How to Get Unstuck in 8 Steps

conversation-among-masters-New Orleans
What the world needs from us now (notes from New Orleans)
June 12, 2018

If you are feeling a lack of fulfillment in your career, you are not alone. A recent Gallup poll shows that only 30% of Americans feel engaged at work. In spite of this bleak statistic, many professionals don’t take the bull by the horns and proactively work to get themselves unstuck. In fact, many of us feel trapped in our current situation.

So, if you want to get unstuck, where do you start?

Here are eight success strategies to help:

1. Bump up your self-care

Often when we feel unsatisfied in our jobs, we are strung out and overextended at work and at home, which exacerbates the problem. Take an inventory of where you are scrimping in your life at the moment, whether it is staying up too late, making poor food choices, watching too much TV, not getting enough exercise, hanging around with people who don’t support you, or generally just phoning it in where your health, wellness, or mental health is concerned. Decide and take action to make the changes needed to shore yourself up. In fact, this step is so important that I suggest you prioritize this over any other activity related to getting unstuck. This is especially important if you feel you do not have energy physically, emotionally or mentally.

2. Say no to (most) extracurriculars

Pare back your commitments to only include those things you must do and/or that bring you great satisfaction and joy. This is not the time to sign up to be the room parent at your kids’ school, or enroll in a course on a subject you are marginally interested in but feel you should learn for your job. Go through your email and unsubscribe from the mailing lists you are not keeping up with on a regular basis. Restrict yourself from signing up for new courses or events until you finish the things you have already signed up for. As much as possible, circle the wagons to conserve your energy, attention and free up your time. The only exception is to say an enthusiastic “Yes!” to those activities that make you feel alive and energized.

3. Complete – or discard – half-finished projects

Close the loops that are – perhaps unintentionally – competing for your attention. Take a page out of Marie Kondo’s book(s) and shore up the half-baked activities you have been intending to do or finish, asking yourself whether you really intend/want to do them, and if not, discard them. Return library books you have not yet read but that have been on your bedside, unopened. Write the thank you notes you have been putting off. Whether you make several trips to Goodwill or hold a garage sale, pare down your belongings to those items that you love having around you. This is a time to be generous with your friends, family, and community and pass along any resources that you no longer need but others may benefit from. You’ll breathe an energizing sigh of relief when you close all these unfinished loops in your life.

4. Seek out inspirational spaces

My friend KC Carter spoke with me about how he advises professionals who are feeling stuck at work to leave their office at lunchtime and go find a hotel lobby that they find beautiful and take out a journal to write down what they want from the next chapter of their professional lives. His point is to get out of the workspace each day and move into a place that makes you feel alive and inspired, whether it be a hotel lobby, museum, or a nearby café or park. Similarly, go on a steady diet of inspiration, whether you listen to podcasts or read books that energize you with their content. Find ways to hang out in spaces and with people who make you feel alive and positive.

5. Go against the grain

This may sound a bit counterintuitive. If you are an analytical, linear thinker you may need to embrace your more organic, creative self through journaling, visualization, connecting with your various senses, and getting into your body to help yourself find the way out of your experience of stuckness. Likewise, if you prefer to go with the flow, you may do well to institute a bit of structure into the process of getting unstuck. This may include following a framework and/or hiring a coach to work with you and provide accountability and a process you can move through on your path to get yourself moving and engaged again.

6. Become an observer

If you do not already follow a meditative practice, consider getting into a regular habit of waking in the morning and completing a ten minute guided meditation for 30 days. There are so many great tools available – my favorite is Insight Timer – to help you easily access pre-recorded meditations and musical arrangements that help you get into the present moment. The point of meditation, in this context, is to grow your capacity to notice your experience of life in any given moment as separate from yourself, giving you choice about how to be and react in any given circumstance, rather than being buffeted around by the winds of life. This will help you in all other realms of your life.

7. Make an inventory of what is important to you, professionally

This can take the form of a written document, a vision board, a mind map, or any other form you can think of. Determine your top values, favorite skills to use, ideal work environment and what you find satisfying about work. Distill what job duties you most enjoy, and allow yourself to dream about the ideal situation you would like to attract. Let your mind focus first on what energizes you, rather than on what you think is marketable about your experience (that analysis will come later). Put the output of the visioning exercise somewhere where you will see it every day, as a visual affirmation of what you are looking to create for yourself.

8. Try an experiment

Reflect on the visioning you have done and pick one thing you have been noodling that you would like more of in your life that feels especially energizing. Take a concrete action toward making it your reality. Hold loosely to the outcome here; it is more important to get moving and take some action than to take the exact right action or make significant progress. Observe what happens, and then craft another mini experiment you can pursue, and put your energy into that. Think of yourself as a professional experimenter, and hold onto your hypothesis loosely, taking action, observing the results, and then tweaking your assumptions, hypothesis, and approach. Continue to follow your energy here.

These are a few of the essential ingredients for getting unstuck.

When you take these steps (even if you just pick one), your perspective will change, and the options for moving forward will begin to take shape. 

Image credit: Merideth Mehlberg