As someone with a keen interest in empowerment and choice, I recently conducted a survey (unscientific as it was) about feeling “stuck” — what triggers it, how we feel about it, what we do in response.
Not surprisingly, responses revealed that every single one of us feels stuck from time to time. Jobs, relationships and habits/behavior patterns were called out as causing the most heartburn. And, in response, the overwhelming majority reported feeling sad or depressed.
Here’s where the results get really interesting: Two-thirds of respondents said they wanted to make a change, and nearly half were ready to do so. Yet only about 10 percent felt empowered to change. Instead, they said they withdraw, cry and procrastinate.
I believe life’s too short to feel sad, unempowered and holding our collective breath — especially when we are the only ones with the ability to change our lives. And so we must begin. We must begin somewhere. But where?
Here are six steps for getting closer to the life you want.
1. Believe Reality Is Bendable.
In his richly empowering book The Motivation Manifesto, Brendon Burchard writes: “Nothing in life, including our circumstances or potential, is fixed. Reality is bendable to our will.” For this to be true, you must believe that you are responsible for your reality. You must believe that you set the agenda. To think otherwise is to submit to someone else’s vision — one that may not reflect your priorities or, worse, flat out sacrifice your happiness for another’s.
2. Ask the Big Questions.
When searching for answers, it can be helpful to bump the question higher and higher until you’ve achieved a wide-angle view. That way, the inquiry becomes less about creating a simple checklist; instead, it’s reaching for the uppermost levels of aspiration and work down from there to create an intention and an agenda. How would I live if I weren’t fueled by fear? What are my values and priorities? How do I want to feel when my head hits the pillow at night? What would truly feed my soul? What do I stand for? Who is the person I want to be?
3. Know There’s Always a Choice.
We feel stuck when we don’t think we have options. Truth is, every thought, every action, every reaction is a choice — you can stay put or move on, speak out or hold your tongue, smile or frown, get lost in negativity or find your way to yes. And even when the alternatives are “bad” and “worse,” you still get to take your pick. So be strategic, like the chess player who’s always looking three or four moves ahead, with a clear grasp of what you’re willing to forgo en route to your ultimate destination. And have the patience to know that if you have a plan, you’ll get there eventually.
4. Create a Playbook:
In my (again, unscientific) research, nearly 80 percent of respondents said they believed the circumstances that make them feel stuck were changeable, that their problems were solvable — yet only about 30 percent said they had a sense of what specific steps are required to achieve the vision they have for their lives. What’s missing is the action plan. Move back from yourself, broaden your perspective and consider the advice you’d offer to a friend in similar circumstances. You already know what must be done; chart your own course.
5. Take a Step.
As Wordsworth said, “To begin, begin.” So take a step. Even if you’re petrified. Even if you don’t quite know where the road will lead. Even if you travel one tiny, microscopic, infinitesimal move at a time. It’s the inertia that keeps you static. You’ve got to exert the force of your will to get things moving. Then, after a while, the wings on your feet will begin to fly on their own.
6. Act From Power, Not Fear.
The hardest part about moving toward the lives we want is finding the guts to carry out the playbooks we’ve written. While financial considerations are often the top obstacle, I’ve come to realize that fear is, hands down, the single biggest thing that holds us back. And fear fights dirty. It senses weak spots and preys on uncertainty. It makes us quit before we even begin. But purpose and clarity trump fear. When we move deliberately and take ownership of our decisions, we operate from a place of power.
So no more breath-holding, no more wishing. It’s all about doing. Let today be the day you begin.