How to Get Unstuck By Letting Go
Everyone feels stuck at some point. There are those times when you just can’t see a way forward or a way through a situation and you don’t know what to do next. It may be that you’re unsure of what you really want or what the options are, so you don’t know where to begin. Or maybe you can see different ways to move forward, but you’re not sure which is best and you’re afraid you’ll make a choice and then regret it later.
There are also those times when it feels like someone else is steering the ship. You feel like the circumstances are beyond your control and are keeping you stuck. It may be that you’ve become so focused on putting out fires every day or responding to the next crisis or obstacle that you feel like you haven’t had the opportunity to breathe, let alone figure out how to get out of the cycle. It might feel like you are operating on auto pilot - just getting through your days and waiting for something to change so you can get back on track.
When this goes on for a while or you keep finding yourself in that stuck place, you start looking around you and comparing yourself to others. You notice that it seems like everyone else is succeeding and moving forward in life...but you aren’t. You start to feel bad about yourself, ashamed and disappointed about where you are in life, and upset with yourself for not handling things better. You may even have some regrets – wishing you had done things differently or made different choices so you wouldn’t be in your current situation.
Of course, comparing yourself to others and blaming yourself only make you feel worse because then you really start to feel powerless, helpless, and... hopeless.
But the fact that you’re reading this says that you haven’t lost all hope – hooray! You’re interested in learning how to get unstuck and you’re ready to do something different and get your life back on track.
So, how can I get unstuck?
Oftentimes when you think about getting unstuck, what comes to mind is trying to find something that you can do to push yourself forward or push yourself through whatever is holding you back. With the idea that if you apply enough pressure or create enough momentum you will be able to overcome the resistance and create traction to move forward. This implies that there is something outside of you that is in your way and that’s keeping you stuck. And that may be true.
But what if what’s actually keeping you stuck is that you’re holding on to something, and in order to move forward you first have to focus on letting go? What if the resistance that you feel is actually your resistance to letting go?
For instance, you may be holding on to the belief that you have to wait for certain circumstances to change first, before you can move forward. You believe that the reason you are stuck is because of the circumstances, which may be beyond your control.
But what if you were to let go of that belief and instead focus on what you can control or what you can do now, in order to get traction and move forward?
Chew on that for a moment and then take some time to think about what you might need to let go of in order to move forward...
You may need to let go of certain beliefs, mindsets, perceptions, or patterns of yours. This may mean letting go of self-criticism, self-doubt, regret, a victim mindset, or a tendency to be passive and wait for change to happen.
You may need to let go of control. This means recognizing that you can’t control all outcomes and instead focusing on what you can control, which is often your own actions, thoughts, and responses.
You may need to let go of resistance. Rather than resisting certain things, allow things to unfold or have the courage to take a risk, with caution and safety in mind, of course. Or perhaps you need to let go of the resistance to asking for help or support, which may be related to letting go of any beliefs you have about what it means to ask for help and what your expectations are for people to give you the help that you need.
Or you may need to let go of unsupportive people, places, or situations. What that means for you is going to vary – maybe it means cutting ties with certain people, but it could also mean letting go and accepting that certain people won’t be able to provide you with the support you need for achieving your goals. Or letting go and accepting that certain situations, jobs, or opportunities won’t provide you with the satisfaction or rewards that you are seeking.
Of course, all of this is easier said than done. I know. It’s annoying when you’re struggling with something and someone tells you that "you simply have to let go", as if it’s that simple. But bear with me, because that brings us to the next question:
How can I practice letting go so that I can get unstuck?
Acknowledge and brainstorm your options. The first step is to acknowledge what it is that you need to let go of and come up with different things you can do to support you letting go and moving forward. For example, you can acknowledge that you need to let go of your resistance to asking for help and brainstorm different options for how and where to get resources or support.
Weigh the pros and cons. You may find that you aren't quite ready to let go or you're afraid of the consequences of letting go, so you keep holding on. Take a look at the positive consequences of letting go and the negative consequences of letting go. Then also take a look at the positive and negative consequences of continuing as is, without making any changes. This can help support your decision to let go and provide you with some motivation to follow through.
Shift your thinking & keep things in perspective. There are probably many stories and different fears running around in your head, so when you recognize them coming up, see them for what they are – thoughts, not facts. Then try viewing the situation or circumstances differently - seeing things from another perspective, letting go of your usual perceptions and perspective, seeing obstacles as opportunities, and seeing the long-term, bigger picture, rather than just the problems or challenges in front of you.
Release the past & give yourself permission to move on and grow. When you catch yourself dwelling on the past and moving into regret or self-blaming, pause to acknowledge what you are doing and then remind yourself that you can let go of the past and that you can move on. You can acknowledge what you have learned from the past and focus on how you can use what you’ve learned to continue to grow and move forward now. You can do this in your head or you can try journaling about it, write a letter to yourself giving yourself permission to move on, or write a quick note to yourself and leave it somewhere for you to see as an ongoing reminder.
Get clear on what matters. Take some time to take a closer look at your goals or your overall vision for your life. You can get into specific goals and things you want to achieve, but also think about what’s important to you - your values, not just what you want to DO, but how you want to BE. Try to let go of self-doubt and allow yourself to dream so you can get clear without censoring or limiting yourself.
(Check out my post on Getting Clear on Your Next Steps)
Manage your expectations. To be clear, managing expectations doesn’t mean lowering them. In fact, it’s ok to aim high in your goals and have expectations for success because you don’t want to sell yourself short, but they key is to do so without becoming overly attached to a specific outcome. Because when you hold onto an expectation that things should look a certain way or happen in a certain way and it doesn’t turn out exactly as you wished, you can end up being discouraged and lose your drive to keep going. So to help manage your expectations: aim high and let go of the expectation that things will go exactly as planned. Be open and flexible. Sometimes it’s those unexpected circumstances or occurrences that actually are blessings in disguise that help you move forward.
Find your courage. Be willing to get out of your comfort zone and take a risk. It can help to take a look at the potential consequences of taking an action and do some troubleshooting in advance to figure out how you might navigate some of the obstacles or worst-case scenarios that you can imagine. This can help you feel more confident in your ability to deal with whatever might happen after you take that leap. And have the courage to ask for feedback, help, or support. Everyone needs help at some point and remember that if you ask for help and don’t get it, you haven’t lost anything. It’s just what you tell yourself that makes it feel not so good.
Practice self-compassion. Letting go involves a loss of some sort and with that comes the possibility of grief, and all the feelings that come with processing a loss and going through a change. So with that said, remember to practice self-compassion with whatever comes up for you. It's normal to feel sad, scared, anxious, angry, tired, unsure, and frustrated through a change or loss. Be kind to yourself through the process and offer yourself understanding and care, rather than criticism and judgment.
And along the lines of self-compassion, remember to be patient with yourself through the process as well. Letting go is hard sometimes and it is just one part of the process of getting unstuck. You also have to be ready to take action in order to move forward and sometimes the path forward is full of twists and turns and unexpected detours. But if you are patient, persistent, and committed you can move forward and through the challenges in front of you.