25 June 2012

5 strategies to get un-stuck and move forward

Limbo is not a nice place to be. Limbo is defined as 'an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution'. It's a place where you feel stuck, trapped, and often overwhelmed at the lack of progress.

You may be in financial limbo, where you can't find a way out of your debt, or you're making no progress on important saving goals. You might be in health limbo, where you know you need to make changes to your health, fitness levels or weight. You may be in lifestyle limbo, where you crave a 'sea change', new horizons or travel. You may be professional limbo, craving a new goal, job or career. You may be in relationship limbo, existing in a stale space, craving for a revitalized connection with a loved one.

Whatever area of your life, limbo is debilitating. It weighs you down, clouds your thinking and creates frustration.

All power to those who can recognize that something needs to change, and then go about taking whatever action is needed to resolve their situation.

For the rest of us, it can be a more painful journey. First, it can take a while to actually acknowledge that you're stuck. It's much easier to carry on in denial as though there is no issue. You may simply feel unsettled as the issue plagues your subconscious mind. Eventually though, the issue starts weighing heavily on your conscious mind, to the point you can no longer ignore it.

Recognizing where you are ("Yes, I'm stuck") and then defining what you want to change is critical. Setting some sort of goal can help here. As often quoted "if you don't know where you're going, you could end up anywhere". Be specific about what you want. You can't climb out of a hole unless a)you recognise which way is up, b) decide you want to get out of the hole (set a definite goal), and c)you take some sort of action to get out.

But setting a goal is not quite as easy as it sounds.  It's amazing how often we choose to stay in limbo because we're scared of what we'll lose if we change our circumstances.  Sidney Howard says it best, "One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it."   Your goal needs to be something you feel more excited by, more passionate about, and get more benefit from than what you stand to give up.  For example, chasing a fitness goal may mean giving up comfortable nights in front of the TV whenever your class is on. Pursuing a weight loss goal means giving up that second helping of dessert. This is a process of recognizing the specific obstacles holding you back from making a change in your life, then working out if it's important enough to overcome them.

Get clear on why you want to change.   Your 'why' needs potency if it's to get you through the temptation to do nothing and remain stuck.   Doing nothing is often the easier option.  You get to keep eating cake!  Changing your weight means not eating cake!  Changing habits is hard, so you gotta get clear on your reasons for making the change, to keep you focussed through the process of getting 'un-stuck'.

Next, getting out of limbo takes ACTION!   First we've gotta find, then sift through all the available options open to us to resolve our situation.   Define the options (eg if we're in our metaphorical hole, we can either call out for help, see if there's a connecting tunnel or climb up the shaft). This is the danger zone, though, because this is where the panic can set in, where our vision gets clouded, and the options are hazy at best. The seeming lack of options is often the reason we stay 'stuck'.

So, 5 strategies to help you get 'un-stuck' are:

  • Ask yourself if you really care?  If it's not worth it to you to change, realise that you're not in limbo, that's just your life.  Deal with it, move on, and focus on other things to change that you feel more strongly about.
  • Research. Find experts or resources that may be useful. Go online to find out what's out there.  Ask around to see what others have done.  You don't have to follow their advice, you just need to collect a range of options.  Open up some possibilities you may not have been aware of.
  • Ask someone whose opinion you trust and respect. Preferably someone who has has successfully navigated a similar journey. It's no good asking someone who can't manage their own money what they think you should do to get out of debt.
  • Give yourself space to think. Sit under a tree for a few hours (or days, whatever it takes) and reflect on what you're trying to achieve.  Distil your options into pros and cons.  Allow your subconscious the time to process ideas without the stress of having to take immediate action.  This is not about doing nothing about your situation; this is about doing nothing so that you can think about your situation.  Mull it over in quiet time.  Trying to redefine your life whilst multi-tasking just won't cut it.
  • Have a good night's sleep.  It's difficult to make wise decisions about your future on a brain drain.   Get your mind back to full capacity and you'll be surprised at its problem-solving ability.

And last, make a decision and do it!  Trust your gut and be brave.  Nothing changes if nothing changes.  You intuitively know what you need to do.  No-one got anything great by being fearful.  Courageously do what you need to.  Who know's, a better version of your life may be waiting on the other side of that decision to act.