I’m Stuck! What Should I Do?


I can’t tell you how many clients I have worked with who are frantic because they feel that they are “stuck” in their lives. They’re usually feeling very agitated and angry because life is not bringing them what they think they want, despite the fact that when asked what they want, usually there is no concrete answer. And part of the problem is just that. If you don’t know what you want, how can you expect to get it? Or even, if you don’t know what you want, how do you expect to know when you do get it? We often have to dig through some layers to get at the core of the issue. The core of the issue is usually a big, fat, hairy surprise to boot.

When I work with people when they are feeling stuck in their lives – or when I work with myself when I’m feeling stuck! – I often refer to an article by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. She wrote about the fact that she was lucky insofar as she didn’t have too many passions in her life to confuse her along her journey; writing was really her only true, boiling, lifetime passion. Yet after the success of Eat, Pray, Love, she was involved in writing her follow-up book. She wrote her first draft and gave herself this self-evaluation: it was crap.

Feeling totally demoralized, she turned to a trusted friend because for the first time in her life, she felt absolutely no passion for writing. Not one iota. It was as thought the well of creativity had run dry. Her friend gave her this advice and this is the advice I give to myself and to my clients:

“Take a break! Don’t worry about following your passion for a while. Just follow your curiosity instead.”

The conclusion to Gilbert’s story is that she did just that. She felt a “modest spark” of interest in learning to garden, so that is what she turned her attention toward. She stepped away from her desk and into the garden for several months, and suddenly felt an opening, revved up her computer and started writing again. Successfully, I might add.

4 Ways to Feel Unstuck

TAKE A BREAK. Just like Gilbert, step back and give it a rest for goodness sake! I have to take this one to heart because I am personally the worst at grinding on an issue until it lays on the floor in a gooey mess. Don’t do that! Step back before your head feels like it’s going to explode or you feel you need to check yourself into the loony bin.

MEASURE YOUR EXPECTATIONS. I had a conversation with my daughter just the other day about how we can at least be aware of when our expectations – of ourselves, of others, of stuff – is setting us up for feels of frustration. When we feel stuck, we feel agitated and frustrated, as though things outside of ourselves are somehow controlling our destiny. When you realize, for instance, that driver’s will cut you off in traffic, that your boss won’t learn to schedule more effectively, or that you can’t be the “end-all” to everyone around you – you will feel less frustrated and less stuck. Simply adjusting your expectations will give you a great sense of relief.

TAKE YOURSELF LIGHTLY. Go ahead. See if you can find ways to lighten up. Watch a funny movie. Go for a walk. Cook a nice meal. Redirect your thoughts to something tangible and doable in the moment. When we feel stuck, we have a tendency to hang on tight to that feeling of “OMG!” Of course if you are a person who feels this way 98% of the time, when we’re talking about something a bit different. Yet if this is something you experience occasionally, chances are you just need a few tools and a few reminders to recalibrate yourself.

TAKE A STEP, ANY STEP. Feeling stuck is truly a horrifying feeling in its own right. Like walking in a vat of tar. And let’s face it: This feeling does not bring out the better in us. In fact, it brings out the cynic in me. It brings out the highest caliber of self-deprecation I could possibly muster. It brings out every feeling of scarcity and fear of the unknown all tied up with a big fat discouraging bow on top. So when we can take a step – toward something – we can begin to feel a small sense of movement. Sometimes that’s all we need. Just movement, ever so slightly, forward. However you might define it. Need to evaluate your marriage? Need to get up an hour earlier? Want to shift out of feeling anxious to feeling easeful in your life? Take a small smidgeon of a step. You might be surprised at what unexpectedly opens up as you do.

And if you really want to get unstuck, seek out my friend and colleague ERIKA NAPOLETANO, the Mistress of Getting You Unstuck. See her at www.ErikaNapoletano.com