Feeling stuck in life is something that happens to us all – usually more than once. Sometimes the problem is something specific, like a relationship that’s lost its spark, a job that’s wearing you down or a living situation that feels untenable. But at other times, that feeling of stuckness is a non-specific, but lingering, feeling that your life isn’t what it should be, but you have no idea what you want – so you remain stuck.
Regardless of the reason for feeling stuck, the underlying problem is the same and once you tackle this problem, you’ll find that feeling of being stuck and powerless disappears and you can start living again.
Sound too good to be true? Trust us, it isn’t. Here’s the real reason you’re feeling stuck in life right now and how to turn things around.
Why you’re feeling stuck in life
Everyone who feels stuck in life feels this way because of a single underlying belief: things should be different to how they currently are.
It may sound simple, but take a moment to consider the last three times you’ve felt stuck in life. No matter the aspect of your life that felt like the cause of your ‘stuckness’, scratch beneath the surface and you’ll notice you felt like things ‘should’ have gone one way for you, but they went another.
You should be in a better-paid job by now.
Your partner should understand you better.
You should know exactly what you want to do with your life.
And the list goes on.
But that’s not where the story ends. Your belief that things should be different is just one part of the ‘feeling stuck’ equation. The other part is a lack of self-growth in that area of your life.
We all expect many things to go one way, only for them to go another way, but all of these events don’t result in feeling stuck. You really only start to feel stuck when you aren’t growing or improving – usually because you’ve been in this situation before or for a while.
That’s why you don’t feel stuck when you get an unexpected promotion at work, a friend betrays your trust or your house gets broken into for the first time.
These are all unexpected events, and while they may leave you feeling ecstatic, overwhelmed, conflicted or upset… they usually don’t trigger feelings of being stuck.
And that’s because positive or negative, they throw up a challenge that forces you to step up – whether you want to or not.
So, those are the two reasons why you feel stuck, but what can you do about it?
How to get unstuck in life
Before we explore what to do when you feel stuck in life, let’s quickly look at the tactics that usually don’t work very well.
These include the three most common responses to feeling stuck in life.
- Wallowing – buying into the situation and feeling really sorry for yourself.
- Panicking – jumping into fight or flight mode and trying to blame others or fix the situation by making knee-jerk decisions.
- Overcompensating – distracting yourself from the problem by obsessively controlling other aspects of your life.
All of these solutions are bad news because they do little more than create drama, which is just a temporary distraction. Dealing with this drama will keep you busy and make you feel like you’re in control, and this will counter the feeling of being stuck. But ultimately the problem will rear its head again – even if it takes months, years or decades.
So if these responses don’t work, what does?
Being stuck is a bit like having a big spot on your face. The more you pick at it, the worse it gets, but you delude yourself that picking at it will actually make it better even though you can literally see it getting worse as you continue to pick.
What we’re trying to say is when you’re stuck you’ve got to take your fingers out of the situation and stop meddling.
Step one of this is accepting where you are.
OK, it’s not where you planned to be, but it’s where you are right now and that’s OK.
And it’s OK because you only think the situation is bad because you’ve been conditioned to think it’s bad.
Take for example the idea that you should be married by 30. If you buy into the idea that you’re inferior and unwanted if you’re not married by 30, you’re likely to feel stuck and hopeless if you’re 35 and single AF.
But if you believe that being married restricts your freedom and that humans aren’t meant to be monogamous, then being single at 35 will probably feel like a blessing rather than a curse.
So, think about whatever is making you feel stuck right now and reframe your thinking. Why do you think your situation ‘should’ be different. Imagine if you lived in a world where your situation was desirable – would you still feel stuck?
Switch your focus
Motivational speaker Tony Robbins once said “If you’re feeling really sad, there is only one reason: it’s because you’re deleting all the reasons you could be feeling good. And if you’re feeling good, it’s because you’re deleting all the bad things you could be focusing on.”
It’s a quote worth remembering because sometimes being stuck is a phase in your life that you can’t rush. It’s not always possible to immediately remove yourself from a situation that’s making you feel stuck. Sometimes it’s physically impractical (e.g. quitting a job you hate when you have a mortgage to pay and you don’t have a new job lined up) and at other times you haven’t quite figured out your best next move. When you have to sit still, the easiest way to do this is to focus on the good instead of the bad.
Ever noticed how you can be in physical pain and forget about it for a few minutes because something made you laugh? It’s the same for feeling stuck. Rather than focus on why the situation sucks so bad, start to focus on what’s good about it.
Maybe you don’t feel like you’re living your purpose right now, but do you have money in the bank, a roof over your head, good health? Then those are things to be grateful for.
Does your health suck and it’s getting you down, but you’ve got great friends, a hobby you love and your job gives you the flexibility to work in a way that accommodates your health needs?
You know what we’re going to say.
Energy flows where your attention goes, so make an effort to focus on the good stuff and you’ll feel good. And when you feel good, it’s easier to think more clearly and make a level-headed decision about what you need to do to get unstuck.
Remember that all storms pass
Because the misery that comes from feeling stuck is a fear that you’ll never escape from the situation, it’s important to keep reminding yourself that your current situation is temporary and that things will be fine in the end. The best way to do this is to recall times in the past when you’ve felt stuck and then replay how the situation finally came to an end.
Just as you felt stuck and miserable then and things worked themselves out, the same is true for where you are now. Just remember what the author Timber Hawkeye said: “You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. Calm yourself. The storm will pass’.