Along whatever path you’re traveling on, there are bound to be obstacles. Have you ever experienced a time where you were feeling stuck, frustrated and dissatisfied with the current state of your life? When you knew something needed to change, but you’re just weren’t sure what? We all go through phases where we feel stuck. Sometimes it’s because we’re caught up in analysis paralysis, trying to figure out the “right” answer. Other times, it’s because we honestly don’t know what to do to move ourselves forward. In some cases, we may know what to do, but we’re too debilitated by fear to take any action.
Maybe we’re simply so overwhelmed with the current state of our lives that we can’t even be bothered to think about how to get ourselves unstuck, so we just continue on our path, however unsatisfying. This becomes even more frustrating, because by doing nothing, nothing changes.
So here are a few other questions that might help you figure things out. Ask them to yourself and see what your self has to say.
1. What do I really want, and how might I be stopping myself from getting that?
We often have far more control over some things than we think we do. When we don’t take ownership of this power, we can feel helpless in the face of external events and forces and also feel stuck. Of course, there are many things that we can’t influence. We need to be discerning about focusing on what we can control and letting go of the things we can’t. For example, many of us want other people in our lives to validate and support our decisions and actions, but we can’t control how other people feel, act, or respond. If we’re waiting for others to change or to give us permission before we go for what we want, we’re waiting for something that is beyond our control. Asking this question helps us identify where we might have more control over our situation than we think we do. It also sheds light on what we can do differently to feel more powerful and in charge of our circumstances.
2. What is in the way of getting what I want?
Think about the specific aspect of your life where you’re feeling stuck. Sometimes the feeling can be overwhelming, and it seems like everything is going wrong. But if you had to narrow it down, where do you feel things are the most frustrating? Where are you the most blocked? What part of your life would you most like to change? It could be your career, your finances, your relationship, etc. Now that you have a clear picture of what it is you want, it’s time to get honest with yourself. What do you see as your obstacles? This includes external limits like family obligations and work hours, and internal limitations such as thoughts like, “I don’t deserve this,” or “I won’t be any good at this, so why try.” List all of them, both external and internal.
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3. In ten years’ time, what will be most important to me?
How many big decisions from ten years ago can you remember today? I don’t know about you, but a lot of the things I agonized over a decade ago aren’t even on my radar now! The gift of hindsight is a beautiful thing, and the good news is that we don’t need to wait for ten years to pass to get clarity on current events and choices. When I ask myself this question, it takes me out of a scarcity-based short-term mindset and helps me stay true to my values in the long-term. I can focus on who I want to be and on the activities and projects that most contribute to my long-term desires and goals.
4. Who do I value in my life?
When answering this question, be sure to be specific and exclusive. Choosing values is all about prioritization. Approximately every company in the world has “excellence” as one of their core values, but what does that even mean? It’s like telling the genie your wish is to have unlimited wishes. Nice try, but he’s heard that one before. When you only choose two or three values, you have to make hard choices. Is it more important to be curious or brave? Is it better to be generous or kind? The differences are subtle, yet significant. And just like the truth question, your answers will differ from other people’s. That’s the whole point—by understanding your values, it will be easier to make decisions.
5. Do I deserve what I’m trying to go after?
n short, the answer is yes. But if you don’t feel like you deserve it, chances are you’ll feel less motivated to actually go after what makes you happy. Research shows that self-acceptance, part of which is the belief that you are good enough, is crucial to happiness, but it’s something we don’t regularly practice. Feeling undeserving creates resistance to positive change. Once you understand what makes you feel undeserving, it’s a process, and a messy one at that to become more self-assured and view your future more positively. What actually happens as you work on forgiving yourself for the deep-rooted feelings that hold you back, is that you start to feel better, lighter, more relieved and more understood in your own experience.
6. How can I re-frame things to better support myself?
You probably realized that there are some obstacles on your list that you can deal with, and some that are more deeply held beliefs. Awareness of a limiting belief is the first step to changing it. If the message you’ve been telling yourself is not serving you, how can you re-frame it into an affirmation or mantra that can help you? For example, the thought that “I won’t be any good at this, so why try,” can become “I will never know until I try, and I make the commitment to trying.” Rewrite your limiting beliefs into new messages that you can use to support yourself in the journey to get what you want.
7. What small things can I change?
Sometimes, the perceived magnitude of the task before us alone is enough to keep us right where we are. We stay in our stuckness to avoid the challenge. When we are feeling stuck and miserable, we think we have to make some epic shifts in our life. Sometimes that is true, and I will discuss that in the last question, but usually great change in life comes from minor, incremental shifts that snowball into enormous, monumental movements. The key here is to identify the little things you can do to improve the quality of your life right now. Meditate for 5 minutes a day. Write a thank you card to a friend or family member. You get the point. It’s up to you to identify these small changes, but if you make a few of them, and build off of them, you will notice an increase in the small moments of comfort in your life and you will want to add more and more until those small changes add up to big results.
8. Do I have any regrets?
Life fear, or being stuck in general, it’s better to face regret head-on instead of letting it linger in our subconscious. If there’s something you wish you’d done differently, or just something you wish you’d done at all, well… is it too late? If it’s not too late, maybe it’s time for you to do some work. If it is too late, consider how you can avoid those situations in the future. And finally, grant yourself grace. We can’t change the past, and there are some things that can’t be fixed. Live for today and build for tomorrow.
9. If I had one year left to live, how would I spend it?
Sometimes people ask, “If I only had 24 hours left…” but I’m not sure that’s as interesting as thinking about a year. With 24 hours, your options are pretty limited. Hedonism, making amends, skydiving, taking up smoking, last-minute charity—all of those things are possible, but you can’t build anything. So if you have a whole year left, you can do all the things on the 24-hour list, but then you have 364 more days. So what will it be?
10. Who can help me?
If you have gone through these exercises, and still feel frustrated, stuck, or like you just aren’t able to see the path on your own, try reaching out to a trusted friend or coach. Having a separate, unbiased, third-party perspective can help you see things for what they are and can open your mind to another way of thinking. Working with a professional coach can help you to push past your barriers and define your own personal path to success.
If you go through this process, and still feel stuck or unclear, take your time and be patient with yourself. But remember, that clarity comes from engagement, not thought. So once you have identified what it is you want, where you’re stuck, and how you can reframe things to better support you, choose an action that moves you forward. Action builds momentum, brings clarity, and provides the impetus necessary to move you forward in a new direction.