We've all been there. At some point in our lives, we inevitably reach a point where we find ourselves in a rut of some kind - either professionally, personally or both. We may find ourselves thinking, "I don't know where I want to be or what I want to be doing - I just know it's NOT THIS." Or we do know - we are just unsure of the steps to take to get there. Or, perhaps worst of all, we know where we want to be, we've envisioned it quite clearly, we're doing everything in our power to get there - yet day in and day out, week in and week out, we remain in the same place.
There's no question that being stuck can be a very discouraging experience. Rest assured, though, we are exactly where we need to be at all times. So when we find ourselves in a rut - let's call it "The Stuck" - we might as well lean into it. Lean into The Stuck.
What exactly does "Lean into The Stuck" mean? It means letting yourself experience the rut without fighting it. And it means extracting whatever benefits you can from it while you're in it. So how can you make the most of being in The Stuck? Here are 4 tips:
1. Honor your emotions. When you find yourself in The Stuck, take a few minutes each day - 20, 10, even 5 - to check in with yourself. Find a place where you can be alone, separate from all external distractions. (At the office? At home with the kids? The bathroom can be a sanctuary.) Tune inward, take a deep breath. Do a body scan - notice the physical sensations you're experiencing, starting with your toes, working all the way up to the crown of your head. What are you feeling in this place? Frustration? Anger? Sadness? Anxiety? Restlessness? Yes, it sucks. Let it suck. Then name your emotions out loud. Allow them to come through without judgment. Acknowledging our emotions is the first step in releasing them, and releasing them can be creative fuel that moves us to a new place. (For more on that topic, see my previous post "how to use difficult emotions as creative fuel".)
2. Get curious. What's it like in The Stuck? If there were a weather pattern associated with the rut you're in now, how would you describe it? Is it cloudy? Hot and humid? Are you in a frozen tundra? What color is The Stuck? If it could talk, what would it say? If it were an animal, what would it be? Getting playfully curious about a place we'd rather not be helps us shift our perspective and attitude toward it, making it more tolerable - perhaps even interesting!
3. Find the gift. Once you get curious about the rut you're in, it becomes easier to see what The Stuck has to offer you. What is the gift of being in this place? Maybe you're in a job that is not intellectually stimulating for you; you could do it in your sleep. As a result, you have a storehouse of mental energy, even restlessness, available to you. Where can you redirect this energy? Could you dedicate 30 minutes of your lunch hour, twice a week, to learning something new via an online course? (There are tons of free and inexpensive options available these days - check out Udemy, Coursera, Lynda, Skillshare, The Great Courses Plus.) Could you channel it into a new hobby, or amp up your exercise regimen? Being in The Stuck can also offer us a necessary period of rest. In fact, periods of massive change and upheaval - stressful experiences in themselves - are often preceded by a critical period of calm. To everything, there is a season: a time for growth and expansion, and a time to chill. So soak up the rest while you can! What else can you appreciate about this place? Write a list of 10 gifts The Stuck is offering you now.
4. Remember, this too shall pass. Nothing lasts forever, including The Stuck. Sometimes just remembering that fact alone helps us relax, give in to where we are and let go. And more often than not, when we let go, shift happens. There's a line from the Alanis Morissette song "Thank You" that sums up this irony beautifully: The moment I let go of it is the moment I got more than I could handle.
Leaning into The Stuck honors a vital phase of life evolving. Honor it, and eventually you will be rewarded with forward motion.
Next up: how to shift the stuck energy