You know that terrible dream where you find yourself running from something and you try to scream but nothing comes out? Where defeat feels imminent and you’re completely powerless against it?
Being “stuck” can feel a lot like that. No matter how much you may want to change your perspective, your situation, or even your life, it’s like the old habits are nipping at your heels keeping you from ever moving in the right direction. That fear can be paralyzing and all consuming.
But it doesn’t last forever.
In the midst of a nightmare, it’s often when our situation seems completely hopeless that we wake up. We look around the room and in a split second we realize that we’re safe. That nothing got us and today is yet another day.
Often I receive messages and comments from readers who want to change their lives by traveling the world or moving abroad. From reading my posts How I Afford a Life of Constant Travel, and You Can Too and Yes, It’s Practical to Quit Your Job and Travel, and Here is Why, they know that they can do it. Yet, they still tell me they feel stuck.
If you find yourself feeling stuck now, struggling to move in any direction because the fear seems so powerful, let this post be what wakes you up. I’ve put together this list of practices that help me time and time again, to get myself out of the sludge and onto the path of greatness.
Make a commitment to do at least one of these today and I promise you will feel less stuck immediately. Keep practicing these every day, and before you know it, your life will transform into what you’ve always wanted it to be.
1) Figure Out What You Want
I’m willing to bet that the biggest reason we get stuck, is because we don’t actually know what we want. Or rather, we don’t THINK that we know what we want. On some level, I believe that we always know but our insecurities trick us. We judge what we know that we want, so we convince ourselves that we don’t actually really want it. The only way to counteract this is by figuring out what you do want, and deciding that it’s worth pursuing. More importantly, decide that you deserve it.
Lay down, close your eyes, and tap into your imagination. Create an image of what your life would look like if you literally could not fail. Imagine that the world works in your favor and anything that you want can become so. Imagine that fear does not exist. What does your life look like? (If this is very difficult for you, read my post How to Figure Out What the F&*K You Should be Doing With Your Life.) When you settle on a vision that evokes your heart’s deepest desires, write it down and be sure to look at it every single day. When you take a look, mentally tell yourself “I am worthy.”
2) Shift Your Thinking
One of the reasons why change can be so difficult to create, is because our brains are literally wired to make us enact the same habits over and over again. We may want to go on a run in the morning instead of wasting an hour perusing Facebook, but somehow that can feel really hard. It’s all a matter of programming.
Think of your mind as a puppy dog. A trainable, albeit stubborn, puppy dog. If you want the puppy to do what you command it to do, you need to train it. You need to tell it what to do consistently. So, how do you do that with your own brain? This is where meditation comes in.
Meditation exists to help us become free of the constant mental chatter in our minds. This may surprise you, but that voice in your head isn’t you. It’s actually just one tiny part of you. (If you’re interested in exploring this idea more, check out my post Who Am I?) When we work with mantras in meditation, we practice keeping the mind focused on one single task: repeating a word or phrase. In turn, we train our mind (just like that puppy dog) to heel and let us lead the way.
I work with mantras all of the time. When I begin my morning by focusing my mind away from unproductive thinking and towards encouraging beliefs, it influences the way that I behave the entire day. For instance, if I feel myself in a funk, I repeat in my mind over and over for five minutes “I am happiness.” Sure enough, I feel more joyful the entire day.
Take a moment to think about what change you want to create in your life. Perhaps it’s being a more available partner, taking better care of your body, or finding the courage to book a ticket and take a trip around the world. Whatever it is, see if you can form a mantra around it. For the dreams that seem especially scary, I find “everything is possible” to be a great mantra.
Choose one mantra and commit to meditating on it every morning for the next week. When you rise, find a nice place to sit, ideally outside, and set a timer on your phone for 5 minutes. Begin by simply focusing on your breathing, then begin to repeat your mantra mentally. If you’re just getting started, it may be challenging to keep your mind focused. Don’t worry, this happens to me too! The key is to be patient and simply refocus your mind as soon as you realized it has wandered.
If you want to explore mantras deeper, consider doing the 21-Day Free Meditation Challenge with Deepak Chopra, which starts July 13, 2015. I’ll be doing it too!
3) Adjust Your Surroundings
As much as I believe that we’re capable of finding happiness no matter where we are… let’s be real: our surroundings play a HUGE role. Staying in relationships, in jobs, in homes, in cities, that don’t make us feel good undoubtedly affects our ability to create positive change. Often it’s the stuck energy around us that contributes to our own struggle in moving forward.
What’s the remedy? Change your surroundings.
This is one reason why I find travel to be instantly effective. Everything around you changes and it can be like hitting the reset button. However, this can also be a dangerous fix. Even out on the road, you will often realize that no matter where you go, there you are. Be careful not to “run” away from your struggles and to learn to sit with what is. Look at changing your location as a catalyst, rather than a solution, to help you dig deeper and work on yourself from within.
Adjusting your surroundings doesn’t have to be as dramatic as flying across the world. For some of us it may mean doing something as simple as getting out of the office, off of the computer or even getting out of bed. You can also adjust the energy of your surroundings, without actually changing them. Listen to only positive, uplifting music. Organize your space so that it feels less chaotic and more peaceful. Selectively spend time with only people who are positive and inspiring. The more you surround yourself with things that embody the change you truly want to make, the easier it is to make it so.
Sit down with a notepad and make a list of all of the things in your life that make you feel good. Then make a list of the things that don’t. Decide right now to eliminate at least half of the things that don’t make you feel good. Then look at the things that do make you feel good, and see how you can schedule them into your daily routine with greater frequency.
4) Move Your Body
In today’s age we seem pretty hung up fixing our problems intellectually. Most of us try to work it out in our brains to come to our solution. Well, that doesn’t always work. Remember what I said before? Our mental conversations are only one facet of who we are.
If you’re feeling stuck in your life, you probably feel stuck in your body too. Sometimes simply moving your body can spontaneously help you realize more opportunities and possibilities. When I feel stuck, my favorite thing to do is stretch, hula hoop, and dance it out.
Stress can literally get stuck in our tissues, and stretching helps us to release it. As a Yin yoga teacher, I have experienced the way that deep stretching enables old emotions to bubble up and float away. As a Vinyasa yoga teacher, I feel the way that an energetic practice of synchronizing my breath and movement makes everything in my life flow with greater ease. If you’re interested in learning more about the transformational effects of yoga, check out my post How Practicing Yoga Changed My Life.
Similarly, I love the way that dancing and hula hooping helps me to completely get out of my head and get creative in my body. Days that I spend writing at my computer, I take breaks often to ecstatically dance and hula hoop. After even a few minutes I often feel invigorated and re-inspired to make progress.
Move, every day, ideally when you wake up in the morning and before you go to bed at night. Plan to do some form of movement for at least 30 minutes (a yoga video, a yoga class, a run, a brisk walk, etc) every single morning. Bonus points if you ecstatically dance before brushing your teeth! (Check out my morning dance playlist here.) In the evening, do some relaxing deep stretching before you go to bed. If you don’t have a yoga studio that you like going to, or if like me you’re constantly on the road, get started with YogaGlo, where you can do yoga in your living room with very high quality world famous instructors. My faves are Tiffany Cruikshank and Kathryn Budig.
5) Listen to Some Badass Music
Ever notice how the soundtrack of a film can make all of the difference in how you feel when watching it? Music can build suspense, indicate excitement, calm our nerves, and let us have more fun. Similarly, the music we listen to can become the soundtrack for our lives. What soundtrack would make you feel like a powerful badass capable of changing the world?
Create a playlist filled with songs that inspire you to be the change you want to create. Songs that speak to your highest ideals, songs that describe a life that you want to be living, songs that remind you of the possibilities in life. If you don’t have the songs already, either buy them in iTunes or make a playlist that you can stream on Youtube. Use this playlist while you do your morning exercise and/or listen to it while you’re working.
Some of my faves:
6) Write it Out
Often what keeps us stuck is our fear of what might happen if we move. The unknown can be terrifying when we can’t see the light beyond the darkness.
I’ve experienced this plenty of times, particularly when money has been a factor. I get hard on myself, hung up on the struggle, and my progress comes to a standstill. However the moment I realize how many options and possibilities I have, I immediately become free.
Therefore, the key to getting unstuck is often to simply recognize the possibilities.
Write out all of the possibilities. With whatever situation you’re feeling stuck around, write out all of your possible choices and their possible outcomes. Write out the worst case scenarios. All of them. Write out the best case scenarios. All of them. I’m guessing that (except in rare cases) it won’t be life or death and the possibilities will far outweigh the risks. Look at your list of possibilities whenever you feel fearful, to remember that there is always a way.
7) Enact a Ritual
Maybe the big changes, the life changes, seem scary, but do all changes? I find that by starting with something small and practicing it consistently, we can train ourselves to have enough confidence to go for the bigger goals. When we witness the gradual improvement through consistent practice, it opens us to the possibility that we’re capable of achieving more.
What is one small, simple positive change that you could make pretty easily? Is it exercising? Dedicating time to your passion? Setting aside a relaxation hour? Commit to doing it every single day for the next month and notice what else changes in your life as a result.
8) Get Inspired
It’s hard to find the motivation to move forward when you feel totally uninspired. These are the times when you need to actively source it. Personally, I find inspiration on long walks in nature, by listening to uplifting music, taking an awesome yoga class, spending time with friends who are living their purpose, and reading books that challenge my patterns and beliefs.
Purchase or download a book with an inspirational message connected to your passion. Reading a blog is great, but it’s even better if you have a book that can be your bedtime story. For travel inspiration, check out The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica by Yours Truly, The Beach by Alex Garland, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Some of my non-travel (but all time favorite) recommendations include Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, The Celestine Prophecy, and A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson.
9) Do Something That Scares You
The more you can expand your comfort zone, the more confidence you’ll have to shoot for the stars. If you really want to make change happen… now…. you need to get used to doing the things that scare you. The more you practice working through unnecessary fears, the more you realize how little there is in life to be afraid of.
This is one of the many ways that travel has changed my life. Riding a motorbike alone through rolling hills in Indonesia? Check. Showing up to Morocco on the ferry without speaking a word of the language? Check. Sleeping in a tent in the middle of the jungle with wild jaguars and crocodiles? Survived. Each time I prove to myself that I’m capable of more than I realized. This gives me the confidence and the courage to do even more.
Do one thing, anything, that really scares you. If you’re afraid of heights, climb up something high and stand near the edge. Practice standing on one hand. Ride on a small airplane. You could also practice being more open and communicative. You could look someone in the eye and tell them how you feel about them. You could dance by yourself in public. As long as it scares you and doesn’t have an imminent danger, it’s worth doing.
10) Make a Decision
Here’s some good news: whatever fears you have around making a decision or pursuing your dream, are not nearly as scary as being stuck. That means that if you’re stuck right now, you’ve already been through the worst of it. If you make a decision, ANY decision, it can only get better from here.
I recall recently, when I was traveling in Europe and Morocco, how stressed I was over where I was going and what I should be doing. It reached critical mass when I actually considered sneaking back on the ferry and trying to enter Spain illegally on an expired visa.
Finally, I had an “aha” moment. I had placed so much emphasis on where I was meant to go, when in fact it didn’t actually matter. It never actually matters. Whatever decision I made would lead me to whatever experience I needed. I couldn’t make the wrong choice.
Why? Because in every single experience in every single place in the world, there always lies an opportunity for miracles. There always lies an opportunity to choose compassion, happiness, and love. That, after all is what life is all about.
The moment I made a decision I felt immediate relief. It was my indecision that actually caused me suffering, not a wrong decision. I decided, and so I became unstuck.
Examine your decision and make a pact with yourself to come up with a resolution when you wake up. Go to sleep. In the morning, when you wake up, decide and commit to that decision. I have a feeling you already know what decision needs to be made. Just accept it, and move on.