What Keeps Us Stuck...And How to Get Unstuck!
Sometimes we feel stuck and have a sense that we’re not where we want to be…and worse…don’t know how to be someplace else. But…that someplace else is often something we’ve actually not taken the time to define, and that’s often the problem. We know we don’t like where we are, but we haven’t taken the time to figure out where we’d rather be. We have some vague notions of being thinner, richer, in a better job, etc. However, we haven’t taken the time to really be clear on where we’d rather be…or even who we’d rather be. We take a lot of time to plan vacations or trips, but we often don’t take time to simply plan our lives. Let’s do a few simple exercises to change that!
Exercise 1: Take a notepad and write down all the things you like about yourself. Next, imagine someone wanting to be friends with you. More importantly, imagine you wanting to be a friend to yourself. What would that interesting friend have as characteristics? What would make that friend someone you’d want to be around? Would that friend be calmer, kinder, more engaging, more considerate? Would that friend be thinner, in a different job, taking on new hobbies? Maybe you’d like to be a better mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter. List all of the things you’d want that friend to be. We’re taking time to determine who it is you would like to be and where you’d like to be. We are getting a sense for where you are now and more importantly, where you want to go. We’re getting a picture of that version of yourself you want to reach for. Take at least an hour to do this exercise even if you feel you can complete it quickly. The more time you devote to thinking about this question, the more you might find yourself changing your mind and revisiting thoughts and ideas. Many people haven’t taken the time to really think about their goals and personal aspirations. Now is the time to do it.
Exercise 2: Take a notepad and now list out all of the priorities in your life. Are they your career, your parents, your kids, your home, travel, hobbies, etc.? Think about the people, things, and activities that are important to you. Carefully, list these out in rank order. It’s OK to move things around in terms of rank. Take at least 1 hour to do this. Even if you feel you’ve completed this task in a short 10 minutes, take the full hour to keep thinking about the things that are truly important to you. You might find you revisit the list and move things around, add new things, take things off. Don’t forget to add emotional elements that might be important to you. For example, you might say having an organized house is important, or not being overscheduled, or not having to be stuck in traffic. These can make the list as well.
Exercise 3: Now, take a piece of paper and along the left-hand side of the paper, write down the hours of the day from the moment you wake up to the moment you usually go to bed. Given an honest sense for what you typically do each hour of the day. Next to the hour of the day your wrote down, write what you usually do during that time. You might have to do two versions – one for work days and one for non-work days. Really, think about how you spend your time. Now, look at who you want to be from exercise 1 and your priorities from exercise 2. Do you feel you are really making time to be the person you want to be or spending time on the things you consider your priorities? Often our typical days are not really focused on becoming the versions of ourselves we want to be nor on our stated priorities. Are there ways we can use our time better to be who we want to be or spend more time on our priorities? Take another sheet of paper and imagine a new way of spending your typical work and non-work day. Map out a new schedule for how your day will more closely align with getting to where you want to be and focusing on your priorities. For example, carve out specific time for the gym if you want to be thinner. Carve out specific family time at night if you want to spend more time with your children because they are one of your stated priorities.
Exercise 4: Now, let’s put the new daily plan we created in exercise 3 into action. The best way to do this is journaling. Use a notebook (or you can even do this using an online journal) and each day write down how you’re going to use the day. How are you going to stick to your new routine? What obstacles do you see coming along that day and how do you plan to defend your new routine and work around those obstacles? Maybe for today you have to break your routine, but you know that you’ll be back the next day. Write down what you are grateful for and how you are going to use your time to focus on being the best version of yourself you’ve imagined and paying attention to your priorities. The best time to journal is first thing in the morning. Don’t do anything too fancy. Just take 10 minutes to write down how you want to use your day, how you’ll work around obstacles, and what you are grateful for. Often, that’s enough. What you are doing is taking time to set your agenda for the day so you get the things you want to get done taken care of. You’re taking the big plan we came up with in exercises 1, 2, and 3 and putting it to work each day. Overtime, this daily investment will pay off.
When we are stuck it’s often that we don’t like where we are. Sometimes we feel stuck because we’re also not sure where we’d rather be. These simple exercises may help you figure out where you want to go, who you want to be, and start creating a plan to get there.