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We all get stuck in life; it happens.
Knowing when we are stuck and how to get unstuck is key to leading a fulfilling life.
If we ask someone today what they want out of life, they will say they want to be happy. If we dig deeper into what they mean, they’ll tell us that they want to feel good and be at ease. Sometimes, we aren’t at ease, and feeling good is elusive. Our work or relationship once thriving can become unsatisfying. Over time, if dissatisfaction persists, we can feel stuck.
What is the definition of being stuck? It’s the feeling of being not where we are supposed to be. It can also feel like persistent overwhelm or painful dissatisfaction with our current state or situation.
Being stuck can be tricky.
To help navigate, here are three common ways we get stuck and remedies for each:
1. Self-Created Stuck
Self-created stuck is what Buddhists call suffering. Suffering is a part of life. A loved one dies and we are hurt deeply. The pain of them being gone is real. This type of suffering is part of the human condition. I’m not talking about that kind of suffering; I’m talking about the kind we create ourselves.
The good news is that self-created suffering is avoidable. It is the mind’s way of not accepting what is. For example, when we deny or don’t accept that something is painful, we create suffering. Or when we expect something to be different than what it is, we create suffering. Let’s look at an easy example. We are in a work meeting and our idea for solving a problem falls flat with our colleagues. We are invested in being right; we feel disrespected and angry that our solution was overlooked. Instead of acknowledging our feelings, we tell ourselves it was no big deal. Oh, it doesn’t stop here! We then begin to spend time thinking about how our colleagues’ solutions were terrible. We also create a narrative about how no one listens to us and all the extroverts at the meeting suck up all the time. It’s like a mind map of negative thinking to cover up accepting what happened. This is needless suffering.
“Your inner purpose is to awaken. It’s as simple as that.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
Remedy for Self-Created Stuck:
Accepting and acknowledging our uncomfortable feelings is crucial. So many times, we brush away uncomfortable truths only to inadvertently give them more power over us and steal our peace of mind.
Instead of becoming the central actor in our own self-created narratives, let’s use our observing mind to watch our thinking mind and immediately create distance between the narrative and our true self. We’ll notice that we are not our thoughts, and often, the scenarios we have created keep us from peace.
2. Comparison Stuck
This is another flavor of self-created Stuck. Because it’s so potent, it deserves its own distinction. I have my own powerful, personal experience with comparison stuck. Years ago, I attended a conference in my field of Organizational Psychology. The field is broad, and this particular conference focused on an area that I don’t have a lot of experience in or obviously proven skill.
For two days after the conference, I felt anxious. I was feeling low and began questioning my competence as a consultant. Luckily, on day three, I had an insight that if I had not attended this conference, I would not be so miserable. Not that I shouldn’t have attended the conference, but literally, that I allowed it to change me. My consulting ability hadn’t changed in those three days; how I was thinking about myself did. I was comparing myself to others who specialized in an area that was not a keen interest of mine. I was creating my own suffering. There’s a saying in yoga, “Stay on your own mat, in your own practice.” This means that everything outside of your mat has nothing to do with you, so don’t give it your energy.
Remedy for Comparison Stuck:
Stay on your own mat! Don’t look at the person next to you doing the handstand or super flexible, twisty pose. When we compare, we surrender our peace of mind and what makes us unique. Just focus on your own skills, passion, and personal goals.
3. Dissatisfied Stuck
If our health, relationship, business, or job gets stuck, it becomes a pressure point. These key areas are part of our identity, so it’s understandable we can suffer when they falter.
Everyone has real challenges in life that require them to face adversity, make changes, and sometimes surrender to the illusion of control. For example, our relationships are constantly evolving, and sometimes we resist the evolution or our partner does—and we feel stuck. Our career or job may have periods where we feel static or uninspired. And if the block persists, we can suffer.
How to Remedy Disassified Stuck:
A key starting point for any “stuckness” is curiosity. Being stuck can feel confusing and frustrating. And often, in our haste to release the pressure, we might make some bad decisions. These are what midlife crises are all about. People become stuck and feel pressure to change something and they change their external environment—not their internal one. Resist the temptation to push on any rock and pull any lever. Be curious about what is going on with you.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~ Viktor Frankl
Calmly and curiously delve into that stuck point. Sometimes, the way will be difficult. You are not alone! Take care of yourself and invest in a therapist, coach, or support group. Read books that inspire you or advance your understanding of your situation.
At the beginning of this piece, I said that knowing when you are stuck and how to get unstuck is key to leading a fulfilling life. Fulfillment means you see and experience your life as an adventure. When setbacks occur, you don’t let them stop you; you work through them.
Do not succumb to the resistance that can accompany hard-won growth. Life is dynamic and ever-flowing, and sometimes we get stuck. But the tools we learn to get back into flow—as well as what we learn about ourselves—are truly invaluable.