“Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it's no longer a mistake. If you remain stuck, you learn nothing”. - Eckhart Tolle
Have you ever felt so stuck in life that there seemed to be no way out? Finding yourself repeating similar cycles in your life, career, or relationships which continue to leave you feeling stagnant and unfulfilled?
There have been several times in my life where I too have been stuck in these seemingly endless cycles; always feeling hopeless, anxious, depressed, and confused about how to get unstuck. Like a truck spinning its’ tires in the mud, I was going absolutely nowhere fast. Too often in these situations we beat ourselves up, thinking with enough self-criticism and anger that somehow we will get out.
Yet, not only do we continue to dig our own proverbial graves, but too often our situations drastically worsen, sending us into a self-defeating tailspin.
I commonly see people who are feeling stuck and unfulfilled in their lives often blame themselves or others– parents, siblings, friends, the economy, the government, their childhood, co-workers, etc. Yet no matter who or how much they blamed, they only managed to create a self-perpetuating victim mentality which only served to dig their holes deeper and deeper, making them feel more frustrated, confused, and hopeless.
A common theme amongst people who are stuck in a self-defeating cycle is the struggle to accept responsibility for their role in creating and perpetuating the problem. Instead of learning to accept to where their present situation, they choose to distract themselves with mindless entertainment, food, drugs, sex, etc. They may avoid the pain of the present moment by blaming themselves or others, or even deny the present situation all together. No matter how much they kicked and screamed about their present problems, their refusal to accept the present moment, their responsibility in it, and blame others only served to create more pain and suffering in their lives.
So, if criticizing ourselves and others is not the solution to the problem, then what is?
4 Ways to Get Ourselves Unstuck
1. Unconditional acceptance of your present situation: Too often we ignore or avoid the reality that we are simply stuck and struggling to find a way out of the hole. Blaming ourselves or others is our way of directly avoiding the pain and fear we’re currently experiencing. Unconditionally accepting our present situation means we are willing to open ourselves up to the breadth of our experience; to directly experience ourselves in this very moment. Unconditional acceptance requires us to be open and willing to listening to our fears, our doubt, our pain, and our suffering; giving each feeling a voice and space to be acknowledged and heard. When I accepted the sheer fact I felt hopeless, afraid, and stuck; accepted that all my choices have led me to this point and now I’m choosing to get unstuck, I experienced a subtle, yet profound shift in self-perspective towards my situation. As I continued to remain open and accepting, I started to gain more clarity and understanding of how I got myself into this hole, and thus I how to start climbing out.
2. Be gentle with yourself: Being open, curious, and non-judgmental towards yourself in this very moment will help to create the space for you to listen to what your fears, pain, and hurt are trying to tell you. What do they want you to know? What do they need help with? How are they trying to protect you? How are they limiting your authenticity and engagement in life? The messages I received told me I was not following my heart in my career, relationships, and life; which was causing me to feel immense sadness, hurt, and confusion. What I was really afraid of was not failing, but giving up, losing everything I had, and having to let go of the past. If someone you truly loved was in a similar situation as yourself what would you do? Would you criticize and judge them? Would you neglect or abuse them? Probably not! I suspect you would most likely treat them with compassion, acceptance, and kindness, so do the same for yourself. Your life is challenging enough without additional self-abuse and neglect. Instead of continuing to feed your heart poison, treat yourself with gentleness, compassion, loving-kindness you so desperately desire.
3. Take baby steps when planning your goals: We all basically know what we want in our lives. We want more happiness, more wealth, more fulfillment in our work and relationships. We often get stuck focusing on the end result, and lose sight the steps we need to take to get there. Instead of getting stuck on the outcome (good or bad), focus your attention to the internal and external steps you can take to reach your goals. If I want to design a website I can start networking with website designers or watch web design videos on YouTube. If I want to speak more confidently in public, maybe I can start writing my own speeches and performing them in front of family and friends, join Toast Masters, or simply record my own voice. By writing down each step and focusing on what you CAN do, you start to channel your energy and attention in creating constructive ways to reach your goals. A general in war does not solely focus his mind on each individual battle, but instead on the campaign itself; for he strategically plans each objective of every battle in such great detail, knowing each battle will help him achieve ultimate success in his endeavor… winning the war.
4. Moving forward with action: No matter how much you plan. No matter how much you think of every possible action, outcome, possibility, and event your time and energy is wasted without putting your plan into action. Blaming is the last resort for those who are too afraid or unwilling to take act in self-constructive ways to benefit their lives and achieve their dreams. Even small actions sooner or later have big results over time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but every brick, spackle of mortar, constant effort and dedication resulted in the creation of a renown super power spanning throughout Europe and the Mediterranean.
It took me quite some time to understand how my refusal to accept my present situation AND my role in creating it, as well as blaming others and harshly criticizing myself as the root of all my pain and suffering. But once I understood I was the only constant variable in all of my problems, that I was in fact the creator of my pain and suffering, I knew I must also be capable of creating compassion, love, meaning, and purpose in my life.
So simply be open and accept the fact that your stuck, you may not know what to do, and it sucks, and that’s okay. Take the time to reflect on your intention in life: How do you want to live? What you want to accomplish with your limited time on earth and why? What brings fire to your heart? Clarify your goals, and write detailed steps you will need to take to reach them. Write out potential obstacles and barriers to reaching your goals, and how you’re going to overcome them. Then no matter what happens, take action and never give up.