Updated: Feb 5, 2019
You've got places to go and people to see. And a tremendous life that's waiting.
Believe it or not, I work with people from all over the world who frequently talk about exactly the same thing: feeling stuck. That's not a particularly fun universal! The details may be different, but the same sense of feeling locked up and totally unsure what to do about it shows up in people’s lives everywhere.
Yep, I’ve been there too, more times than I prefer to count. But living like that wasn’t working for me, not even a little bit, so I made it my personal mission to find ways to get UNstuck. My pursuit wasn’t always pretty, but I finally got really good at creating motion even when it seemed excruciatingly real that there weren’t any options.
Want to unstick you? Here’s what I learned:
1. Get Bigger.
When you’re sitting inside a box viewing your situation from that perspective, all you’ll see are walls–dark, heavy, seemingly impenetrable walls. To perceive what’s beyond that box, you have to expand your awareness beyond it.
I used to rely on that old dictum, “Time heals all wounds.” Even if what I was going through wasn’t a wound-creating experience per se, I leaned in on the safety or comfort of knowing that eventually there would be enough time/distance that any gut-cringe wouldn’t matter anymore. But making the box you feel stuck in more palatable is not the same as eradicating it.
Eventually it was clear that in order to feel stuck, I had to make myself as small as the box I felt stuck in. Was I the size of a moment, a situation, a feeling, a condition? No, I was exponentially bigger. I was, however, making myself small and constricted to fit inside a stuck perspective. To change that, I began asking in every moment of discomfort, despair, or stuckness of any kind, “Which is greater, this or me?” It was always me.
A lot of the people I talk to are working with a situation that’s complex... because, life. Often included are ends to relationships, money woes, challenging family dynamics, and other fears and factors that seem like huge, messy obstacles. No matter what is going on in your world, you are always bigger. You can tell as many stories as you want to defend your stuckness, or you can make a different choice to have a greater life. Start with getting bigger.
Pretending you’re that small is a total denial of the truly magnificent being you are. That’s why stuck feels so miserable. Right now, close your eyes for a moment and reach out and touch the outer edges of you. It only takes a second to realize that there are no edges to you. You can expand in all directions without limits because you’re actually an infinite being. Play with roaming the earth within your mind’s eye and finding yourself everywhere. Now go beyond the earth. Go beyond just the physical too. Find yourself in color and music and laughter. You are everywhere.
When you get bigger, expanding into the space of you, it’s clear that “stuck” is just an illusion. It may be compelling and persuasive, but it's not powerful like you.
2. Lighten Up.
I can’t possibly count how many times people in my life have told me to lighten up. They’ve generally said it with judgment (and a hearty dose of gaslighting), but some people have obviously had some awareness about the heaviness I was choosing to be. I used to think all problems were really significant, inherently important, and apparently riddled with trauma and drama. Yeah, I might have been a little intense about it (but I'm sure you wouldn't do anything like that).
Then this magical thing happened. I realized that there are no problems unless we create them and define it that way. It took many passes through this idea before it started to sink in.
When a situation comes up that isn’t working, we define it as a problem and then define our relationship to it accordingly. Really take a look at this: How many auto-response programs do you have running for how to deal with a problem? Don’t say you don’t know–you do know! There are many. Once you define something as a problem, you activate those programs even though you’re likely not realizing it. This can include feeling frustrated, angry, or overwhelmed. Maybe there’s resentment, blame, guilt, grief. Do you start self-medicating with food or alcohol or other distractions? Create trauma and drama? Perhaps you become a total control freak, or maybe you start to shut down. We have elaborate response systems at the ready that get knee-jerked into action as soon as a “problem” arises.
Then what happens? Maybe you tell a few people, collect some friends and family who agree or validate you have a problem, digging you into reason and justification for feeling heavy and stuck. Notice how a layer of victim programming can get activated? Identifying as a victim locks the stuckness in further.
Or perhaps you’re someone who believes you have to take care of everything by yourself. Add problems to the mix of everything you already manage, and it’s a pretty effective way to sprinkle righteousness into victimhood. Now being stuck can become a badge of self-importance. It’s a slippery slope towards more misery.
Some people romanticize problems through things like Buddhist quotes or some allegedly enlightened perspective about universal darkness and light and spiritual growth. That’s all very well and good, but what does it create? Does it actually change anything? Does it unstick you? Perhaps it creates some relief. For me, relief wasn’t gonna cut it. I wanted freedom.
What if, when a problem arises or you’re feeling stuck, instead of going into auto-response you asked, “What is the possibility here?” You may have to ask it twenty times or more before it starts to sink in through the layers of programming, but practice it. It’s amazing how freeing it is to acknowledge there is another possibility. It allows you to start lightening up, especially if you’re already choosing to get bigger.
I also like the question, “What’s right about this that I’m not getting?” We like to define problems as wrong. Once something is labeled wrong, a whole avalanche of judgments follows suit, exacerbating the situation. Asking what’s right is not about flipping the judgments to make yourself right, but to allow a different perspective on the situation.
You could liken it to finding a silver lining, but it's more than that. It's not saying, "Hey, this is shit, but I found a cookie." It's more like, "Oh, this isn't actually shit. Weird. It seems like it should be, but it's actually funny and kind of heartwarming. And I discovered I have skills I didn't even realize. And I'm enjoying my own company a whole lot more now. And I found a cookie." Asking what's right about something isn't an exercise in deciding what's right, it's a willingness to see things differently. It begins to key you into a place of empowerment.
Everyone else around you may continue to choose stuck. That’s ok! What’s right about that that you’re not getting? What is the possibility there? Are you choosing to stay small because they are? Interesting choice. What if you made the demand of yourself that you're having a greater life regardless of what anybody else is up to?
3. Undefine It.
Ultimately, problems are only problems if you define them that way. We have a lot more power with how we operate in our lives than we generally acknowledge. No matter how messy, how elaborate, how huge the “problem” is and how stuck you feel with it, start asking, “What if I didn’t view this as a problem?”
Undefine your situation. Are you actually stuck? What if you aren’t? If you didn’t believe you were stuck, would you be? Getting out of your definitions will lighten up everything.
Look, you decided how to view your life. Someone may have influenced you, but you chose to create it that way. Which means, you can destroy how you see things and create something new. It's really up to you. Really.
4. Ask Questions.
One of my personal favorite ways to liberate myself from any situation I’m not enjoying, is to look at any judgment or definition I have and ask, “What if it wasn’t that?” Think something is hard? What if it wasn’t? Find something annoying? What if it wasn’t? Have you decided change will end up hurting someone? What if it won’t? What if it will actually be a gift? Ask questions. You have to allow in a different possibility to have one show up.
True questions invite change. Asking something like, “Why am I so broke,” doesn’t change anything, it only drives you in deeper. Asking instead, “What can I do to change this? What actions can I take? What else can I choose? What resources do I have available that I’ve never considered? What else can I create,” opens the doors between you and the universe so that you can actually change something.
When you’re willing to look at any situation and know that it doesn’t have to be heavy, that it’s your choice to make it significant or not, and that you do have other options available, you free yourself from stuck.
What if getting unstuck was actually easy? You make it hard. I know, that can be really obnoxious to hear sometimes. But if you’re willing to get bigger, let go of your insistence on seeing things as a problem, and ask the questions that allow a different possibility into your world, you might be surprised at how much ease you can truly have.
What if you were never stuck again? What would you like to choose?