“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” – Mandy Hale
We all at times feel stagnated or emotionally stuck, worthless, and confused. These feelings often build slowly overtime and may evolve into anxiety, fear, depression or overwhelm. We all experience that feeling where we just don’t feel like ourselves anymore or we feel stressed, exhausted or irritable as though we are trapped and starting to question ourselves as to ‘is this the real me’? And we have all these goals we desperately like to achieve and somewhere along the way we have lost our drive and we lack forward momentum. It is like you’re doing the same old thing, but it doesn’t seem like you are actually getting anywhere. Instead of moving forward toward your goals, you feel as though you are just stuck at the same point going in circles. You then struggle and force yourself to work, to come up with ideas or to make things happen in such a state.
When you are stuck, things feel immovable, entrenched and even hopeless. This constant feeling of life should be different than it is makes you force yourself to do something and words like ‘should’, ‘have to’ and ‘must’ appear in your thinking. Being stuck is like you getting stuck in quicksand, the more you try to get out, the deeper you sink as your mind tends to push, control, and manipulate. We feel as if we simply cannot move on with our goals as if there was something that kept us from pursuing our dreams. As a consequence, we feel limited and held back without an idea how to break free from such invisible obstacles or limitations.
If you’re feeling stuck, this may be why
When you feel stuck, your mind is filled with confusion and inner conflict and you cannot see the possibilities all around you as you get caught up in the negativity, mistaken assumptions, and limiting beliefs. There are some valid reasons why you feel like you are stuck at the moment. Understanding these reasons can help you become aware of how you got yourself into such state.
Toxic emotions like shame, fear, guilt, anger or flawed can stifle your energy and prevent you from being yourself. When you get stuck, may be you spiralled off into a cascade of regrets about the past, worry about the future, or judgment about yourself. You keep repeating old thoughts and behaviours that no longer fit the current reality. Sometimes, your need to be right leads to conflict with others rather than understanding. You try to protect yourself from these unpleasant feelings by being overtly defensive in a way to avoid taking responsibility for your behaviour. These hidden toxic emotions often serves to keep you stuck.
Stuck in the past. When you want to move forward, our mind has a tendency to look to the past and tries to find solutions based on past or what it already knows. It might be your past failure or a deep-seated belief that might be keeping you stuck.
Fear of unknown. Whatever you fear limits you from moving forward. Fear of unknown sabotages your own progress. Living a life without risks might seem like a logical thing to do. But gets you used to your comfort zone and makes it difficult to ever break free from it. This habit leads you to become stuck in life.
Physical and mental exhaustion. We all try to fulfil our dreams through relentless effort and overcoming obstacles. While determination and focus are valuable qualities, expending need less energy, stress and exhaustion take over your life. When you are stressed, your attention gets scattered to pursue meaningful and purposeful goals making you feel stagnant.
Self-doubt and feeling unworthy
Self-judgment is one of the greatest reason that people get stuck. When you judge yourself as unworthy, you don’t believe in yourself or in your abilities. You keep your expectations low and resist the positive changes because you fear that you are incapable of reaching your desired outcome and remain stuck in an unchallenging position.
Constant disappointment. When you fail to meet your expectations or when you make mistakes or fail, you get disappointed. Constant disappointments make you feel helpless. As a result, you are stuck in the same situation unable to move forward towards your desired goals.
Lack of focus and purpose. May be you are stuck because you lack focus and purpose or you’ve set no goals. May be it is because you have no active passions or you have too much to handle and are unable to focus on your priorities. Lack of direction keeps you stagnant.
Limited perspective and hope. Wallowing in pessimism and constant worrying can keep you stuck in the same place. This not only limits your possibilities but also generates unhelpful emotions like frustration and hopelessness. Limited perspective holds you back from reaching your highest potential.
Lack of motivation. When you are not motivated intrinsically or if you are pursuing things that you are not passionate enough, you lack enthusiasm to take positive action or to move forward.
Being in ‘stuck’ state further manifests into
• Avoidance of people, situations and tasks
• Unproductive habits
• Criticizing others
So, what can you do to get unstuck?
“Getting stuck is not a problem. Staying stuck is. Good learners practice getting unstuck.” – Alistair Smith
Having a clear understanding why you are stuck is the first step towards moving forward. Now since you have identified that there are changes that need to be made, the next step involves willingness to change and to make those changes to break free from feeling stuck. Here are some more strategies to get unstuck.
Certain emotional responses might cloud your perception of reality. Sometimes feeling stuck could be a response to exaggerated expectations. Be mindful and accept your difficult emotions to improve your emotional agility. Identify your toxic emotions to understand what they are telling you- what you can learn about your desires, boundaries, or needs. One way to get perspective on difficult emotions is to write them down. Call it, name it, and define it. Putting your emotions into words gives them less power. This doesn’t mean they won’t return, but you will be more prepared to not to get stuck. Also negative emotions can be clues to your deepest insecurities and to your inconsistencies. So, you can make small course corrections to move forward in right direction. Emotional agility is choosing how you will respond to your emotional warning system by loosening up, calming down and living with more intention.
If you want to get unstuck, acknowledge your fears and accept the situation you are in. Changing how you perceive your fears might not make your fears disappear but you can move ahead inspite of them. Don’t allow your fear of losing what you have to stop you from moving on. Try to think about the worst possible outcome of that which is causing you anxiety or keeping you stuck. It might be just your fear trying to persuade you to do nothing about your situation that is keeping you stuck. It is important to realise that you would be still be able to find a way out and can initiate positive change. Do not allow your perceived fear discourage you from making changes.
Limited perspectives can decrease your ability to see existing opportunities. You feel as if you have seemingly impossible options to implement. Your limited thinking patterns and an array of unhelpful choices can contribute to the feeling of being stuck. It is your inflexibility what keeps you stuck. Instead of getting trapped by your limited perspectives and thinking patterns, try to explore new possibilities by learning new skills, insights, knowledge and information. Break yourself from negative beliefs and explore new perspectives by asking yourself, what reasons am I telling myself? What excuses am I making? What patterns am I seeing? Your excuses might be keeping you from moving forward. Think long-term and reconnect to broader perspective and improve your possibilities by opening yourself to new experiences and people.
Let go of past mistakes
Holding onto past failures and mistakes leads to self-doubt and decreases your self-belief. You might be holding yourself back from making certain decisions and choices because of your past regrets. This leads to indulging in unproductive and unhelpful habits like procrastination or self-sabotage. Do not allow your past mistakes and failures to keep you right where you are. stop rationalising and focusing on all the different reasons that keep you stuck. Learn from them by reflecting on them and put things in perspective to make sure that you don’t make the same mistake again. Taking some time out to reflect on all the successes you had and things you achieved can also help you to get unstuck.
Break unproductive routine
Feeling stuck can be the result of your unhelpful and unproductive habits or restraining routines. While we are creatures of habits, our habits can quickly become stale, leaving us feeling stuck or unsatisfied in certain areas of our lives. Developing certain habits and routines can be quite helpful as they provide a structure to work with. But at the same time, they can also limit your possibilities as some of them can be time-wasting and unhelpful. Stagnation often results when you continue to do the same thing over and over again for long period of time. Your usual routine can develop into restrictive rules and obligations. This regular routine can turn unproductive and needs to be broken in order to free yourself from feeling stuck.
Reevaluate your goals
At times, you might be stuck for all the wrong reasons. May be your goals are not serving your purpose or you are stuck because you are doing for someone else’s benefit. Asking yourself as to whether your goals are serving your present purpose or do they need to be modified provides forward momentum. Also prioritising those that are in alignment with your core values and life purpose can help you find the right motivation you need to move out of your stuck state. Gain clarity on why and what you are indulging in and what would you prefer to do instead. Set some new goals that you are passionate about and create a plan of action to get unstuck.
Do you feel that you have no traction in your life and that you are just spinning your wheels? What is stopping you? Is it your mindset, belief, fear or an excuse? Are your current patterns helping you in making progress? Or are you feeling stuck? Are your negative emotions dominating your life? What specific fears are keeping you stuck? How are your existing habits hurting you? What new habits could you develop to support your goals? Why must you get out of this stuck state? What changes can you make to get unstuck?
Asking yourself above questions can help you in arriving at possible solutions.
It is natural to feel stuck during some points in our life and these moments exist to remind us that we are always growing and evolving. If you feel stuck in some areas of your life, you don’t have to remain where you are. Remember that “stuckness” never has to be permanent. Even if you feel like you’ve been stuck forever, you always have the freedom to choose new goals by making small changes in your life to find your way out. With the help of the above strategies, identify the reasons and areas you need to work on and choose to make the necessary changes to create the forward momentum you need to achieve your goals.