Are you stuck in life? Do you feel like you can’t break out of the rut you’re in? Today I want to talk about why we get stuck and offer some ideas of how to get unstuck.
“What upsets people is not things themselves, but their judgements about these things.”
Getting stuck in a rut is a fairly common occurrence in modern life. To be honest, it’s often been a curse throughout the ages. Because we are all creatures of habit, we often find something that works, then we cling to it because, while it may not be the best thing for us, it’s safe, and if we’re working in a creative realm we often have all kinds of fears and anxieties that pop up and make it challenging to move forward.
The reason that I’m doing an episode on this topic is that I struggle with this every week. I wish that I could say that creating an episode each week was easy and that the ideas just flowed from my mind and through the microphone, but they don’t. Each week is a challenge that I face as I come up with an idea, find information and quotes to help illustrate the points that I’m trying to make, and sit down synthesis all these ideas into a good episode for you.
As I’ve mentioned many times before, almost every episode that I put out is usually something that I’m working through in my personal life. As I work to try and solve the problems that I deal with, sitting down and creating an episode is a way for me to find some solutions, and do my best to share them with you.
So why do we get stuck? What is it that keeps up from progressing forward in our lives?
Lack of Resources
Sometimes we are stuck because have a lack of resources to make progress. That could mean that we don’t the funds to accomplish our goals. We may not have the right equipment or tools to complete a project. We may not have the opportunities for the education we need.
Often the resource we lack most of is time. We may simply have too many other commitments and lack the time to be able to achieve what we want. I’ve run into this many times myself and have gone through periods of my life where I reduce the number of things I’m working on at any given time so that I don’t burn out.
We may be dependent on someone else. Sometimes other people are in positions that block us from being able to accomplish what we want. This could be anyone from a manager to even someone in your family.
Probably the most challenging is when it comes from a partner. So, last week I sent out an email to all the people on my email list and asked them what their biggest challenge was when it came to self improvement. There were a lot of different answers, but one that came up more frequently than I expected was dealing with partners who were not interested in personal growth, and they felt like they were at odds with them in their efforts to improve themselves.
Sometimes we get stuck because we don’t know what to do. We may be trying something new, and because it’s new, we don’t know what steps are needed to move us forward. For example, as I’m working on turning the podcast into a full time job, I’m very unsure of what to do.
Coaching, masterminds, creating courses, and learning how to market them is something that is way outside of my comfort zone, and there are plenty of times when I have no idea what to do next. In my case, there is certainly not a dearth of information, but rather there is too much information. I don’t know what next steps I should take because there are so many opinions of how to make this successful.
Often we’re stuck in a rut because we’re just simply burnt out. We might be over scheduled. We might be just trying to take on too much. We might have other obligations or people that have demands on our time that we don’t have the courage to step up and say no to. Burnout is something that is very real, and often times it takes us crashing and burning to recognize that’s what’s going on in our lives, and this will often force us to take step back and start to care for ourselves a little better.
“The limit is not the sky. The limit is the mind.”
— Wim Hof
I think the biggest reason that we get stuck in our lives is fear. Fear is the primary driver of so many of our actions, that we may not even be truly aware of it. But the thing is that fear is caused by our own minds. Most of the things that we are afraid of are things that we just imagine might cause us some kind of pain, but in most cases the only pain we ever feel is our own distress, not any real physical harm.
There are different kinds of fear that can keep up from moving forward. First and foremost is the fear of failure. We can get so fixated on not being able to meet certain expectations, that we fail to even get started on a project or we refuse to put ourselves out there. This fear can also be driven from several places such as our fear of being judged by others, especially when we sensitive to external validation from others. Rather than even trying, we just avoid the situation altogether.
The fear of failure can also swing the other way and we can become paralyzed with perfectionism. Our inner critic can convince us that whatever it is that we are working on is just not good enough. So we keep working on it and working on it far past the point where most people would consider it complete. Sometimes we just give up on it because we never reach a point where we consider it complete.
We can also get stuck with fear of the unknown. Because the future is always uncertain, we may stay stuck because of that uncertainty. We’d rather stick with what we know because it’s safe. We might even be comfortable where we are in life, and therefore don’t want things to change at all. But as we all know, life is never static so the wish to keep things as they are is something that will ultimately fail.
The thing about all the fears we have that keep us stuck are usually things that don’t even exist outside of our own minds. It is our perception of these things, and all the awful scenarios that we conjure up which cause us the most pain in the form of anxiety. We become our own tormentors.
So what are some things that we can do to help get ourselves unstuck?
“Discomfort is the currency of success.”
— Brooke Castillo
“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”
— M. Scott Peck
Often, we procrastinate on something because we have associated a strong negative feeling with the activity that we are trying to do. It’s often challenging because we feel like something is wrong with us that we have something we want to accomplish, and yet, we will put it off and even self-sabotage ourselves.
I know that for me, many times I have struggled getting this podcast done because I feel like it’s just not going to be good enough. That feeling that it has to somehow be perfect creeps in and makes it so my brain wants to avoid working on it. At that point, everything else seems much more interesting, so it’s easeir to get distracted.
In order to move past procrastination, we need to be mindful of the story that we are telling ourselves about what we need to accomplish. We need to be mindful of the feelings that we have somehow associated with our task. In my case, that it needs to be perfect. I continually remind myself, that a good episode is far better than none, and more likely to get a good episode done than a “perfect” episode.
Developing that mindfulness can help us face the different fears that we have about something. If we don’t understand why we’re avoiding something, it makes it very challenging to to actually face up to and overcome the fears that we have created in our minds.
“Now is the time to get serious about living your ideals. How long can you afford to put off who you really want to be? Your nobler self cannot wait any longer. Put your principles into practice – now. Stop the excuses and the procrastination. This is your life! […] Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now.”
I know that I talk a lot on my podcast about focusing on the process and learning how to enjoy the work, but sometimes we get fixated on the out come. So, if this is the case, and we’re going to slide into that way of thinking, why don’t we do a nice jujitsu move on our brains and use this to help us out?
Sometimes imagining what accomplishing something will feel like in the future can be very useful to us. We can imagine how good it will feel to complete our task. We can imagine how much less stressful it will feel once we’re done working on it. When you reach that point, your future self with thank your present self for putting in the hard work.
Copy The Masters
"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while."
— Steve Jobs
One thing that I’ve found that is helpful when I’m creating music, writing, or even writing software, is that I find songs or elegant solutions that other people have created and copy what they are doing. If it’s music, I’ll try to may my own version of someone else’s song then start adding my own sounds, arrangements, or variations to make it my own. If it’s writing, I’ll read great books or listen to great podcasts to get inspiration or learn new things to expand my horizons. If it’s coding problem, then I’ll try to find tutorials or code that others have posted that can help me make progress on what I’m doing.
The point is, in this age where we have so much information available to us, we should use it to build off the shoulders of giants. Much of what we do in this world is about combining unusual ideas to create new and better ones. We have all kinds of of processes and tools that can help us take what is good, and make it great. Sometimes it’s not about creating a completely unique idea, but rather looking at something with a different perspective.
Break it Down
Sometimes we get stuck because the task we’re approaching seems so overwhelming. By taking some time to break things down to smaller and more discreet tasks, it can make things much easier. Rather than being one giant task that you have to get done, it can be several smaller tasks that are much easier to get done.
This is something that we do very often in software development. Since software applications are built of lots interworking pieces of code, breaking a large project into smaller parts that can be completed in a shorter amount of time makes it more likely that the project will get completed. If you’re interested in this process and want to adapt it into your workflow, check out scum or agile development and see if you might be able to apply it to what you’re working on.
Sometimes the way to get past the being stuck it to set yourself short timelines so that you just get started. And what I mean by that is that if you find that it’s difficult to go for a run, set a minimum amount of time that you have to run. Something like 5 or 10 minutes. That means that you only have to run for 5 or 10 minutes, then you can can turn around and go home. Or, that you only have to write or paint for 5 or 10 minutes then you can quit. Often, it only takes getting the action started, then it’s easier to keep going. By creating some momentum with a timeline that is easy to complete, it makes it easier to keep going.
Ask For Help
“Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those who you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one: men learn as they teach.”
Probably the hardest thing to do when we’re stuck is to reach out to others and ask for help. This is not easy because far too often we think that we need to go it alone and that asking for help is admitting failure. Often we think that other people won’t want to help us and so we don’t ask so we don’t get rejected. But the thing is, other people like to help, and often can bring new and interesting insights into what you’re working on. They may have skills that you don’t have, and know things that you never would have figured out.
This is something that I’ve been working on myself. I’ve found a few people who are stronger in areas that I don’t know much about, or they are willing to just talk through things that help me see things that I might have missed. Plus, when you ask others for help, it’s a great space to build a better connection with them. I know that I appreciate it when people are vulnerable and ask me for help.
Getting unstuck is not an easy thing to do, but most of the things that keep us stuck are products of our own mind. By becoming aware of the thoughts and behaviors that derail us, we can develop coping mechanisms that can help get us back on track. We can find ways to help our minds work with us and achieve the things that we want, and in doing so help us get unstuck just a little faster.
Hello friends! Thank you for listening.
if you want to take these ideas and yourself to the next level, join the Stoic Coffee House. https://stoic.coffee/join
Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!
Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂
Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.