer familiarity, certainty and comfort.

A downside of such comfort is that we get comfortable in our patterned, grooved ways of being and doing. So, when we hit a period when we feel stuck, like in a job, relationship or life situation, we often turn to our familiar thought patterns and expect that somehow, some way, they will offer us new, creative solutions.

If you feel stuck in a loop — whether it’s a relatively new feeling, a longer-term funk or a common obstacle you just can’t seem to get beyond — here are three actionable ideas to help you get out of the muck and move forward.

Shift your focus. The writer Anne Lamott said, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” We’re always plugged in, and not just via technology. Our brains are continually thinking about something, including the visions for what we desire to be, do and have. The desire can be so strong that we attempt to bring it (whatever “it” is) about by the sheer power of thought and will, creating exhaustion in the process. Or we may have been working so hard toward a goal that we’ve developed tunnel vision and other areas of our lives feel the wear and tear.

To offer yourself some breathing room, imagine that whatever you have been focusing on is a book that you just haven’t been able to put down. Mark your page, set it on a table and focus on something else for a day or however longer feels right to you. During the downtime, do what you find restful and rejuvenating. After offering even a brief respite to your body, mind, spirit and emotions, you’ll likely have new insights about the storyline when you pick up the “book” again — or a solution to a challenge you previously couldn’t see your way through.

Research also shows that helping others helps us. So, when you focus on ways to help make life better for someone else, through either individual acts of service or regular volunteering, you’ll feel the benefits as well.

Seek a different perspective. Challenge yourself to introduce a fresh voice to the information you typically consume. For example, look for new podcasts in categories that interest you. Check to see who follows an author, teacher or coach whose work you enjoy on social media, and scroll for messages that resonate. Or find an aisle you usually don’t visit in the bookstore or at the library and look through the books or other media that catch your eye.

The point is to be willing to open the door to ideas you may not yet have considered, or different ways of relating to the people or circumstances in your orbit. You may find that nine out of 10 items you come across are somewhat or even quite interesting — but one rocks your world to the point where it feels like the universe just expanded. A little bit of willingness, and some small change-ups to your routine, could yield significant shifts.

Take the pressure off. At this point in our lives, who pushes us more than ourselves? Although some practically minded self-talk can get us to take action even when we don’t feel like it, berating or “should-ing” ourselves when we aren’t doing something we want or feel we need to do isn’t helpful.

Rather than pushing yourself to be or do in certain ways, try a gentler approach. Talk to yourself as kindly as you would talk to a friend, or even a child. Find something that feels good to do, no matter what it is or how small, and give yourself permission to do that. Then do the next thing that feels good, and the next and the next until you start to feel better and more resilient. You’ll build on the momentum, bit by bit, and you may find yourself pleasantly moving in a direction you hadn’t expected.

Some of what it takes to get unstuck may seem counterintuitive, but insanity is often defined as doing the same thing and expecting a different result. So why not mix it up and see what happens?

Kristen Quirk

Kristen Quirk is a transformational coach who helps professionals and spiritual seekers explore what it means to know themselves better, love themselves more and share from the heart. Kristen hosts the Being and Doing Now podcast and blog, and she is passionate about continually finding ways to connect more deeply with life, humans, animals and nature.

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