Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Getting Stuck

Image credit: DOE archives/photo Ed Westcott
Today is Monday, May 27, 2013.

When the weather's gray and stormy as it has been for a few days, now, it's easy to fall into the doldrums.  My life is going pretty much as it should, right now, but there is one area in which I feel a little stuck, and that's my effort toward weight-loss.  I think I can beat the problem, though, so I'm not going to go on and on about losing weight.  Instead, I decided to investigate a situation that all of us have faced at one time or another: feeling stuck. 

I would guess that most people feel stuck in their job at one point or another during their working life.  I certainly did, even though I love teaching.  I just wasn't teaching in the right place anymore.  I was just incredibly lucky to be offered a way out without too much effort, and while I'm eternally grateful for this, I wonder if I might have been able to learn more about getting out of a rut on my own if I'd had to work it out for myself.  That's one thing we'll never know.  However, I do have an opportunity, now, to blog about the issue, which may end up being of some help to myself in the future, or perhaps to one of my readers.  Who knows?

If you've ever been stuck in a rut, you know how it feels.  Energy just seems to drain right out of your body, and you can't seem to get excited about much of anything.  Even little tasks seem difficult and small problems seem insurmountable.  You get upset over things that normally might seem insignificant.  Your options seem limited, and there doesn't seem to be any way out of the tunnel you are in.  It's hard to focus on anything in particular, and you can't even envision what it is you want.  If you're spiritually inclined, you can't seem to find that connection with the Divine that has uplifted you in the past, your dreams seem to have dried up, and you are too restless to get into a meditative state. 

In tough economic times, this stuck feeling is complicated by the fact that jobs just aren't that plentiful, and if you are lucky enough to have a job, you feel as if you might be jumping from the frying pan into the fire if you give up the job you have.  Then there is your responsibility to your family, if you have one, that keeps you from quitting a job that keeps bread and butter on the table.  If you're like most Americans, you are probably also in debt: you have house payments, car payments, credit card payments, or other loan payments to think about. 

If you're stuck in a relationship that's going nowhere, you may be worried that you could never support yourself all alone, or that you could never learn to do things for yourself.  You may even be afraid that no one else would have you, or that life would be unbearable without someone to spend Saturday night with. 

In order to get unstuck, it helps to know how you got stuck in the first place.  The answers cannot be found by looking around you.  They can only be found by looking within.

The major cause of being stuck is fear, pure and simple. Specifically, people who are stuck are afraid of the future.  They're afraid of the unknown.  They're afraid of change.   Why?  I would say the biggest problem with "the unknown" is that people are afraid they won't be able to handle it, that they won't be up to the task.  That is tied in with low self-esteem and lack of confidence, and that has to do with our subconscious beliefs about ourselves.  (I'm a failure, I'm not smart enough, etc.)  In earlier blog posts, I've written about re-programming your subconscious beliefs.  In order to do this, you do have to delve into your innermost being and identify the beliefs that are causing you problems, and you have to be hyper-aware of your self-talk.  For example, how do you scold yourself when you spill something or miss an appointment?  How do you feel about yourself when you do poorly on a test or when you underwhelm your boss in a job performance review?  Those things you think or say to yourself – that's your self-talk, and those are your subconscious beliefs. 

Besides fear of the unknown, there are all kinds of known outcomes that scare people. You might go bankrupt or lose your home.  You might fail in front of the whole company.  You might disappoint your loved ones.  Well, yes, you might, but it's a fact that 90% or more of the things that people worry about never happen.   The vast, vast majority of things I've worried about in the past have not even remotely come true.  Even the times when I wasn't totally successful, what did happen wasn't nearly as bad as I had feared.

What if your worst fear does come true?  Frankly, if your fear is that strong, it just might. Those of us who have fallen on our faces once or twice know something that others don't.  We know that you can pick yourself up and go on.  That's the most valuable lesson I have learned in life.  Whatever happens, I can get through it.  I will come out on the other side, somehow, because I did it before.

Taking the time for introspection and meditation is essential to overcoming our fears.  It's also important to be mindful of our self talk and consistent in rooting out negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones.

A wonderful book that can help you work with the fear of change is one by Mary Carroll Moore, called How to Master Change in Your Life: 67 Ways to Handle Life's Toughest Moments.

We get stuck when we dwell too much on the past.  Sometimes we replay a past experience over and over, wishing we had reacted differently, and knowing that what we did then has landed us in the mess we are in today.  It's easy to think that the show is now over, that we blew our chance, and that we will never have another opportunity.  This seems to happen a lot when we lose a job or when a relationship breaks up. 

I wish I had fifty dollars for every person in my life who told me that they would never find another job as good as the one they lost, or that they would never find someone else to love.  I wish I had another fifty dollars for every person who found a better job and a much more fulfilling relationship after that.  I could take a nice little vacation to Hawaii with all that money. Truly, when one door closes, another one opens.  It's hard to remember this when a door has just been slammed in our faces, but it's a good thought to hang onto.

There's nothing wrong with looking at something that went amiss to see what mistakes we made, but once that's done, it's important to let it go and move on.  Of course, we also have to find a way to avoid that same mistake in the future.  That's what makes tough situations so valuable – learning how we can do better next time.

We get stuck when we look for fulfillment in the wrong place.  A majority of people still think they can find happiness outside of themselves.  They think if they had high-paying job with a prestigious title, they would be happy.  If they had a little more money or got out of debt, they'd be on easy street.  If they could just get that book published, or win this award, if they could find the perfect relationship, get their beloved to propose marriage, or have a child, everything else would fall into place.  If they could just lose a little weight, recover their energy after an illness, tone up their flabby muscles or find the perfect hairstyle, their life would be on track.  If they wore more fashionable clothes, drove a better car, or lived in a more upscale neighborhood, things would be different.  Sure, they might be happier for a while, but then the doldrums would come back.

Thinking that things outside of ourselves will make us happy is what keeps us in the so-called "rat race."  It's the ball-and-chain that holds us in place.  This kind of thinking is also what makes smokers smoke, what makes drinkers drink, what makes drug-users do drugs, and what makes gamblers gamble.  These addictive behaviors are all part of the rat race.  For that matter, it's what makes people eat too much food and drink too much coffee. 

Abe Lincoln said, "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."  Happiness has nothing to do with what you have and everything to do with what you are, and what we forget is that we can change what we are.  

We get stuck when we believe that our situation is just "the way it is" and that it can't be changed.  The Declaration of Independence addressed this type of thinking:  "...mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."  In other words, we think we can't change the situation, so we don't even try.  This type of thinking is a prison of our own making.  This is only one of the "attitude" problems that people have when they are stuck.  It's been said that if you don't control your attitude, then your attitude will control you.  Remember that your attitude is determined by your subconscious thoughts.  Carl Jung is supposed to have said, "Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate."  Even if he never did express it exactly in this way, I believe he would have agreed with the statement. It takes a conscious decision o make a change, and it takes grit and perseverance to make the change happen.  The key is realizing that your life doesn't have to be the way it is now forever.  You can make things change.

We get stuck when we are unwilling to confront obstacles and avoid hard work.  This is another attitude problem.  If you're thinking that other people have it easy, you're mistaken.  No one has it easy, even if they make it look easy.  In fact, human beings are programmed to solve problems and overcome challenges.  That's what we're all here for.  That's why Souls come into this physical life.  What makes a good book good?  The hero or heroine triumphs over adversity of some kind.  What makes a great life great?  Same thing - triumph over adversity.  No experience in this life is a waste of time if we can learn from it.  As Soul, we didn't come here to be successful or to have an easy life.  We came here to hone one or more qualities that we had trouble manifesting in the past. We came to learn just how powerful and creative we really are. 

We get stuck when we fail to be grateful for what we do have.  I can't prove this scientifically, but it seems to me that when we stop being grateful, life stops giving us things to be grateful for.  We have to cultivate an "attitude of gratitude" in order to move ahead.  When we do this, we are able to put our problems into proper perspective, and some of the obstacles we are facing seem a little less daunting. 

We get stuck when we fail to take total responsibility for our lives.  This is a biggie. Sure, we were dealt some cards to play with in this lifetime, but as Soul we agreed to the hand we were dealt.  These things can't generally be changed.  Your race, ethnicity, culture you grew up in, your birth family are things that you cannot change.  Sure, some people have had a sex change, but that's a very rare event.  Basically, you are born into a certain situation and those are the cards you are dealt.   As Randy Pausch said in his Last Lecture, "We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."  How we "play the hand" is the sense in which we create our own reality. 

If we blame all our problems on someone else, then we are investing in that person the power to make things better for us.  If they don't take action to make things better, than we suffer.  If we admit that we created our own problems, then we can decide what we did to land us in our current mess, and we can figure out what it will take to get us out of it.  We are the ones who have to do this.  That's not to say we can't have help – we can.  But we are the ones who have to get the ball rolling.  Even if help is handed to us on a silver platter, we are the ones who must accept the help.  The world is full of people who cannot or will not accept help from others – just another example of how we create our own reality!

One thing that keeps us stuck is being in debt, and most people refuse to accept the fact that their own decisions got them into debt.  OK, so you bought a house or a new car.  Did you really need to buy that house when you did?  Could you have stayed in an apartment for a little longer?   Did you really need that expensive a car?  Was it really necessary to take that vacation?  One of the best things I can suggest to anyone who is feeling stuck is to find out how to get out of debt.  Suze Orman's books were incredibly helpful to me in this respect, and one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to find a reputable debt consolidation plan and stick with it.  In only five years, I got out from under a mountain of debt, and I learned a lot of good habits to substitute for the bad ones that got me into financial trouble.

We get stuck when we ignore our true calling in life.  People who are feeling stuck often find that they have been trying to please someone else, perhaps their parents or their spouse.  They have been evaluating their lives by the standards of society.  They have been living lives that seem respectable or successful to others, but unfulfilling to themselves.  They are afraid to make a change because they might fail.  Or they are afraid that pleasing themselves might be considered self-centered.  They fail to realize that they can't very well be of use to others if they continue to deny themselves happiness.

It's been suggested by any number of psychologists and life coaches that you sit down and just write down what makes you happy, what makes your heart sing, what you'd like to do if time and money weren't obstacles.   One lady suggested to try listing 100 things you want to do in only 20 minutes.  Even if you don't get to 100, you will still have some ideas.  The trick is to go back to the list later and pick out one or two things that seem doable and do them. Even if the thing that makes you happiest doesn't turn out to be a moneymaker, you can at least be happy.

We get stuck when we fail to ask for and accept help.  I mentioned this above, briefly. Some people don't even recognize help when it is offered.  Others realize they are being offered help, but they are too proud or too ashamed to accept it.  A great many people have no idea how much potential help surrounds them in the spiritual realm.   When we ask for help from a Higher Power, whatever we understand that to be, things start to happen.  We start to meet the right people, we find ourselves in the right place at the right time, or we find a book or a health remedy that can help us.  Creation, itself, is primed to provide us with all the help we will ever need, if we will only ask. 

There's a certain trick to asking for help, though.  Help doesn't always come in the way we expect it.  For example, if you have just been through a divorce, you might wish to meet someone new right away to end your loneliness and make you feel better about yourself, but God might have a bigger plan.  Maybe you're supposed to start that business you've always wanted or get that book published, instead, and a relationship would just be one more burden to carry while you are trying to accomplish that.  

Instead of telling God how you'd like to be helped, think of qualities you'd like to have in your life.  More energy?  More joy?  Peace of mind?  A chance to help others?   That's what you should ask for.  Then let God fill in the blanks to give you just what you need to fulfill your desires.  Trust that a way will be provided, and resolve to accept the help in whatever form it comes.  :-)

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