How to Take Action When You're Stuck

I've had it. Things must change. Something must be done. Now is the time. Enough of this bull*shit. No more! Never again. 

These are thoughts and words that inspire action. They are crystalizing phrases that I say, out loud, in the moment that I am simply, truly ready to change, and not usually before. I found myself saying these things in the car this afternoon, thinking about my 2018 goals, and in particular one goal that has been carried forward year after year without me actually making concrete progress on it. As I thought about this goal, I felt mostly depression and despair, failure and disappointment. These are really common feelings for me when I feel stuck on something that I want and just can't seem to achieve. 

So I took myself to the beach in January, and I sat there on a bench in the bracing cold and wind. I was going to sit there until I felt ready to move. I didn't think, I just stared at the clouds rolling through, at the mountains glimpsing in and out of the view, at the waves crashing into the beach. As I sat there, my ears progressively turning to ice, my breathing regulated, my body shifted, and then after 25 minutes, I felt something. Mostly impending hypothermia, but also something a bit deeper. I walked back to the car. 

And that's when I said it. "This is bulls*hit. Totally unacceptable. I've had ENOUGH." The words just fell out of me, propelled by the energy that had transformed from despair into fierce control. And I felt the universe shift a little as these statements fired out of me. 

This is what I like to call an Action Moment. All of the biggest and best changes of my life have occurred only after one of these moments. For me, it feels like a shock wave in slow motion, and I can almost see the air jiggle in front of me like in that scene in Battlestar Galactica when the bomb hits earth and number 6 pushes Gaias to the floor of his fancy house, and the screen gets wavy with the bomb's impact. It's like that. Like I'm producing nuclear energy. 

Good things happen when I reach these points. I've had job offers pop out of nowhere after these moments, have had pieces of writing fall out of me like skittles from a candy machine, and have had amazing human beings cross my path. Transformation of my life as I know it always follows. 

So how can you engineer one of these moments for yourself? How do you get your own bomb-dropping energy to manifest change in your life? How can you move through despair and depression and frustration to crystal clear action? Here are some things that work for me: 

  1. Change your environment. When you feel stuck, the first thing to do is get up and move. Get out of the house, the office, the city, the state, or the country for a change of environment. Even moving to a different room can help, but it's even better if you can go put yourself in an unfamiliar pattern-breaking place. New sights, smells, light, air, and sounds will give your brain new information to put together as it works on solving your problem, and can change your perspective. So get up and go. 
  2. Get angry. Depression and despair are action killers. If these are your primary emotions when you think about your situation or dilemma, see if you can transform those into anger instead, which is much better at making you move and change. Women in particular often have a difficult time leaning into and expressing anger, and instead let it eat away internally rather than use it to propel an alternative. So how can you get angry? It might be just the fuel you need to act. 
  3. Listen to yourself. Really listen. What are you saying to yourself about this dilemma you're in? Are you whining? Are you complaining or giving yourself excuses? What language are you using? Are you playing the role of a victim? Are you helpless or child-like? Sometimes pointing the flashlight at how you are perceiving your own situation and what you're saying about it to yourself can illuminate the ways in which you are keeping yourself stuck by your own thoughts. Moments when I've realized how I sound inside myself inspire change, because I get almost disgusted with my own whining. You can parent yourself in these moments, and inspire action. 
  4. Get some tough love. Do you have one of those people in your life who just tells it like it is? Is brutally honest? Sometimes a bit painfully so? That person could be your best friend right now. Before I moved to Australia I hemmed and hawed about it for 6 years. I kept telling my friend James that I wanted to move, but it just seemed too hard, I was too scared, I didn't have a job, it wasn't the right time...but I kept talking about it. One day he said to me, "Janet you've either got to do it or you have to stop talking about it." Boom. An action moment crystallized for me, and I made the decision right then which of those choices I would make. 
  5. Get outside. There's just something about nature. It puts our ridiculous little decisions and lives into a greater context and can help us see the bigger picture, quite literally. Going out into nature almost always produces clarity and action for me. I also find that getting physically uncomfortable, being cold, really hot and sweaty, a little bit scared, or battling wind and rain or trudging through snow, produces some sort of mental brain chemistry shift that usually clears my thoughts right up. I feel 10x motivation almost immediately after returning to comfort. Maybe today you go running in the rain. 

If you're feeling stuck, you don't have to stay that way. This could be your year, and this could be the moment you change. Need help? Get in touch