“So what’s keeping you awake at night?” I asked a client in a coaching session last week.
Being very honest he said, “I feel stuck”.
Many clients have a similar realisation through their coaching. Even just bringing this into their awareness provides some level of relief as they can now at least understand what is underneath their frustration, conflict, procrastination, insomnia, illness, unsettledness, crankiness, indecisiveness or however else it is turning up.
Being stuck is especially frustrating for people who pride themselves on being “doers” and those who “get things done”. Often there is great frustration with themselves about what seems to be an inability to “move forward”. It feels to them that they are in quicksand or mud. It is also mystifying for those around them who are not used to experiencing this unfamiliar version.
Our work with people in this situation is to shift their focus. Rather than continuing the struggle with themselves and the perceived inaction to shift away from the situation and untangle themselves from the overwhelming suffocation and paralysis of the issue.
Being able to get perspective and see the issue for what it is can be a challenging but rewarding practice. There are some simple steps to take to become ‘unstuck’. Working with a coach can be helpful to action these steps effectively.
- Step away mentally
Rather than wrestling with the issue relax into the trust that all will be OK and, with exploration, solutions will surface and become clear. What is important at this time is to slow down rather than speed up.
- Map it
Draw on a white board a graphical map of the overall issue and with ‘roads’ that could represent potential solutions.
- Quarantine it
Put the problem aside to sleep on and only think about it while exercising or having a shower. It is astounding the frequency of times clients figure how to get unstuck when going for a run, cycling or showering after exercise.
- Make emotions physical
If being stuck involves emotional reactions to people and particular
individuals, create a physical version using whatever is nearby i.e. markers, pens, glasses or cups as versions of the characters involved. Being able to ‘look down’ at the overall story, see the connections, often illuminates the real concerns devoid of emotional attachment.
While “stuckness” can be frustrating it is in fact a signal of an incredibly important and necessary moment in time for the person having the experience.
Uncertainty, especially when at intense levels, is often a sign that a problem is pushing us toward a new level of consciousness or knowing. ” Timothy Butler, in his book “Getting unstuck.
How dead ends become new paths”, calls this a “psychological impasse” and says we mistakenly regard this as checkmate instead of an open door. From impasse you can chart a new vision and path.
Humans naturally resist this impasse as we have deeply ingrained behaviours. The stuckness comes about as old patterns, choices and behaviours fail to satisfy the emerging desires – those we may not have consciously registered yet. We get stuck doing what we have always done and it is not helpful in achieving these yet unidentified and desired outcomes.
An impasse can result in an epiphany. In working with clients we put aside “mental models” to look at the world differently – to see new possibilities. What is scary is that to move forward in this situation we have to let go of the old. This requires courage and risk taking.
This impasse must lead to choice, then action. The leadership work is to identify what the most effective and risk appropriate process will be for them.
Whatever form your personal action takes it represents movement into unfamiliar territory.
As Tim Butler says “an impasse is not a box in which you are trapped. It is a door that you open to enter a brand new life. Open it.”
Where do you feel stuck today? Get clear and why.
Ready to face the impasse and open a new door?