08 Oct

If you’re feeling stuck, things might feel overwhelming or even hopeless. Your laundry and dishes might be piled up, or you might be behind in school or work. Maybe you started out escaping with a few episodes of a favorite TV show, but it turned into endless hours of sedentary binge-watching and mindless snacking. If any of this is familiar, you’re not alone, and more importantly, you can get unstuck.

Vanessa (on the front cover) survived and endured the Michigan dam failures and resulting in a flashflood by having relentless drive and grit.  But there were days when she would lose momentum.  When that happened she had to find the motivation and drive to get herself UNSTUCK!  If you ask her how she was able to kick it into overdrive and move forward to accomplish her goals she would say:

“You just think about those first days of the flood and remember what we all did and what we were all capable of.  You find a way to dig down deep and take action like your life depends on it.  You pick up the pace, you don’t slow down.  Don’t let yourself think negative thoughts or think for a moment that you are incapable of accomplishing what you need to do. If you have negative self-talk or create doubt in you your mind you loss momentum or you’ll give up. So you just say, Yeah I can do it, and you do it like your life depends on it.”

So what’s the secret to getting unstuck? Momentum.

What is momentum? 

Momentum is a scientific term for the impetus gained by a moving object. In everyday terms, momentum is a person or thing that is in motion. But how do you start moving if you’re stuck?

First, consider what caused you to get stuck. If you understand the cause, you can connect with what thoughts or actions to take to start moving again.

Common causes for losing momentum and getting stuck: 

  • Indecision
  • Grief
  • Dissatisfaction
  • Disempowerment
  • Negative self-talk
  • Fear of failure
  • Lack of goals

Second, once you know the cause, you will know what it will take to embrace momentum and propel your life forward toward success.

The Irony of Indecision

If you find yourself facing a big decision or a situation in which you don’t have an answer, it can lead to indecision, which can lead to doing nothing. When you’re paralyzed by indecision, it is most likely caused by a fear of acting before things are perfect. It is the worry, and worrying is nothing more than wishing for what you don’t want!

The irony of this situation is that the indecision is rooted in fear of failure, and by not acting, you inadvertently fulfill your fear. This kind of stagnancy is emotionally connected to an imagined imperfect future that hasn’t even happened yet. It is perfectionism bullying you into failure. It is also a lack of trust in yourself.

Decision Dice Exercise:

Think about what are all the options or potential decision choices.  List your top 6 options that will give you the biggest benefit for the situation. Assign each option to a number - one through six. Roll a six side dice. Before checking the results, look at your list again. Is there one answer in particular that you’re hoping for? It’s your comfy slippers, gut check moment of realizing you already had the answer and making this connection can propel you into momentum.

Suggestions for believing in yourself:

  • Book: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
  • Book: I Hope I Screw This Up by Kyle Cease
  • Movie: Rudy (1993)
  • Theme song: Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey
  • Physical activity: Jumping Jacks, jumping rope, or marching in place

Good Grief

Sometimes life throws us a curveball and we struggle to adapt to it. The most extreme version of this scenario is when someone we love dies or our home is destroyed in disaster. After this kind of significant loss, there are several stages of grief to process including shock and denial, anger, bargaining, resignation, and acceptance. This is an obvious expectation when we’ve attended a funeral, broke up with a significant other, or signed divorce papers, but sometimes grief can sneak up on us in other situations.


Big Changes Can Cause Grief (Even the Good Changes)

  • Being under quarantine
  • Getting a scary diagnosis
  • Graduation
  • Experiencing a house fire
  • Getting engaged
  • Getting married
  • Getting divorced
  • Having a baby
  • Having a miscarriage
  • Losing a job
  • Getting a new job
  • Moving to a new city
  • Adopting a pet
  • Child moving away

The truth is, grief can happen whenever our expectations don’t line up with an outcome. Grief is focusing on an imperfect past or present that you can’t change. You expected someone or something to be a certain way, and it didn’t happen. But, the good part of grief is you eventually realize that you’re not broken at all. You’re more in alignment with your heart afterward.

Processing Grief

If you’re stuck in the numbness of grief, you can find your way out again by reconnecting to your feelings. Take a walk in your yard, around the block, or just up the stairs in your house. As you walk, ask yourself if you can get angry. You might have to listen to angry music or stomp your feet while you’re walking around, but if you can move from numb sadness to anger, you’re moving — inside and out! Most of us don’t like feeling angry, but anger expressed in a healthy way like screaming into a pillow or stomping your feet can start your momentum forward. After letting yourself feel angry, see if you can move toward frustration. Once you’re frustrated at the powerlessness of the situation, then see if you can shift to the possibility of things being different. Can things change? If you can move your emotional state to possibility without getting attached to a specific outcome, you’ll likely feel motivation building to take steps toward the change.

Suggestions for embracing the new normal:

  • Book: On Grief and Grieving by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler
  • Book: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  • Movie: Rocky (1976) or Billy Elliott (2000)
  • Theme song: I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor
  • Physical activity: cry it out, take a nap, then try kickboxing or dancing

Dissatisfaction Leads to Disconnection

Sometimes we get stuck because we feel unmotivated after comparing ourselves to others. The world holds limitless opportunities for comparison of other people’s vacations, relationships, careers, wealth, health, body image, success, and anything else. When we focus on what we don’t have, or how what we have isn’t exactly what we want, it can lead to a scavenger hunt for more evidence of what we’re lacking. Giving our attention to thoughts of lack can cause us to want to escape or even spiral into addictive patterns.

The truth is we have control over two things: our attention and our intention. The way out of being stuck from dissatisfaction is to put your attention on connection and your intention on appreciation.

Exercises for connection and appreciation:

Try kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy of improvement one step at a time. If your house is a mess, just start by cleaning the kitchen sink. Keep the sink shining for three days and admire how beautiful it is. Then add the silverware drawer or a closet. The important thing is one thing at a time, with appreciation for the present moment.

Suggestions for taking small steps: 

  • Book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  • Book: One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer
  • Movie: Yes Man (2008)
  • Theme song: Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) by Kelly Clarkson
  • Physical activity: try yoga

Mission: Disempowerment 

Disempowerment can be negative self-talk, failure thoughts, or self-sabotage. Feeling stuck in disempowerment is acting on the belief that you can’t win. Maybe these thoughts were taught to you as a child, modeled by an adult who felt disempowered. Perhaps you’ve had a string of bad situations and you’ve all but given up trying. If you’re up to your eyeballs in disempowerment, you have probably attracted friends or situations that reinforce those negative thoughts and perpetuate your mission to fail.

If you’re stuck in disempowerment, things can seem impossible. The truth is the word impossible can be separated into two empowering words: I’M POSSIBLE. This might seem trite, but empowerment starts with the decision that change is possible.

If your circle of friends is focused on your past mistakes, add some new people who will remind you of the future and kindness toward yourself. The internet can connect us in beautiful ways such as online classes, faith organizations, and support groups.

Many inspirational authors and motivational speakers promote gratitude journaling, which can get us moving again. This is a positive step, but be careful not to only focus on the things we’ve survived or overcome but also on those small accomplishments, wins, and positive impacts in our lives each day.  While journaling can be very beneficial, with the wrong focus it can keep us tied to potentially negative experiences and cause us to get stuck again.

Focusing on appreciation can be more motivating because it feels closer to a state of thriving, rather than surviving.

Exercises for Empowerment:

Don’t overwhelm yourself with a big to-do list or big plans to journal every day. Try just making a quick list of appreciation to connect you to positive people and situations in your life. What or who do you love and appreciate? Being in a state of appreciation of your life will lead to a new perspective and start your momentum forward.

Suggestions For Self-empowerment:

  • Book: Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions by Russell Brand
  • Book: Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
  • Movie: Hello, My Name is Doris (2015)
  • Theme song: Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys
  • Physical activity: dancing

Everyone gets stuck from time to time. When you can connect with what caused you to get stuck in indecision, grief, dissatisfaction, or disempowerment, you can find a way to get back your momentum forward.

Momentum starts with a choice. Make the decision that you’re open to things changing. If you need help, decide it is okay to receive help. Connect with a friend, call a nurse hotline, talk to a therapist or clergy person, or spend time in nature. Let yourself off the hook from the never-ending to-do list and decide to just do one new thing today. Remember you’re not alone and you won’t be stuck permanently. The bad news is, nothing lasts forever, and the good news is, nothing lasts forever. You can and will get moving again!


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