3 Ways to move forward in life when you feel stuck
I came outside on my lunch break on a muggy, hot afternoon ready to head to the forest preserve, but my plans to read and write for an hour were derailed as soon as I took a look at my car. My rear tire was completely out of air. Flat. Not even drivable to the nearest gas station, which was less than two minutes away.
I groaned in irritation at my ruined lunch plans, but then I counted my blessings: I made it to work safe and sound that morning and my husband wasn’t too far from the area to help me (I don’t know how to change a tire and even if I did, it was 90 degrees outside and I wore dress clothes that morning. Not happening!). I took a closer look at the tire in amazement that I drove in traffic for 20 minutes without a problem.
How did I miss it?!
I check my tires frequently based on my previous experience with random flat tires. Still, I somehow managed to miss it this time.
My husband made it to my job, put in a can of fix-a-flat and drove it to our mechanic when that failed to work (thank God the tire was still under warranty!). We learned a piece of steel was the culprit behind the flat. They got to work and solved the problem before I left the office at 5pm. It was an easy (and dang near free) fix! I just needed to be more careful.
Stuck in a Rut
After driving around on my new tire for a couple of days, I began thinking about how we can have a leak without realizing it. Sometimes, we let things in (both unintentionally and intentionally), and we’re unaware of the damage they cause us. We’re so busy or overwhelmed with life that we don’t even realize we are deflating our dream in the process. We’re living life on fumes and barely getting by.
Maybe you were once so hype about your vision and purpose, but life happened, and your excitement and passion slowly began leaking. (Been here). Sometimes we don’t even realize that a leak exists until we attempt to move forward...only to discover it’s too hard to take a step because we’re too depleted. Exhausted. Stuck.
Signs of a flat:
- Lack of motivation
- Bogged down
- Stuck/hard to make progress
Moving forward while feeling stuck is challenging. It takes work, but the outcome is definitely worth it. Making any progress is definitely better than remaining stagnant. Here are three tips to help you move forward when you feel stuck in life.
Keep your vision close
I met up with a girlfriend over the summer and we had a long talk about purpose, vision and our careers. She shared her frustrations about her current job situation. She was unhappy and lacked any motivation to move up within the company. It was truly a 9-5 to her, nothing more. She’s talented and gifted and wants to step out to do her own thing but after spending hours at her job and being overworked and overwhelmed, she admitted it's difficult to come home and do more work. She definitely deserves to kick back and chill after a long, hectic day.
I totally get it. I work full-time as a writer, and as much as I love to write, I admit that coming home to write even more (especially after writing all day at work) is the last thing I feel like doing some days, so for a long time I didn’t write much after work, if at all. I busted out my pen or laptop to write here and there, but I mainly spent my evenings doing other non-writing activities.
Balancing a full-time job while pursuing your own dream (whether it’s a side hustle or something you want to eventually replace your full-time job), takes work, dedication, energy and motivation. I realized time kept moving and nothing on my to-do list was getting checked off. My book? Still on chapter one (or let’s be honest...I was still drafting the outline). My short story? Somewhere under a thick pile of other unfinished stories. I decided if I wanted to get things done, I had to put in the work outside of my 9-5. I told my girlfriend, we had to keep pushing. I also told her:
Sometimes we get so caught up in our other responsibilities that we forget that our vision belongs to us, and it’s something that others can’t dictate or change. It’s something God has placed in our hearts, and one that will come to pass if we work at it. Once I began to view my vision from that perspective, I began to get excited about it, and I found myself dedicating more time to my personal goals after work. Now it’s not to say that I stopped watching TV altogether. I just prioritized what I watched and cut back drastically (okay maybe it did help that all of my shows went on hiatus at the same time, but you get my drift). It was perfect timing, and I learned how to discipline myself.
What is your vision? Write it down and keep it in a place where you can see it every day. You can also get creative and map out your vision on a poster board or use Pinterest to build a board that highlights all of your goals. Set a weekly (or daily) reminder to look at your board. Your vision may change over time, so creating an online or physical board helps you to add or subtract from your vision as needed.
Create a plan of action
A successful vision requires a plan. I can have a vision that I’ll become a successful fiction author, but I can’t bring that vision to life without a plan of action. As much as I loved watching "I Dream of Jeannie" on TV growing up, it’s not real life. I just can’t envision a book in my mind and blink it into existence without putting a plan in place to produce my book.
I am a big picture thinker (comes with the Type B territory). I get tons of ideas, and sometimes I don’t even realize how big they are until I sit down and start to hash out the details. I have a friend who is gifted in planning events. When I toss out ideas for something, she always asks me follow-up questions immediately, which my response is always the same: (blank stare followed by “Um...I haven’t thought that far ahead”). She is great when it comes to breaking a project down into small details and noticing minor details that will make or break a project from the start. That’s what makes her exceptional at what she does.
Whether you’re a big picture person like myself or detail-oriented like my friend, moving forward in life still requires a plan that shifts you from point A, to point B and etc. You don’t have to start with a super detailed plan. Let’s say you’re stuck in the area of your finances (because who hasn’t been here before). Maybe the bulk of it is debt. Your vision is to get out of debt, and you’ve created a vision board that represents your end goal, which is to be debt-free.
Now we all know when it comes to finances and paying off debt, it takes work, determination and serious hustling (student loans anyone?). Creating a debt-free vision board is a great start, but it won’t prevent Sallie Mae from calling you. A plan can be as simple as pay XX amount of money per month toward a credit card or cut back on coffee runs in the morning.
None of us know all of the answers and you’ll probably discover that some parts of your plan requires research, but starting somewhere means you’re moving along.
Show your confidence
Familiar with the scripture “faith without works is dead?” We can say we believe something will come to pass, but when we take a step and actually put in work, we are showing that we believe it will happen. It shows confidence.
As a writer, I’ve heard the classic writing rule “show, don’t tell” repeatedly. That same technique can apply to faith. We can’t just tell ourselves we believe something will happen; we have to show it. I’ll go back to the example of publishing a fiction book because it’s always been a part of my vision. If I told you, “I have faith that I’m going to become a successful fiction author,” but then I kicked back and never wrote anything...how could I be confident that my goal will happen?
On the flip side, if I made it a habit to work on my book consistently and kept saying, “I have faith that I’m going to become a successful fiction author,” I can be confident in my confession because I am putting in work, which creates a sense of expectation. You can’t expect much when you don’t do anything, but when you’re hard at work, you expect to see the results of your efforts.
Sometimes we don’t even know how everything will work out, but we can proceed with confidence in knowing that our God-given purpose will eventually happen, even when we’re exhausted, depleted or stuck.
What’s the solution?
I wish it was as easy as calling up a mechanic and saying, “hey my flat tire is under warranty. You have one in stock? Great. On the way.” The reality is moving forward in life requires work, work and more work, along with the will to push through. Just like fix-a-flat doesn’t work on a tire with a gaping hole, a quick fix doesn’t work when we need serious replenishing.
There isn’t a one-size-fits all plan or solution, but there is a way to take your situation, combine it with the tips listed above and break it down to create an actionable plan that will work for you. See the worksheet below!