A total stoppage of any progress. A total stoppage of any thought of progress. Hours or days spent disliking how stuck you are, but absolutely no action to get unstuck. Been there?
Being stuck, or caught in a cycle of low motivation, low energy and zero action, can strike at any time. I must admit that it usually surfaces when things get harder than I expected, or when things edge into the great unknown. And we triumphantly declare, as if it is a given, with no exit - "I'm stuck".
So now what? How do we get unstuck? I have been fascinated by this because I am living through this right now. I'm feeling a bit stuck.
I listened to a blog post for actors as they talked through their feelings of being "stuck", unable to get work, unable to break through. It was pretty insightful because the facilitator asked a very straightforward question. She asked "what would happen if you tried 10 different ways to get work this next week?" And the reply was something to the effect of - well, I've tried a lot of things and it hasn't worked. And then they were pushed to admit that they hadn't tried everything, at which point the actor admitted that they could indeed try a few other things this week, but the result would be the same and they would still be without work. Probably, they assumed.
"So, what do you have to lose by trying, other than a bit of time and energy?" the facilitator asked. The only legit answer is, well, a bit of time and energy. Because if the end result is that you won't get any work after a week of effort then you are no worse off than you are now, because currently you don't have any work, right? Wait, WHAT?! Yeah. We don't want to take steps to get unstuck because we are afraid we will waste our time and energy only to end up still stuck, which is where we are right now. We are already living in what we are afraid of. It must not be that scary because - here we are, stuck in it.
That really blew my mind. Being stuck is a function of being afraid of working harder only to not reach our goal, and landing ourselves right back where we started. But we aren't back where we started when we actually try. We are smarter about what works and what doesn't. We learn valuable lessons. We know what requires more information from us and what we are good at and how we need to improve. We might actually succeed. But we won't get to ANY of that if we stay committed to being stuck.
So - how to get unstuck? A few tips from someone who is still learning:
1. Stop saying it. You reinforce it every time you say it. You say it so it must be so. So just stop saying it.
2. Make a list of things to try. Brainstorm new ideas. Write down even the crazy ones. And go try one. Then try another one. Every day. Something small. One more step.
3. Lean in to the discomfort. Trying can be hard, especially when it requires you to put yourself out there. It is uncomfortable and scary territory for many. Acknowledge that. Identify it as just a feeling that can't hurt us, unless we allow it to stop us from taking action. Leaving our comfort zone is uncomfortable, but so is a lifetime of thinking about what could have been if only we had tried.
4. Don't wait for others. No one else is responsible for you being stuck. Stop waiting for someone to call, or someone to help you, or someone to tell you what to do. Use your very good brain to think of what to do, and go do it.
5. Find support. Talk to a friend about it and soak in their fresh perspective, ideas and encouragement. Write down the words that comfort you the most and re-read them when you are ready to quit.
6. Be open to learning. Stop saying "I don't know" and start saying "I can learn". We don't know everything. But we don't know nothing, either. We know what we need to learn. So make that one of your action steps if you are stuck. Can't find a job? Don't know how to access the online job portal? Then ask. Google it. We have the world at our fingertips. Not knowing is no excuse.
7. Be open to failing. Not everything works. A whole lot of stuff doesn't. That's ok. Actors are often told to fill up a page with 100 NOs written on it and scratch them off after every audition. The odds are that for every page you fill up, you'll get one paying gig. Failure is a necessary part of success. Keep a proud record of your "no's" as proof that you are out there trying.
We have only two choices when we are stuck. Do something, or don't. That's it. This one is on us.