It’s the End of 2018: Are You Where You Want to Be?

Person with head stuck in a wall
How/where do you get stuck?

As 2018 draws to a close, I find myself taking stock of things I’d planned to do this year but haven’t and places I feel stuck. The transition into the new year is a time many of us reflect on where we are and where we’d like to go.

Sometimes you realize there’s places you’re stuck. You may renew your efforts to move forward. If those efforts don’t pay off, you may blame someone or something as the reason for your standstill.

You might be so involved with what you think you should do or ideas about how it should look, that you don’t really listen to what’s going on under the surface. For example, you might feel uncomfortable about change, are afraid of making a mistake, or are too overwhelmed to take the first step.

Emerson quote about standing in our own sunshine

Looking back on times I’ve been stuck, I was often the one standing in my own way. Of course, at the time I had no idea I was the one blocking my way.

6 Ways You May Be Keeping Yourself Stuck

Here are 6 ways people stand in our own way, keeping ourselves stuck. Which of the following do you recognize from your life?

1. Over-Thinking

Man stuck thinking too much
Over-thinking can keep you going in circles

When useful thinking spirals into over-thinking, it can be paralyzing. Being “in your head” can close you off from your emotions and bodily sensations, essential to solving problems and making decisions.

Common wisdom is that we make decisions using our logic and reasoning. However, people with brain injuries who can’t process emotional information have significant trouble making decisions—or can’t make decisions at all!

Over-thinking can also lead to judgement and oversimplification. You may reduce things into stark categories of good/bad and black/white instead of acknowledging the large areas of grey.

2. Sticking Your Head in the Sand

In our busy modern lives, being on autopilot might seem like your only option. Alas, without deeper reflection on what you’re doing, how you feel and what you truly want, your life can become stagnant.

Pigeons stuck in a box
What ideas keep you in a box?

3. Boxing Yourself In

We all have stories about ourselves. Sometimes these solidify into unchangeable facts—I have a short attention span. I have bad knees. I’m uncoordinated. The reality is these ideas are often not as true and fixed as you think. And are they even yours, or are they teachers’ or family members’ labels internalized long ago?

Our boxes help keep us safe and give us good “reasons” not to take action. But when we don’t question or update our stories, we risk staying stuck in what may be a self-imposed box.

4. Just Looking for a Quick Fix

The allure of a quick, easy fix may lead you to take short cuts. Why make a change to your diet or lifestyle when can take a pill instead? But reducing complex problems into narrow cause-and-effect explanations can be the very thing that keeps you stuck.

5. Not Knowing Where You’re Going

Person using map to find their way
Do you know where you want to go—and why?

Progress can be stymied because you don’t know what you want or where you want to go. Or maybe you get hung up trying to make things how they used to be instead of opening to something new.

Sometimes you haven’t identified the deeper reasons why you want what you want. This makes it’s easy to get derailed when you hit a bump in the road.

6. All-or-Nothing Thinking

If you don’t get the full results you hoped for, you may feel disappointed. Such discouragement can lead to dismissing what you did accomplish and overlooking what has changed.

Something to Do When You Feel Stuck

Person listening to themselves
Rewards await when you pause and notice

Are there places you’re stuck right now? What do you do when you feel stuck? And how might you be standing in your own way?

I invite you to do a little experiment this week. At any point you feel stuck, frustrated, confused or stressed:

  1. Simply pause for a moment.
  2. Without judgement or trying to change anything, notice the sensations in your body (e.g. your breath, the contact your feet make with the ground, muscles that are tense) and/or the emotions beneath your thoughts.
  3. Then just observe what happens. It’s amazing how bringing kind attention to what’s going on internally can elicit releases, shifts or new insights.

Tune in for next month’s article where I’ll share practical strategies to get you moving when you’re stuck.