Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try—and sometimes, the harder you try—you can’t quite seem to make the progress you want on your projects and goals? It’s always something or other getting in the way and it’s one step forward, two steps back.
Sigh. Me too, friend. Me too.
It’s so frustrating to not get what you want, or to feel like you can’t win at the goals you’ve set for yourself. I don’t know about you, but I have many very reasonable REASONS and CIRCUMSTANCES to explain why I’m stuck. Some of them are actually even real. But if I’m being honest, the biggest issue isn’t something out there keeping me from moving forward. As much as I am loathe to admit it, the thing that’s in my way is mostly me.
I am my own greatest obstacle, and I suspect you are yours, too. At least we’re in good company. We could get team shirts.
Years ago, I listened to an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert and something she said really stuck with me. She was talking about how divinely ridiculous we humans can be, and she said something along the lines of how “the best place to hide God was in human beings, because we are the last place you’d think to look for it.”
It feels like The Truest Thing. We’re these little drops of divinity, having these human experiences down here on Earth so that God can experience themselves, and we get totally flustered by incredibly epic issues like email inboxes, an extra 10 pounds (on the body that keeps me alive and allows me to literally have life), or a messed-up coffee order.
God bless our little hearts. Literally.
So how do we get unstuck? How do we get these obstacles out of our way? Well, I have spent over eleven years supporting hundreds of clients to create the lives of their dreams. Have they all succeeded at getting exactly what they want? Honestly? No. But many others certainly have surprised themselves when they actually created their desired results, or even surpassed their original wish list. And this isn’t even including the transformation in their very being and the dramatic shift in the experience of life and relationships to others, circumstances and themselves. While those unintended results are usually an unintended by-product of our work, they are the real prize, even if they are the topic of another post.
So what’s the difference between the ones who succeed and the ones who don’t? I’m so glad you asked: the ones who make progress and see results are the ones who learn how to get out of their own way.
What does that mean?
Well, it’s like this: clients hire coaches to make a dream a reality. If you’re struggling to imagine what that looks like, think of an athlete with Olympic gold medal dreams. They want the podium and they hire a coach to help them improve at their sport, which takes a combination of developing their strength, endurance and skill, certainly, but it also takes learning how to spot blindspots, those habits that hold us back and hamstring our progress. We need support seeing how our strokes are a little off target, whether it’s in the actions we’re taking or the mindset that informs those actions (or the lack of actions thereof, as is often the case).
It’s all well and good to be disciplined and committed to continuous improvement, but if you’re merrily sabotaging yourself all along the way, you’re not going to get the results you desire.
Here’s the thing: a lot of people—especially the ones who get stuck—as soon as they hire a coach, begin working really hard to convince the coach that what they want is impossible. I’m not knocking them for it; after all, I’m a client too, and I do the exact same thing with my coach.
After all, look at all this EVIDENCE I have collected about how hard it is to do what I’m trying to do. I don’t have what it takes. I wasn’t born into the right family, under the right stars. Look at these REASONS why I didn’t do what I said I’d do last week, the week/month/year before.
The people who get stuck are fixated on how hard it will be, how they don’t have what it takes and how impossible it feels. They forget that feelings aren’t facts, and they let their feelings dictate their actions, which usually looks like not taking action at all, or not enough, then getting discouraged by the results matching their input, and all of those feelings become facts, too. All of this tangled mess then becomes MORE REASONS to prove why they can’t win.
But the people who move forward? They realize that they’re in their way. Instead of fixating on how hard it is, they focus on the goal and get creative in the pursuit of their quest. They let go of how it went or didn’t (as the case may be) and look at what is needed and what is next.
The ones who get stuck spend their energy in frustration and resentment (to themselves, others and God/The Universe). They rail against how long it’s taking, letting discouragement talk them out of taking responsibility, and letting their feelings snuff out their desire. It’s much more comfortable that way than staying in a prolonged state of unrequited desire.
The ones who get unstuck channel that energy into curiosity and action. They realize time is passing and though they might feel discouraged, they don’t furnish that room for an extended stay; rather, they let their feelings fuel their desire, growing their capacity to be with the discomfort of their desire.
The ones who stay stuck find themselves up against a a brick wall and spend a lot of time and energy focusing on the wall: how big it is, how unyielding it is, what a terrible wall it is and how unfair it is that it’s there at all.
The ones who move forward spend less time focusing on the wall and more time figuring out ways to go around it, over it or through it.
In short, to get unstuck, we have to get out of our own way. We do that by learning to surrender and accept what is, without defaulting to giving up. We relinquish the right to be more fascinated by the challenges we face than we are committed to finding a way through them.
It’s tricky, because the ones who get stuck? They are suffering. They are expending a lot of energy digging themselves deeper into a hole, so it feels like they’re doing a lot of work. And I suppose they are, but it’s the wrong energy, doing the wrong work, in the wrong direction. I don’t mean wrong from a judgmental place, but rather that it’s any direction other than the one they actually desire to be creating.
So, if you’re feeling stuck, take a look at your circumstances and how you’re showing up in them. Be honest with yourself: are you finding reasons to stay stuck, or are you finding a way forward, even if it looks like a detour?
Where are you getting in your way?
Where are you focusing your energy trying to convince yourself or your supporters that it’s hard, it’s impossible and it’s not for you?
If you want to get out of your own way, you need to see that you’re the one standing in your way in the first place.