Getting Unstuck So You Can Move On

Getting unstuck is a challenge all of us must face at one time or another. But when you’re embarking on a new chapter in your life or changing careers, you can be especially vulnerable to losing your focus.

"moving on" by alexdecarvalho, on FlickrHere you are, finally having discovered your ideal career, the work that would allow you to express yourself and make a difference.

You have a clear and compelling vision. You’re excited to be moving forward toward your dream.

But then one day you find yourself stuck, unable to move forward.

Being Stuck

We all get stuck. Our old fears and self-doubts are all too ready to kick in.

The problem is we want to think our way through being stuck, which keeps us repeating all those old patterns and behaviors. You can’t continue to try to solve problems with the thinking that got you stuck to begin with.

Getting unstuck and regaining your focus requires breaking those old patterns. Let yourself be open to new ideas. Allow yourself to see things in new and fresh ways.

Step Outside Yourself

Try looking at your larger goal sideways rather than head-on. Changing your perspective can often help you see things in a fresh way. You might also try breaking up your routine. Creative insights often come when you’re doing something new and totally different. Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way is a wonderful 12-week program designed to get your creative juices flowing again.

Be Gentle With Yourself

Slow down and really listen to yourself. What’s getting in your way? Stay with your feelings of uneasiness, knowing that they’re normal and a natural part of growth. Step into and acknowledge the negative thoughts and painful feelings that go along with being stuck. Then allow yourself to slowly release the negativity and replace it with positive thoughts and feelings.

Practice the Japanese Art of Kaizen

Kaizen is a Japanese business model based on small, incremental improvement and change. When you set your goals too large, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, which can lead to procrastination and loss of focus. Kaizen involves breaking your larger goal into very simple steps and concentrating on only one at a time. Don’t look too far ahead. As you keep taking those smaller steps, you will gradually reach your goal.

As you begin to spread your wings once again and move on, keep your vision in front of you but don’t let it overwhelm you. Let it serve as the inspiration for the one step you take now.

What helps you in getting unstuck?

Photo credit: alexdecarvalho / CC license

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{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Janet,
    What a meaningful and pragmatic article! Looking at your large goals sideways (vs. head-on) is so ‘spot on!’

    Not only do I see this working with my clients every day, I personally can attest to the value of your words. During my own life/career changes, the ‘steps’ you describe worked! In fact, though breaking routine sometimes felt awkward, it inevitably sparked what you suggested — creative juices. In fact, unresolved problems ‘organically’ became resolved, over time, with such proactive action steps.

    Being gentle with oneself also is vital, and it’s very reasonable to combine a gentleness with a gentle nudging to move outside of one’s comfort zone. And these movements create traction and momentum.

    Finally, the Japanese Art of Kaizen is a beautiful concept, and works for me (and my clients) every day. Breaking larger goals into simple steps and concentrating on one at a time is a GREAT suggestion. Again, it WORKS, and those larger goals ultimately are accomplished, over time, and without the overwhelm and obsession that comes with continually assessing one’s BIG goals.

    Thank you for this insightful article, Janet!

    Jacqui Barrett Poindexter

    • Jacqui, thank you for your thoughtful comments! I love your suggestion about creating traction and momentum by combining “a gentleness with a gentle nudging to move outside of one’s comfort zone”.

      When we’re stuck, it’s tempting to want to return to a “safe” place where we can avoid the discomfort that goes along with change. But it’s more important than ever to keep moving forward.

      All the best,

  • Chris


    Terrific article and a real breath of fresh air for me. I’m in an interesting scenario: I got myself unstuck from an organization only to find myself in a new job that was falling apart. The previous org wanted me back, so I jumped back because of that fear/discomfort/need for safety (for me and my family), but have realized that I didn’t do myself any favors. I’m trying to take the incremental approach of getting a plan together to get me unstuck and your article is providing me with a great set of principles to use in my process. If I can’t envision progress and success, how will it ever happen?

    Thanks again!


    • Chris,

      Thanks for your kind words and for sharing your own experience with being stuck. It’s never too late to get back on track, and it sounds like your “incremental approach” will get you there.

      Best wishes to you!


  • Maia

    I plan to leave an unhappy career where people are manipulative and too many games are being played. I am afraid of having to give up the financial security that it offers me, but at the end of the day, I’d rather be a better person than a better-paid person. What scares me most is the uncertainty of “what’s next” for me now? I’ve been in this industry for 15 years. And it’s not easy uprooting one’s life just like that.

    Do you have any advice for me?

    • You’re right, Maia, it’s not easy to make a major life change. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan. Before you leave, take some time to get clear about what you don’t want and what you do want in your next career.

      Start by taking a step back to identify the source of your unhappiness. Maybe you’ll find that you still enjoy the work itself, in which case you could transition into a similar job with a company whose values are a better match with yours.

      If your heart is set on making a total career change, discover what it would take for you to be happy in your work. Explore career options that would be a good fit. And figure out how you’ll support your transition. Will you be able to stay at your current job just a little longer until you have a plan? If that’s not feasible, what other sources of income or “bridge jobs” might be available to you?

      The fear and uncertainty about “what’s next” holds too many people back from living a fuller life. It keeps them stuck in the same situation – usually until something happens to them, like being laid off. Getting unstuck involves stepping up to create changes in your own life, just one step at a time.

      • Maia

        Thanks for the insight. I do feel like I can still do the same kind of job, but under my own terms this time. I see freelancing as an alternative so that I don’t have to go through the same turbulence I experience with the people I am currently “stuck” with.

        You’re right about taking small steps into transitioning from now to the next phase. It does make more sense.

        I really appreciate your thoughts and look forward to your future posts.


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