Finding Margin in Business and in Life

Stuck? 7 Steps You Can Take to Get Unstuck



I remember my first job.  I’d been working as an office manager for few years, but it wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed and there was no room for advancement either.  Every day I did the same thing I did the day before.  The routine was monotonous and tiresome.  I was bored and lethargic.  At that time the job market was terrible, so there didn’t appear to be opportunities for me anywhere.  It was super-frustrating.  I was stuck and I didn’t know how to break out of the rut in which I found myself.

At some point, we all get stuck.  We get stuck professionally, personally, emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually.  It’s just a fact of life.  It will happen.  The interesting thing is “getting stuck” is completely in our control.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  When we get stuck, it’s because we’ve either consciously or unconsciously adopted some unhealthy attitudes.  Below are two of the more obvious attitudes that get us stuck:

We opt for comfortable – For most of us, this is more of an unconscious decision.  We figure we can run with what we already know to deal with the challenges we face.  We get stuck when those past skills or effort that served us to this point aren’t sufficient to succeed in resolving those challenges.  If we’re unwilling to put effort into learning new skills, we can’t move forward.

We play it safe – This is more of a conscious choice.  When faced with something new or difficult, we make a determination the risks are too great to move forward.  Sometimes we mask this by claiming we’re too busy to consider alternatives to how we do things.  We have too much to lose.  We fear we could lose our credibility, position or status with our peers, superiors or even our spouse.   Perhaps, our income could be at risk too.  If the past 10 years has taught us anything, it should be crystal clear by now that security won’t be found in “playing it safe”.  There are no guarantees!

So how do we get unstuck?

  • Take a step back – Purposefully step out of your daily routines to clear your mind.  You can’t get a clear perspective when you’re in the “fog of war”. There’s a reason business executives meet offsite on a regular basis to review and plan.  There are simply too many distractions onsite.  Distance creates clarity.  This is an area where you may fight back the hardest, internally.  You’ll tell yourself you’re too busy to do this and it’s a waste of time.  If you really want to get unstuck, though, the first step is to take a step back, clear your schedule for a day. Whatever it takes, you need to do it.
  • Identify the issues – Once you tear yourself away from the daily routines, sit down and write out anything and everything about why you’re stuck.  Spill your thoughts out on paper.  Don’t hold back!  Many call this process a brain dump.  By writing your thoughts, concerns, agitations, fears and ideas, your mind is released to more objectively evaluate what you’ve laid out into identifiable patterns which coalesce into one or more specific issues.  Just relax and write what comes to mind.  There is not right or wrong here.
  • Identify possible solutions – Now we’ll turn to brainstorming possible solutions to the issue(s) you face.  Again, with pen and paper, write out any and all ideas!  Don’t think critically about the solutions yet…just write.  Once you have them out on paper, begin to review the solutions and mark the top 3 possible solutions for each issue.  Keep this in mind, the best solution will be require you to stretch or grow beyond what you think you’re capable of right now.  It will require you to exercise new muscles.  Take your time to research these solutions to further reduce these possible solutions down to the best suited for you and lay out the steps required in the solution to break through.  Don’t worry if you don’t have all the steps figured out; that’s perfectly fine.
  • Make a decision / commit to change – Now this is important.  If you’re ready to get unstuck, you must commit to your best solution…a new direction.   Commit means you set your mind to it; not to be swayed.  It’s here we you must banish the word “Try” from your vocabulary.  Michael Hyatt addressed this in a recent podcast, which I recommend to you.  You’re either going to do something or you’re not.  It’s as simple as that.  “Try” is just a fluffy excuse for not doing something.
  • Write down your commitment and goal – This step is a really fascinating one to me.  There is something very powerful about writing out your commitment, your goal, out on paper.  A recent study by the Dominican University of California demonstrated that individuals who wrote their goals down experienced 42% greater success in achieving those goals than peers who didn’t write them down.  One key to make it even more effective is to make sure your goal is a SMART goal.  It gives specific context to your goals that make it harder to ignore.
  • Share your goal and progress with someone – This is another significant step to experience success in getting unstuck.  Share your commitment, your goals, with someone close to you.  Allow them to hold you accountable to these goals.  When I decided to sit for the CPA exam as a step to get myself unstuck, I knew I’d need a review course to have any chance of passing the exam.  Since this would significantly impact time with my wife and young family, I needed her on board with this commitment.  When I started to squirm under the pressures of preparing for the exam, she reminded me of my “Why” and helped hold my feet to the fire. Her encouragement is the reason I passed the CPA exam in one sitting.   Accountability can be painful, but it’s an extraordinary asset when change is required.
  • Take one step at a time – When you start walking down the path of change, the goal itself can be overwhelming in its overall scope.  It can be paralyzing.  When you have that moment…and you will, just ask yourself this question.  “What’s the next step?”  This question frees your mind to solve a much smaller issue.  You don’t have to worry about all of the decisions or actions required down the road…just the very next one.  Remember, we’re exercising new muscles, and we have to start with where we’re at and build upon it on repetition at a time.   Just focus on that next step.
Getting unstuck is an uncomfortable process, but it leads to opportunities that aren’t readily visible.   When I finally committed to study and sit for the CPA exam, I experienced unprecedented change in my life.   Between the time I started preparing for the exam (January) and sitting for it (May), I interviewed, accepted and started at a new job in a large, regional accounting firm in another city.  I never anticipated how this opportunity presented itself and certainly not before I passed the exam, but when you commit to change and accept the unsettledness that comes with it…that is where unexpected opportunities abound!

And that is how change happens.  One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.

Libba Bray


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