Embracing Hopelessness: How to Get Unstuck & Finally Start Making Real Progress

Published on April 13, 2014 by

How to Get Unstuck"Ouch," I said, rubbing my chest as I looked at my striped bedspread.

No, I wasn't having a heart attack. Or an anxiety episode. I was taking an inventory of the past decade of my life, trying to figure out what I did wrong.

And it hurt.

Sometimes taking a big swallow of reality can leave a bad taste in our mouths (and out stomach).

One thing was for sure: I didn't want my next decade to turn out like my last decade.

Don't get me wrong; I did a ton of interesting things, met lots of people, and learned many skills. But when it came down to it, I wasn't getting closer to seeing my dreams and goals turn from well...dreams and goals on paper to dreams and goals in reality. I was re-reading one of my favorite  wisdom books, "Necessary Endings," by Dr. Henry  Cloud which led me from reading mode to actually doing what he directed. Slowly, I did an autopsy of the body of work I had produced in the last decade. I picked through it with a sharp knife, examining behaviors and taking samples of my attitudes and thought processes.

There were good things, but I didn't need to look at those. Instead, I needed to assess the patterns that had contributed to my feeling of "being stuck" and the ultimate result of a pile of dead ideas and dreams.

Have you ever felt stuck? It's a horrid feeling, isn't? It starts in your gut and travels to the muscles in  your neck and the back of your head. Where's the tums and hot tea?  But when you find out the cause behind the stuck-ness, that is the BEST feeling. Because then it becomes a task of stopping the behavior leading to stuck and doing more of the behavior leading to positive change and growth.

Ironically, once I was beyond the stuck feeling and doing more of the right actions, I could look back with a bit more objectivity. You know, I could kind of look at the situation from a different vantage point, almost looking at another person and evaluating their behavior without so much emotion attached.

When I looked at what I had been doing I noticed one big something:

There were a group of patterns I repeated over and over and over.

After some reflection, studying, and writing, I began to see patterns emerge from the last decade of my life. Here's what I came up with:

  • Not working in my areas of strength (often this came out in trying to emulate someone else or trying to do what someone else wanted me to do).
  • Didn't spend enough time researching the market or the audience for the service/product idea I was developing.
  • Too interested in making money and trying to get out of a (then)horrid day job.
  • Didn't meet enough people
  • Didn't stay in the game long enough
  • Didn't want it bad enough- I didn't make the sacrifices to see a wish come to reality.
  • Was missing the "connecting" message between me and the people I was trying to reach
  • Didn't have people to collaborate with; tried to do things on my own.
  • Based my plans on hope all by itself without realistic thinking.
  • Trying to fill too many roles.

Could it be that it isn't you but the methods you are using? Are you rehearsing the same painful patterns - in your work, your health, your finances, or your relationships- that keeps you stuck?

What needs to change?

First, I needed to get hopeless.

When we get hopeless that our current way of doing things is not working, we can end what we've been doing and start doing something new. We can get new hope for a new future because we are taking on new actions.

Dr. Henry Cloud discusses this topic extensively in his excellent book, Necessary Endings. He states, "you must finally see reality for what it is- in other words, that what is not working is not going to magically begin working. If something isn't working, you must admit that what you are doing to get it is hopeless." (p.74)

So I can be pretty hopeless about my former way of job transition- which hadn't been working and begin to get hope-full about my future job transition. Why? Because I started doing different things to create a different future.

Second, implement new patterns.

Well, I started doing the opposite of what I was doing before. I literally reversed the listand began starting healthy habits:

  • Take a bit more time to figure out where I am good at and where I am NOT
  • Spent a focused amount of time extensively researching: how to reach an audience, how to figure out if what I have is something people want, how to sell online vs. off line
  • Focus on connecting with people and providing them with real value while working in a day job
  • Get out from behind the computer and go to events to meet people in your industry and people who could be your customers
  • Don't quit.
  • Create deadlines and "end dates" for projects. For example, "If I haven't made XX from book sales by this date, I will pursue something else."
  • Take the time to identify what I can see myself doing in 5 years. Focus my energy there.
  • Join a group of other people on the journey. I was invited to join a mastermind group earlier this year and already the accountability, encouragement and feedback is helping me. Give them access to keep me accountable. We grow exponentially in the middle of community.
  • Hope by itself does not do much good. In the book, Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud explains that hopelessness has a "lifesaving virtue."  As he puts it, "it is the moment when they wake up, realize an ending must occur, and finally feel energized to do it."
  • Looked outward: where would I like to be in 5 years? Am I doing the things today that will move me in that direction?

How about you?  Are you not moving to where you want to go because of things "out there?"

Or, can you see patterns and practices that contribute to the stuckn-ness. Now, what can you do different? Sometimes it is the implementation of one or two habits that make a huge difference in life.

It seems like "being stuck" has been one of life's biggest thorns in my proverbial side. How about you? If you have a history of stuckness, what have you done to get un-stuck and get moving and grooving in life again?

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