by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC
How do I move away from feeling stuck to feeling, well, unstuck? What slammed the brakes on my inner most desires and choices? How am I responsible for all of this when so much of it seems to be beyond my control? What decisions could I be making right now to help alter this cyclical outcome? Do I really deserve to be living out my life as I desire and finding my authentic self? Ah, the haunting, swirling questions surrounding missed opportunities, isolation, loss, and feeling stuck in life that plague us all when we are at are most vulnerable.
I believe there are a few contributing factors. For one, we continue to make the same mistakes. If we continue to answer the same question over and over again in the exact same way, then the outcome cannot possibly be any different. If we know the answer to something then perhaps it is the question that needs to be different. Procrastination is lives in our day to day being. “I will do it tomorrow.” How many times have we told ourselves that lie? That tomorrow might happen in a week, a year, if at all?
Most importantly though, the underlying notion of feeling “stuck” is what I like to call the “Cycle of Comfort.” What drives this we possess a safety net of predictability. It’s known, it’s reliable, and yes, it might be making us miserable as all hell, BUT misery feels safe, knowable – it is secure and won’t rock the boat. Familiarity can be breed complacency. No surprises here. Anxiety does not live here, yet. What is difficult is venturing into the unfamiliar territories of your wants and desires. You will need to start taking risks and making life changing decisions. Yikes, not that! Venturing into a dark room is always scary. It feels unsafe and I’m betting just thinking about change can poke the bear in anyone’s cave of anxious thoughts. You are unsure of the outcome and that outcome can either yield a positive or negative experience. The unpredictability, the feeling of anxiety, keeps us stagnant, or “stuck” in this cycle.
So what can we do? If I really desire change and want a life worth living, what do I do? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Understand that feeling anxious is a part of the process. There’s good anxiety and bad anxiety, just like good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. I know this might sound crazy, but welcome this feeling with open arms and know that if you are feeling anxious about change you are on the right track.
- Do not focus on the past. Dwelling over the possibility of choosing differently in the past fosters feelings of guilt, sadness, and even more “bad” anxiety. It is about learning from the past, not living in it. Also, remember that every single day you are making choices so make every single one of those decisions count.
- Alter your pattern of choice. Choose the unfamiliar and detach from mediocrity. Your choices should be derived in an authentic fashion and centered on the life you want, and you should find yourself liberated after walking down the unbeaten path. Who knows what you might discover!
- Take action. Commit and follow through with your choices. Set a deadline. Make a list, if it helps. Do what you are going to do, mean what you are going to say going, ESPECIALLY if following through has kept you from truly living and being honest with yourself.
What is really important about change is that there has to be meaning, passion, and purpose behind every single choice. I would rather complete one meaningful act than 100 meaningless actions. In short, we need to sacrifice what we already know to truly get unstuck.
Mark Twain said it best, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”