Monday, September 23, 2019

Getting Unstuck

Most of my coaching practice is focused on helping people get unstuck. Their “stuckness” (as I like to label it) can be about almost anything: deciding to leave a job or change careers, being more assertive at work, or sticking to personal boundaries when a co-worker invades them. I’m sure you can add to the list.

The obvious first step in getting unstuck is to recognize that you are stuck. It can feel like you have one foot on the gas pedal of the car and one foot on the brake. The net effect is you can’t move forward. You’re stuck in place. But at least you know it.

The next step is to gauge how safe it is to release your foot from the brake. If you feel that the road ahead might put you in harm’s way (but you’re not really sure), the next step is to slowly lift your foot off the brake and lightly touch the gas pedal so that you can inch forward and maintain control. At least in a car, you have some modicum of control, if you know your car is in good working order and you’re not tempting fate by driving under dangerous conditions.

If you’re stuck and you know there’s a simple solution, be brave enough to make some incremental moves forward.  (These are called safe experiments). Plan the route, take it slow, anticipate barriers and how you’ll adapt to them, trust that you can always slow down and pull off the road for a bit if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Remember, just because we feel things are overwhelming doesn’t mean they actually are.  

Of course, in our day-to-day lives, it’s not always that cut and dry.  There isn’t always a simple or known solution. That’s why we need loved ones, close friends, coaches, therapists, teachers, clergy in our lives. They help us uncover the hidden reasons for the “stuckness” and then cheerlead us on to develop and engage in meaningful, safe experiments.

Many of the people that I meet in my practice stay stuck because they fear losing control. But there’s a fallacy in that thinking. For the most part, control is an illusion. We spend a whole bunch of energy trying to maintain control that we never actually had. (Take it from a cancer survivor.)

If a fear of losing control is holding you back from getting unstuck, remember this: acting as if you’re in control has its down side because it keeps your foot on the brake. How much control do you really have if it stops you from getting past where you are today?

Posted by Barbara Rapaport at 11:36 PM

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