Do you feel stuck right now in your work?
Do you have a specific problem getting you stuck? Maybe you have no idea what you want to do for work, but know it’s not what you are doing right now.
You also might feel stuck, but you’re unsure why you feel that way.
Feeling stuck is a perfectly normal feeling. It’s a tension between two opposing feelings. On one hand, you know the path you’re on is making you feel miserable and is no longer an option. But the path forward is still unclear, so you don’t know how to move forward. Feeling stuck sucks, but that’s how you grow.
I’ve been there. I got deeply stuck in my career twice! After getting laid off in 2000 I had no idea what I wanted to do for work. I knew I was tired of working for someone else, but didn’t quite have the confidence to work on my own.
I wandered between freelance gigs, short-term jobs and business school for 5 years, until I finally moved to a new city. It provided me with a fresh perspective on my life. I finally realized self-employment was the lifestyle for me!
A couple of years ago I got stuck again, but for only about 18 months or so. Ironically, I got stuck while I was producing a podcast all about getting unstuck! It’s still up on iTunes, search for UnStuckable. That experience taught me a ton of lessons about why we get stuck, how to recognize when you are stuck and of course, how to get unstuck.
I’ve interviewed hundreds of successful entrepreneurs about what gets them unstuck.
You ready to get unstuck?? Here are 4 ways to get unstuck and make some serious moves with your life and career.
Method #1: Recognize you’re stuck.
Seems pretty obvious, I know! BUT, I’ve stayed stuck much longer than necessary because I didn’t recognize I was stuck. Even worse, sometimes I knew I was stuck, but couldn’t admit it. Even to myself!
Both are HUGE mistakes! If you want to solve a problem, you have to first identify the problem.
To help you more recognize the next time you are stuck here are 4 red flags:
You lack motivation. You have trouble focusing or you feel tired. You’ve lost interest and get distracted from the task at hand. It might be temporary lasting hours or days or it might be more chronic lasting weeks, months or even longer. You are out of touch with your values, your needs or your sense of purpose.
You lack an answer. There is a piece of knowledge not in your possession that is the missing piece to solve your problem. The harder you think about it, the more elusive the answer becomes. You might also have all the information you need, but can’t make the necessary connections to find your answer.
You lack a resource. You need more money or more time. You need to learn a new skill. You are one introduction away from someone who could transform your business. You are at a loss about how to get this missing resource.
You lack clear direction. There’s no clear path forward. You may have several options to choose from or none at all. You know you can’t stay on the path you are on, but the way forward is not immediately obvious to you. You don’t know what to do.
Next time you are starting to feel stuck, stop and recognize it. Say it out loud to yourself. Write it down. Get as specific as you can about what is getting you stuck by referring to the 4 most common ways of getting stuck.
Method #2: Stop doing what you’re doing and let go.
As soon as you recognize you are stuck and are even able to describe exactly what’s getting you stuck, stop working. Stop working on the task that’s getting you stuck. Even stop thinking about it.
If you keep doing what you are doing, you will most likely only get more stuck. As they say when you are in a hole, stop digging. Trying harder to solve the wrong problem is a dead end. Solving the right problem with the wrong solution is also wasted effort.
Ever have someone tell you to sleep on it? You know why that’s so frequently recommended?
Scientists believe sleep provides two primary functions. First, we sleep to restore our energy. Second, we sleep so our brain has time to process all the information it collected throughout the day. It does this by building new neural connections.
Even when you consciously let go of a problem that is getting you stuck, your brain is still working in it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to bed stuck on a problem. Then when I woke up the next morning I had a solution to my problem! At the very least I gained new insights for solving the problem getting me stuck!
Give it a try.
Method #3: Make new connections by gathering new perspectives.
When you get stuck, the connections in your brain get overloaded. You are preventing new pathways from forming. To gain new insights, your brain needs to make new connections.
You can help your brain form new connections by seeking new perspectives. Here are 4 exercises to try:
Go for a walk. Changing your physical environment gives your brain a new perspective. It provides new stimuli to focus on instead of the problem getting you stuck.
Go talk to someone. Staying inside your own head when you are feeling stuck will only make you more stuck. Engage and connect with another human. We evolved to help each other out, not to go it alone. Talk out your problem with a trusted colleague or friend.
Go do an enjoyable activity. It might be a favorite hobby or something that you find relaxing. What’s important here is to use FUN as a distraction to help you break the train of thought that is getting you stuck.
Go learn something new. Our brains like a challenge. The process of learning creates new pathways that might help get you unstuck.
In summary, go distract yourself as best you can. You’ll create more new connections in your brain, the more you engage with new challenges, connections or surroundings. The more new connections your brain forms, the more it can help you get unstuck!
Method #4: Try a new approach.
We often get stuck because we stay in our comfort zone too long. We keep trying the same approach because it’s familiar to us even though it’s not working. We don’t know what else to do, so we keep doing what we know. We end up getting stuck!
Embrace discomfort! Try a new approach. Even try the exact opposite method you’ve been using. Work in a different place and in a different way as a trigger to your brain to seek out new perspectives.
As you try your new approach don’t expect immediate results. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to solve the problem at hand. Learning a new approach takes time, but it will create loads of new connections in your brain!
Your solution might not arrive in the way you might expect, so do your best not to force it. That’s one of the reasons you go so stuck in the first place!
Do you want to get stuck less often? Or do you want to get unstuck faster the next time you get stuck? I’d like to share another little secret with you.
You need to get to know yourself better. You need to understand stuff that’s both holding you back and your unique abilities that maximize your potential. The better you know yourself, the less you’ll get stuck.
Want to learn more about yourself? I’ve designed a free 12-week self-assessment challenge. Each week you’ll focus on one aspect of your life to get to know yourself better than ever before.
If you want to get stuck less often, definitely start learning more about yourself. It’s the most important subject never taught to you!