Follow these tips and get back in the flow.
When we feel stuck in life – when a project stagnates or a goal seems forever out of reach – getting things moving again can be a Herculean challenge.
We’ve all heard expressions describing what it feels like when we find ourselves glued to the same spot, with no hope of moving forward:
Wading through cement.
Having the reverse Midas touch.
Spinning your wheels.
And the more colorful one:
Up s**t creek without a paddle!
When I’m stuck, the thing I really yearn for is being “in the flow.” There’s no better feeling than the ease of presence and complete engagement in what I’m doing, even when it involves problems and challenges.
But be aware that getting unstuck isn’t necessarily about entering the flow state instantly. There are a number of things you can do in the short term that will increase your chances of finding your flow in the long term.
If You’re Stuck, Focus on Incremental Changes
I’m not talking about giant leaps here. You’ve probably heard me say before that it’s the small incremental changes that will reliably lead you to the big ones. But in order for the small changes to have a cumulative effect, you have to pay attention and acknowledge them. Give them some credit, so to speak.
Here are six suggestions for making small changes to help you start moving forward again.
1. Change your attitude.
When we feel stuck in life, there is usually something in the now-moment we’re resisting even if we’re unaware of it. It’s as if we’ve dug in our energetic heels and refuse to budge. Usually what we resist is not the thing itself, but the way we perceive it.
Attitude can readily tank my perception of life when I’m not paying attention. When this happens, I’ve learned to remind myself there are always different ways to look at something.
While no one I know likes changing the cat litter, I think it’s fair to say we’re all able to breathe easier after it’s done. I often resist washing up the dishes at night when I’m exhausted, but I love to wake up to a clean kitchen. I have a friend who hates gardening, but he loves the home-grown vegetables he gets from all his hard work.
When we focus on the outcome instead of the task itself, we’re better able to challenge our resistance to it. This is why a simple attitude shift can be enough to get us moving in the right direction.
2. Expand your awareness of what’s possible.
I often get stuck fixating on the homerun outcome and dismiss the first step in a new direction as meaningless. And when I’m stagnating, it’s pretty hard to be curious about new possibilities. For me this shows up as thoughts like…
Nothing changes, no matter what I do.
It’s not turning out how I want, so my efforts must be pointless.
Why try when the future won’t be any better than the past.
I work really hard, but I never get anywhere.
If you’re stuck in this kind of thinking, work on expanding your awareness of real, tangible potentials. Focus on what can be actualized with the time, energy and money you have right now.
Explore the alternatives to what you’re doing right now, and try not to prejudge a possibility. Take some time to genuinely investigate if an idea could be a practical, achievable and beneficial step forward. Look for alternatives that might be a stretch but are still within your reach. If the potential you’re investigating turns out to be more than you can handle, then scale back the size of what you’re trying to accomplish or the pace you’ve set to achieve it.
For example, maybe you’d love to remodel your bathroom, but the cost is more than you can afford right now. So, ask yourself: would a fresh coat of paint help in the meantime? How about a nice set of towels, some new plants or a different shower curtain to liven things up, just for now? And don’t try to get it all done in one weekend!
3. Break your habit pattern!
Feeling stuck in life usually follows a pattern. So, watch yourself closely to identify the pattern in your thought process, and the behavior and choices that come with it. Click To Tweet Then target something in your pattern and do one small thing differently to change it.
For example, if you struggle with clutter, tackle one source of it at a time. If the mail pile is ready to tip over and bury your dining room table, work on a new habit of opening and dealing with that day’s mail, plus one piece from the pile, until the pile is gone. I don’t know about you, but most of the stuff in my piles of paper usually winds up in the recycling, so have your recycle bin handy!
4. Identify the source of your anxiety.
Stagnation is often a result of paralyzing anxiety about the uncertain future. So, keep an eye out for the habit of engaging in nebulous, nail-biting thoughts that fuel your fears. Instead, try asking yourself, “What is the specific uncertainty causing me to be afraid?” Once you’ve identified this uncertainty, try to accept its presence in your life, just for now.
Technology is one of my top sources of anxiety. If I need outside help, my mind magnifies the smallest problem, certain I’ll be vulnerable to having crucial information stolen and my life ruined. It can feel like walking the plank just to call tech support to start the process.
When I manage to calm down and climb out of my disaster scenario, I’m able to take a step-by-step approach to solving the problem, make the call and learn the next thing I need to know to move forward again.
5. Deal with one thing at a time.
If you’re feeling so overwhelmed you don’t know where to start, it probably means you’re taking on too much at once. Your impulse may be to rush to get everything done so you no longer have it hanging over your head, even if you know it isn’t reasonable to push yourself that hard. Look at it this way: you won’t be able to move a thousand-pound pallet of boxes all at once, but you can certainly lift and carry one 25 lb. box at a time. Overwhelm is often reduced simply by dividing up your workload into manageable pieces and completing one thing at a time.
6. Take care of yourself.
The world won’t fall apart if you stop to look at a sunset, read a chapter in a good book, slip into a hot bath or say “no” to a grandchild or close friend who wants more from you than you want to give right now. Taking care of yourself depends on the ability to make your self-care a priority in balance with the needs of those around you. For me, this starts with a reality check about what others actually need from me. I have to keep reminding myself that my three daughters are well over 18!
Most importantly, rest when you’re tired. Eat when you’re hungry. Let that after-hours phone call go to voice mail. Put your cell phone on “do-not-disturb” when needed. If you’ve been sitting a long time, get up from your desk and take a walk. Avoid medicating with alcohol, drugs or food. Don’t veg in front of the television or lose yourself in cyber space.
At different times in my life, each of these tips has helped me get unstuck. Choose any one of them you think might help you. Then, spend the week implementing it.
The truth is, getting unstuck often results from very small, incremental changes in the status quo. So, if you’re stuck, implementing any one of these changes should get you moving again. And movement is the goal because, however slight it may be, movement is flow!
Take Good Care,
Meg : )
Thanks Meg, I always find your articles helpful and thought-provoking.