How to Get Unstuck

Seven steps you can take to move your life forward

Most of us can relate to feeling stuck at one point or another, a time when life feels stagnant or even hopeless. Maybe we have goals but for some reason we are not reaching for them. Sometimes we get stuck because self-judgment makes us lower our expectations, or low self-worth keeps us from trying to make positive changes. We also might find ourselves stuck in worry, afraid of making a decision or changing something in our lives. Or maybe we're disappointed with how a particular situation has turned out, and it just feels too hard to move on.

When we get stuck, we often wait for an external change to happen. That's a normal and natural reaction, but change doesn't happen to us, it comes from within us. Change is scary and painful, but it is necessary for getting unstuck. And when that happens, it opens up so many opportunities.

Here are some suggestions for getting unstuck:

Let go of the past
Listen to the stories that are constantly playing in your head. Are you thinking about events that happened in the past? Are you unable to forgive yourself for mistakes you made? Are you blaming yourself or others for things that did not turn out the way you hoped? Living in the past like this holds you back. In order to create change, it's important to let go of these kinds of thoughts. Ask yourself why you are stuck on these memories, what you can do to live with them, accept them, and move forward. You can't undo your past, but you can choose to find peace today. Forgive yourself or others, and welcome happiness back into your life. Forgiving is a way of letting go and also empathizing with yourself or another person.

Change your perspective
Once you are able to get out from the grip of the past, you will feel freer to see your reality in new ways and change your attitude. Meditate or spend time alone and listen to the inner voice within you to gain a new perspective. If you can, travel or take a break from your daily routine to clear your mind and get distance from your current situation. Open yourself up to new people and ideas, and include regular physical activity into your routine. All these changes will help you gain a new perspective on the future and what is possible.

Start with small changes
Change stimulates different parts of the brain that improve creativity and clarity of mind. You can start by making small changes, such as changing daily routines, moving things in the house, or making new friends. Every choice matters. You might be tempted to skip doing the little things because they don't always seem very important in the moment. But even if you don't feel a difference in the small changes, you are making progress. After a while, an accumulation of small changes will help you accomplish your goals, and you will start feeling unstuck.

Explore your purpose
Your life purpose is not just your job or your responsibilities or goals – it's what makes you feel alive. These are the things you are passionate about and will fight for. Examples of a life purpose could be:

  • Helping people overcome the sadness of being ill
  • Helping others reach their full potential
  • Growing as a human being
  • Protecting animals who suffer

You may need to change your life purpose if it no longer inspires you. Or, if you feel like you haven't had one before, this is a great time to define your purpose. Ask yourself the following questions as you consider your life purpose: What makes me happy? What were my favorite things to do in the past? What are my favorite things to do now? When do I enjoy myself so much or become so committed to something that I lose track of time? Who inspires me the most and why? What makes me feel good about myself? What am I good at?

Believe in yourself
Believe that you can reach your expectations and get out of your comfort zone. Make a list of your strengths and positive traits, and remember that you are very capable. Many people sabotage their own progress – consciously or unconsciously – as a result of deep-seated fears and limiting beliefs.

The first thing you can do to believe in yourself is to recognize your self-doubt. Pay attention to the ways in which you react to situations. Then you can work to reframe your self-doubt. Limitations like, "I can't" or "I don't know can be replaced with, "I can't do that yet, but I'm working on it" or "I don't know now, but I will in the future." Another way to instill confidence in your abilities is to write down your past successes to have on hand when you need proof that you can do things that are hard or new.

Practice being hopeful
Maybe you have had a lot of disappointments that led to this moment in your life when you feel helpless. Maybe you are experiencing a naturally protective feeling of pessimism. This is something you will have to work to change. Find a practice, such as meditation, prayer, or reading inspirational books, and do it regularly. Hope is not a permanent state. You need to work at it every day.

Consider talking to a professional
If you find that you are unable to change unhealthy thought patterns, consider consulting a mental health provider to help you figure out why you are stuck and find ways to get unstuck. Feeling stuck can be part of a mental health disorder that can be effectively treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two, and having professional support as you work to change long-established patterns of thinking can be tremendously helpful. Sometimes asking for help can be the most hopeful and powerful step you can take to change your life.