One Simple Tool To Help You Shift
Have you recently had one of those moments (days, weeks, even years) when you just can’t seem to get traction on something that’s important to you? Perhaps you have an idea for your business, perhaps you need to make a staffing or workflow change for a work project or even have a conversation in a relationship that’s important to you? Maybe it’s an idea for a new product or service at work, a book you’ve had an idea for writing, or maybe it’s that new hire you know you need to make and have been considering for some time.
Or perhaps it’s something much bigger like a potentially uncomfortable conversation you’ve been avoiding with your boss or your team or your spouse. Whatever it is, we all have those situations and circumstances where we find ourselves feeling stuck and unable to move forward.
In my experience and in working with clients, I’ve found that this often comes down to one of three reasons:
- Lack of clarity on next steps
- No longer/never was a priority
or – and let’s be honest, here –
- Abject fear
or some combination of the above.
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Regardless of the reason, being stuck is a real challenge. It can at best leave you with that nagging feeling that something important just isn’t getting the attention it needs and deserves. Or worse, you may be feeling all-out discouraged and disappointed in yourself for not getting the darn thing done or stuck in a place that is not serving your personal growth, your professional advancement or your enjoyment of life.
Before you beat yourself up over it – or take a beating from your colleagues or significant other, I encourage you to instead try a different approach:
- First. Take a deep breath and accept and acknowledge where you are. Take a good, honest appraisal of the current reality as you see it. If this brings up feelings of frustration or judgment, try to notice them and release them rather than spending energy giving yourself a hard time that you could be using to move forward. You might also want to acknowledge that this step can be a challenge. We are not often encouraged – and are even discouraged – from feeling what we’re feeling, much less acknowledging it. Yet when we do not acknowledge it, our system is spending energy to resist or ignore what’s below the surface – that you could instead be using to move forward. And it actually gets harder to get traction.
- Second. Ask yourself why you haven’t moved this forward. Is it because you’re not sure what to do next? Is it something you’re avoiding because the outcome is uncertain and you perhaps have some fear around what might happen if you take a next step? Or is it possibly because it’s something that really isn’t all that important to you anymore – and you’re doing it because at some point in the past you decided it was important although it could perhaps now be dropped from your to-do list entirely?
- Third. If after an honest assessment you’ve determined that it IS still important to you, then ask what is the next best step you could take to move ahead – with the difficult conversation, the book you want to write, the shift you need to make on your team. Maybe you need to practice having the conversation with your spouse or do further research on questions you have about the work project or take a day off to find a different space or mindset to inspire your writing.
- Fourth. Once you have your next step, check in with yourself. How do you feel about taking that next step on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being “I’m not at all ready” and 10 being “I’m totally ready, confident and feel like this is the first thing I will do once I finish reading this blog post.” If you’re at a 10, great! You’ve finished this exercise in 4 steps and can move on from here. Often, however, I find clients at a 7, 8 or 9 but not quite at a 10. What this means most of the time is that you have not actually discovered your very next step yet.
For instance, let’s say you decide that you just need to have that conversation with your boss and you rate it at an 8 of 10. Perhaps what’s holding you back is an interim step with yourself where you need to take the time to get clearer on what your concerns – and perhaps your proposed solutions – actually are before you attempt to articulate them to your boss.
- Fifth. If you’re not yet at a 10 out of 10… Unpack it. In the project management world, where I’ve worked with teams and organizations for over two decades to implement large-scale projects, this is where we take a big project and spend a morning or a day or a week breaking it down into smaller pieces and tasks. We stay at it until we can’t break it down any further and we have clear, actionable next steps. I’m asking you to do a similar exercise for yourself.
This is a step that can sometimes be tough to do on your own so you might enroll a trusted friend, colleague or coach to help.
If you catch yourself saying yes, I know this is true or I’ve heard it all before… ask yourself if you’ve really put it into practice. And if this sounds like a lot of work, what’s the cost to you if you continue to not move forward? I can tell you that if you begin to practice these steps regularly when you notice you’re stuck, they become much easier, habitual and this little exercise will get faster for you.
Have you spent the time to take an honest look at the current circumstances, unpack them enough to get clear on what’s holding you back and then take a (different) action than you’ve taken before?
If not, then I encourage you to try it. On something small. Today.
Now, I’d love to hear from you.
- How do you move forward when you’re stuck? What helps you get moving again?
- Have you tried assessing where you are on a scale of 1-10?
- What specifically happened and how did you handle it?
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