At some point or another, we’ve all experienced that feeling of being stuck – of stalling out on a personal or work related project. We stop in our tracks. We get caught in analysis or rumination. We start to doubt ourselves. We get distracted or overwhelmed. We procrastinate. We experience a bump in the road. We let fear get the best of us. Any of that sound familiar?
Once you’re in the state of stuckness, even the smallest next step can feel almost impossible to take. So what are you to do? How can you get out of this place of demotivation and inaction?
Here are some questions for diagnosing your stuckness, and a few tips for moving forward:
Is your end goal motivating?
If you’ve stalled out, it’s a good time to pause and consider whether your end goal is exciting and motivating enough. Perhaps you were initially drawn-in by the goal, but something has now changed with your situation or perspective. Or, maybe the end goal was never all that inspiring in the first place. Either way, you can decide whether to: a) Recommit to the existing goal (as long as you’ve reconnected with whatever is motivating about it), b) Alter the goal to be more desirable, or c) Let go of that goal for the pursuit of something else
Is your end goal too far a field?
If the goal you’re working towards feels way too big or aspirational, then this could be contributing to your stuckness. Why? Because goals that are too audacious can trigger feelings of overwhelm and self-doubt. In this scenario, the end goal can feel so far away that you can’t even see how to get started. If you can create a more attainable version of the same goal, you’ll likely have an easier time getting into action.
Is it a matter of skill or will?
When you’re stuck, there’s a good chance that either a lack of skill or will is at play. When there’s a skill gap, you can stall-out because you don’t actually know how to move forward. You don’t have the right tools or strategies at your fingertips. If this is the case, your next step would involve learning – from a colleague, article, online video, or course, for example. If a lack of skill isn’t the roadblock, then you’ll need to consider whether there’s enough will to act. In other words, is your commitment level high enough to propel you forward? If not, why?
Is your self-critic hijacking you?
Another reason you might be stuck relates to that self-critical voice in your head (don’t worry, we all have it!). You know the one. It says things like “I can’t do this,” “This isn’t going to go well,” “I’m going to fail,” or “People will discover I actually don’t know what I’m doing.” This voice is fueled by the natural fears and doubts that arise in most of us anytime we attempt to change, take a risk, or move into uncertain territory. Those feelings, although natural and meant to protect us, aren’t the most helpful when we actually need to grow and change. Bring your awareness to these self-critical voices, and what role they’re playing. Can you turn down the volume on these messages and turn up the volume on ones that will leave you more empowered to act?
Experiment rather than think:
It’s easy to get stuck in endless analysis about what step to take next. There’s an unlimited about of information available online about any possible action or decision. Because of this, we can get caught in rumination and consideration. Instead of waiting to act until you have complete certainty, I’d recommend trying an experimental approach. Get moving in one particular direction, even if you’re not totally sure it’s the best one. This will create some much-needed momentum, and will give you real-time insight into what works, what doesn’t work, and what strategies to pursue next.
Set a deadline:
Nothing will jolt you out of inaction and into action like a good ol’ deadline. It’s one of the most tried and true forms of accountability, and it works. Having a deadline on the horizon forces you to be more aware of how you’re using your time. It helps you plan and prioritize. And it puts a limit on how long you can ruminate, analyze, consider or make-perfect.
Have others hold you accountable:
Being accountable to others is a powerful motivator. If you really want to accomplish something, tell at least one other person about it, and ask them to hold you to it. This automatically makes your goal more real, and increases the likelihood that you’ll follow through. So, if you’re currently stuck in neutral and not moving forward on a project, zero-in on the very next step you want to take and share that with a colleague or friend who will check-in on your progress.