When uncertainty becomes the main attraction during change, it is easy to experience a sense of paralysis, an inability to take any action amidst all of the 'what if's' presented by the uncertain situation. When this happens, we become Stuck In The Mud.
As mentioned in the previous post, How To Achieve Mystery Through Clarity In Change, shifting our thinking from one of overwhelm to curiosity, can help pull us out of the muck of paralysis into one of discovery. But sometimes it is hard to see solid ground when surrounded by murkiness, which makes it really difficult to even think about shifting our mindset (this is common and perfectly normal).
When we get stuck, it's usually for a reason. Two of the biggest reasons are fear and overwhelm. Fear can come in the form of fear of the unknown, fear of making the wrong choice, fear of failure, fear of judgment, and so on. Too many choices or unanswered questions can result in a feeling of overwhelm. Both fear and overwhelm can create a high level of stress.
Kelly McGonigal, in her Ted Talk, How To Make Stress Your Friend, suggests that it is the way we think about stress that determines whether it will be debilitating or not. Shifting the way we think about uncertainty can do more than help us get unstuck, it can keep us healthy as well.
But saying this doesn't make it any easier to do, so here are a few tips to help you out if you find yourself Stuck In The Mud:
1. Go with it.
Remember the saying, what we resist, persists. If you find yourself struggling or fighting to get unstuck, you're likely only making things worse. Take a breather, let it go, and sit with it for a while. If you open your mind to being receptive to, rather than combative about, your current situation, it is very possible you'll soon begin seeing clues to clarity.
Instead of expending your energy worrying about the future, why not take a trip down memory lane and think about the past Being stuck can be an opportunity in disguise. Take advantage of it, because once you're no longer stuck, you might find your attention directed towards more action-oriented areas.
Write. Take walks and think about what led you to where you are today. Think back to when you were a child, or previous jobs, or previous relationships. What did you enjoy about those things? How have you changed since then? Try not to dwell on past mistakes or bad choices; rather, accept them as a part of who you are. Appreciate the good things, accept the not so good, and remember that all of your experiences shaped who you are today.
3. Go on a fact-finding mission.
If your stuckness is due to fear, keep in mind that many of our fears are based on false assumptions or distorted beliefs. Consider those things of which you are fearful and decipher between a) what you know, b) what you don't know, and c) what you think you know but hasn't been verified. Be honest, as often what we know, is actually what we think we know but hasn't been confirmed.
Once you've made your lists, you can create actions around verifying those things that you think you know. The results might surprise you. Plus, you're taking action, which, in and of itself, will help you get unstuck.
4. Break it down.
If your change is creating a strong sense of overwhelm, it is possible you are focusing too much energy on the big picture. Break aspects of your change into smaller pieces. You may find parts for which you can take immediate action, even if you don't have all the answers needed in other parts of the change.
As mentioned in the post, Dealing With the Uncertainty of Change (part 1), we can calm the tension of uncertainty by magnifying or focusing on what we know, rather than what we don't know. Even those things that have nothing to do with the change can be helpful in creating a greater sense of control. Find solace in your routines and habits. If you don't have set routines or habits, create some. Even small ones, like the act of preparing coffee or making toast can give you something solid to look forward to and enjoy.
6. Reach out.
Sometimes when we're stuck we feel as though we're the only people in the world who have experienced these difficulties. We might even be embarrassed by it and try to hide it from others. This is an illusion. The more support we have during times of change, the smoother our transition will be. So tell someone. And if they know you, chances are good they can see some patterns and options that you haven't considered, because it is often easier for others to see these things in us than it is to see them within ourselves.
7. Master the question.
While the other suggestions help you to find solid ground and become less stuck in order to be more open to shifting into a place of curiosity, this step helps to initiate that curiosity.
Instead of making statements like "I'm so confused", "I feel stuck" and so on, ask questions. Start small and work your way into more elaborate questions, from "why do I feel so stuck?" or, "why am I confused?" to "where am I most confused?", "what is it that is making me feel stuck?", "what would it feel like to be unstuck?" "What do I need to feel less confused?"
These more detailed questions provide the threads by which clues can emerge. Avoid the quick and easy answers to these questions, as they will only result in frustrating vicious circles. For example, if your answer to the question "what do I need to feel less confused?" is "answers to my questions", well, that isn't going to offer you much help or solace. Dig deeper, and work out what specifically it is about these questions that you feel the need to have answers for right now. If you can't come up with anything, ask different questions. Become a master at question-asking. Keep asking until you are able to come up with some helpful answers, and then you can start seeing the patterns.
Depending on where you're at, some of these ideas may work better for you than others. Try them on and see how they fit, and I invite you to leave a comment about what worked and what didn't. Let's get the conversation started!
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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