By Jor-El Caraballo
Feeling “stuck” is an awful feeling. Stuck can quickly turn to feeling hopeless and helpless. When you can’t achieve the things that you want, the internal dialogue can quickly turn to criticism and self-blame. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you’re looking to make some important changes in your life, here are some thoughts to get you unstuck.
It All Starts With Self-Reflection
Getting your life unstuck can be a big challenge, and it always starts with a bit of self-reflection and exploration. In order to move forward, you’re going to have to slow down and take stock of your life first. This means that you should set aside some time for quiet reflection without input and feedback from others. This can be hard to do with competing priorities and responsibilities, but it’s a necessary step.
When you sit down to reflect, ask yourself the following:“
- Where am I now?
- What is my life like?
- Am I doing the work that I hoped that I would do?
- Are my relationships succeeding?
- How would I want them to be better?
It’s imperative that you be as specific as possible, and to explore with a curious, non-judgemental mind. There are no right or wrong answers here! Being vague and broad with what you want will not only leave you feeling worse, but also make it difficult for you to take concrete action later on. It’s hard to problem-solve when you don’t know the actual problem, isn’t it?
Reconnect Your Purpose
Often when we can’t move forward, it means that we’re missing purpose and inspiration. From an existential perspective, we need purpose as humans. That purpose could be quite broad (working to reduce instances of cancer) but could also be smaller (to help support my team at work). Each purpose is valuable and valid, no matter what it is.
Take some time to explore what you have been most passionate about in the past. Ask yourself, “What motivates me?” or “What has driven some of my decisions so far?” Those questions might help you identify a purpose that you’ve long been disconnected from.
Take a Peek into the Future
As a therapist, I’ve worked with many clients who have come into the therapy space feeling stuck or confused about their path in life. One of the exercises that I find most helpful is an envisioning exercise. For some, looking into the ideal future can be very informative.
If you’re feeling stuck, try to imagine your life 10 years from now. Think about where you will be living, who you will be with, what you’ll be doing, etc. Create a mental picture of what that ideal life could look like. Maybe that’s what your heart desires.
Once you take a peek into the future then you might be able to start crafting a rough outline to get there. And remember, even if you pivot or change directions several times (most people do!) you still have made some progress.
Try Something New
Often, when we feel like we are in a rut, it’s an indication that something needs to change. Sometimes we don’t even know what that change is. When you don’t have insight into what needs to change, it can be helpful to try something new. Anything out of the ordinary, or that breaks your current routine, might give you some helpful guidance toward your next steps.
This could mean reading a new book for pleasure (which maybe you haven’t done in a while) or attending an event you wouldn’t normally attend. Taking a moment to step outside of yourself can jostle your system into feeling something new. Reacting to new stimuli might also leave you feeling inspired, and able to connect to a part of yourself that has long been forgotten.
Sometimes trying something new can be the catalyst for other changes in your life.
Work With a Therapist
If you’ve tried out some of the suggestions in this article and still can’t find your way out of the rut, it may be helpful to work with a therapist to help you examine what’s holding you back. Seeking support isn’t an indictment of weakness or incapability. Having an outside, professional perspective might help you get to the bottom of your “stuck-ness” and help you craft a plan to move forward.
In my work, I’ve often met with clients who have tried many things on their own but found themselves frustrated with their change process. Change is quite difficult! Sometimes this can lead to feelings of self-doubt and negative self-talk which may exacerbate ongoing mental health issues. If you have any doubt about your ability to move forward, consulting with a therapist will be insightful and help you identify and work through the barriers without judgement and self-criticism.