“My day-to-day was frantic. I wanted to do so much for so many people. My schedule was dictated by what my clients wanted, not what I needed.”

“I was struggling between starting a new business and not knowing if I was starting the right business.”

“I felt a sense of paralysis around taking action. I leaped from one idea to the next. I’d get attached to each new idea and be discouraged when they didn’t work out.”

“I was stuck in a cycle of not feeling good about myself and then procrastinating and feeling even worse.”

Sound familiar?

These are words my clients use to describe how stuck they felt when they first came to work with me.

“Stuck” is a word that’s thrown around a lot. But what exactly do I mean when I say the word “stuck?”

When I use the word “stuck,” I mean that a part of you is resisting change, holding you back from taking the steps toward the life you want.

Here are five signs of stuckness:

Sign #1: You say you’ll do something, but then interruptions suck you in. You keep putting your ideas for the future on the backburner.

Let’s say you promise yourself that you’ll close the door to the rest of the world and focus on a big project. But soon after you sit down, your phone buzzes, and you reach for it without thinking. One thing leads to another, and hours later, you realize, yet again, that you’ve abandoned your commitment to yourself. You can’t understand why you keep letting yourself down. What you do know is that it feels hard to trust yourself and that your lack of self-trust contributes to the cycle of inaction. 

Sign #2: You know what you need to stop doing, but you keep doing it. You struggle to say no, feel compelled to say yes, and get sucked into obligations that aren’t yours.

Let’s say you promise yourself that you’ll go to sleep at 10pm so you can wake up well-rested and start the day with exercise. But when 10pm rolls around, you keep finding yourself staring at your phone rather than in bed. The next morning, you wake up with the all-too-familiar guilt and self-loathing: You’re too tired to get up early and take the actions you know will move you forward.

Sign #3: You focus your attention on everything but what you truly long for. When someone asks you what you want, you say you don’t know, even though part of you does.

When you’re honest with yourself, deep down, you know that you long to make a big change. But you’re afraid to admit it to yourself. Maybe you feel embarrassed or guilty for wanting what you want. Maybe your Inner Judge convinces you that your dreams are frivolous or that you’ll never have what it takes. Maybe crossing the gate to what’s next comes with high risk. You’re afraid of ruining your reputation, going bankrupt, burning an important professional bridge. Rather than taking steps to create the safety net to venture into the unknown, you waste time doing all sorts of things that don’t align with your true desires. 

Sign #4: You’re torn between different paths, so you don’t move forward on either.

It feels like there are two parts of you battling it out inside: One part says you should stay, and the other says you should go. Rather than taking steps to get clear in real life, you exhaust yourself going back and forth in your mind. You may worry that you’re irritating your partner or friends by talking about the same things without making a change.

Sign #5: You start, but fear stops you.

You start a project and dive in, but when things get scary (you get harsh feedback or your experiment fails), part of you puts on the breaks, and your best intentions go out the door. You abandon the project and move on to something else. You sometimes wonder what might have happened if you’d gone down a path a bit further. 

If being stuck is so painful, why don’t you snap out of it?

Traditional schools of thought say that if you’re not doing what you want to be doing, you need to learn how to manage your time differently. On one level, I agree. I’m a big proponent of organizing your life well, and I teach my clients how. However, over many years of coaching my clients, I’ve discovered that developing time management skills is not the first step to getting unstuck. 

Before you can decide how to invest your time, you need to shift your relationship with the stuck parts of you.

The Passengers on the Bus

I invite you to imagine that you are a great big bus driving through life. The passengers are all the different parts of you or your subpersonalities. When you engage in any action—any time you’re not asleep—a part of you is driving the bus and taking the action. For example, as I write this to you, we could say that my Writer part is active. 

We get stuck when the parts of ourselves are in conflict with each other. It’s as though part of you grabs the steering wheel and hijacks the bus when another part needs to take the reins. For example, the People Pleaser takes charge when you want to shut the door to the world and dedicate time to the Writer. Or the Good Daughter keeps cleaning the house when it’s time to let the Activist take charge by heading out the door to a protest, even if the house is messy. Or the Volunteer puts in too many hours on a fundraising drive when it’s time to say no and let your inner Entrepreneur focus on building your business.

When we get stuck, it is because a part of us is not yet on board with where we want to go. 

It’s as though two different parts are arguing with each other:

  1. One part wants something; another says it shouldn’t. (One part wants to work fewer hours. Another part says that you should be working harder.) 
  2. One part does not want something; another part says it should. (One part wants to quit your job. Another part feels guilty about letting your colleagues down.) 
  3. One part decides to do something; another part refuses. (One part wants to do yoga every morning. Another part wants to sleep in.)
  4. One part decides not to do something; another part insists. (One part decides not to check your email first thing in the morning. Another part grabs the phone.)
  5. One part wants to do something; another is terrified. (One part wants to create a website and share your work with more people. Another part gets writer’s block.)

When my clients understand how these parts of themselves developed, they suddenly access a newfound sense of agency to choose their next steps.

So how did these parts of you come to be? I will share that and teach you how to relate to them in a way that will help you get unstuck in Why You Get Stuck & What to do About It (Part 2)

In the meantime, I invite you to write your responses to the following questions:

  1. Is there something that I am putting off that I really want to do?
  2. What part of me is resisting moving forward with that task?
  3. What need might that part of me be trying to meet?
  4. What small steps might I take to meet those needs while still moving forward?

I look forward to seeing you in the next episode of this post next week! 

In the meantime, sending you gratitude and warmth.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Much love,

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