We have all been in situations when we feel stuck in a rut. We don’t know how to get out of it and that makes it even worse. The downward spiral of beating yourself up and blame starts and you then end up even more stuck. Sometimes it manifests itself simply when you have got to the end of a day and haven’t achieved what you wanted to; other times you could get to the end of the week or month and feel like you have done very little; sadly, the feeling of being stuck can sometimes show itself as the dinosaur it is when you don’t even want to get out of bed. If we are honest with ourselves then at some point in our lives we have all felt stuck. Thing is there is something you can do to get unstuck. In this post I share with you exactly what I do and recommend to you.
The impact of being stuck is not just on you, it is also on others around you and that is why it’s something that is important to address head on. A simple solution to being stuck is to have a checklist. Atul Gawande is a surgeon whose book The Checklist Manifesto http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/surgical-safety-without-this-checklist-i-would-have-killed-a-man-1886348.html is an incredible help here to articulating what I do when I am stuck. Gawande is saving the lives of others, I use the checklist technique to save my own!
What is the feeling of being stuck?
Being stuck can be receiving a message saying someone (e.g. boss, teacher, spouse) wants to meet with you and then your starting to stress about it because you don't know what they want to discuss. It’s feeling trapped and unable to move – not physically but mentally – you become blocked and trapped by your mind.
There is also research that shows that being stuck is linked to forgiveness. And I suggest sometimes it starts with you. Last year, as part of my Doctorate research, I did an experiment on myself and undertook a forgiveness course. I went into it thinking ‘I have nothing to forgive myself for’ and I came out it surprised at what I had to forgive myself for!
There are four phases of forgiveness – uncovering, decision, work and deepening. I hope to write about this in more detail in the future, but for the moment I will say that we should remember that forgiveness is an important tool that we need to learn how to use more effectively. And, for the record, I am speaking to myself first!
Neuroscience and being stuck.
What is incredible about the brain is that it can be changed! Neural plasticity means that we can learn and unlearn ways of thinking but this learning does take time, so keep at it! You need to practice patience and compassion when you are learning something new, especially when it is as important as learning how to become unstuck! Your brain is very powerful and it can just be in that place where it is stuck in a rut. When you fall into a hole know that you can get out of it. It takes one step for you to make that change and you can re-wire your brain!
I use a 5 step system to become unstuck - inspiration, ignitor, indicators, inspector and innovate. Keeping it simple there is one question for each of these five steps and they are worth writing down on a post-it note and putting it somewhere where you can see them every day (I’ve even created an image that you can download and keep as a screensaver on your phone to remind you of these five incredible questions to get unstuck and be a force to be reckoned with inshaAllah).
Inspiration - What do I want to be known for?
Ignitor - Who can I learn from?
Indicator - What are the three specific actions I can complete today?
Inspector - What positive thing is happening in my life that I can acknowledge?
Innovate - What small change will I make next?
No matter how hard it is when you feel stuck ask, yourself these questions. Other tips for you as well are to remember that we need you to be your amazing self. You are a leader whatever you are doing – if you are a leader in your home or a business leader – we need you to be great at what you are doing and when you are stuck that doesn't always happen. Even today, sometimes I find myself stuck and I have to remind myself that I am not doing this for me, I am doing it to share my knowledge with others, I owe it to them. And if I am so stuck that none of this works then I wake up before the fajr (dawn) prayers and respond to God’s call of ‘Which of my slaves is calling me?’ by answering ‘I’m here Allah, and I need your help!’
Remember you are never really stuck, you just might not know the way out for a second or two.
Johnson, Amy. 2015. How understanding neuroscience helps me get unstuck. Schizophrenia Bulletin 41 (3): 544.
McGrath, Rita Gunther, and Ian C. MacMillan. 2009. How to get unstuck. Vol. 87. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Normandy--Dolberg, Joan. 2011. How can forgiveness help our clients get 'unstuck'? The Advocate (American Mental Health Counselors Association) 34 (1): 21.
Womack, Jason W., and Jodi Womack. 2016. get momentum: How to start when you're stuck. Leader to Leader 2016 (81): 25-30.