At some point or another, you have experienced a time or moment in your personal or professional life where you have felt stuck. That is, having a worrisome frame of mind where you know that something in your life is not quite right and needs to change, but not being entirely sure of the what, the why, the who, or the when. This feeling of being stuck then resulted in you feeling indecisive, unsettled, or unable to move on or move forward. In this article, I want to explore what feeling stuck looks like and how to get unstuck by applying the lessons from the book Out of the Maze.
Summary of Out of the Maze Book
In one my previous post about dealing with change based on the book Who Moved My Cheese), I shared the parable of four characters (Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw) who lived in a dark maze and loved cheese. They all woke up one day to find that their cheese (what they saw as important in life) had disappeared. All four characters reacted differently to the change in their circumstances and experienced very different results.
In the sequel Out of the Maze, the story picks up with Hem who is left behind and finds himself stuck in a desperate and ‘cheese-less’ situation, feeling afraid, alone, and hungry for new cheese. He spends his time going back and forth between worrying about his friend Haw, blaming him for leaving him and hoping that things would go back to normal. Day by day Hem’s situation worsened and as he got weaker, Hem realized that he had to do something. Hem saw he could no longer afford to stay and wait for the cheese to reappear and that he would have to go out into the maze and search for new cheese if he were to survive. Though Hem understood what he needed to do and that he was on his own, he still believed the maze was a dangerous place, filled with dark corners and blind alleys that led nowhere.
For days Hem wandered through the maze with his old tools searching for cheese and with no success. Each passing day, Hem grew weaker, hungrier, more discouraged and filled with regret that he hadn’t acted sooner. One day when Hem was feeling he couldn’t go on any further, he met a stranger name Hope who introduced him to apples. Still stuck on finding cheese and believing cheese was the only food there was, Hem took the apple, examined it, but refused to eat it although it smelled good. After some encouragement from Hope and sheer hunger, Hem eventually tried the apple. When he did, Hem was surprised and delighted to discover that he enjoyed the taste of apples and the new burst of energy they gave him to resume his search for new cheese.
For the remainder of the story, Hem came to realize that his old beliefs about cheese had trapped him into one way of seeing things and prevented him from moving forward to find new cheese. Hem decided to let go of his old beliefs, choose new ones, and bravely open himself up to new possibilities (including apples) and a world outside of the maze. In the end and after many failures, Hem is rewarded when he discovered a bigger, better, and brighter world outside of the maze that had cheeses and apples far sweeter than anything he had before.
How to Get Unstuck
What has left you feeling stuck and struggling to move forward in the direction of your life goals and career? What old ideas and thoughts are you still believing about your current situation that might be holding you back?
I’ve have never written an article about a topic that I have not struggled with personally or experienced. So, I can relate to having experienced moments (personal and professional) where I have felt trapped or stuck in situations that I couldn’t seem to make progress on or move forward. That said, I also know that sitting around waiting and playing victim has never helped me get unstuck, nor will it help you.
Like Hem’s story, at the heart of every situation that has made you feel stuck are the beliefs and thoughts you hold to be true. Beliefs that say – things will never change, I can’t do this or that this goal is impossible or nothing good will ever happen for me. Your beliefs are powerful and can paralyze you into inaction or hold you prisoner in your own home, head, or job. Knowing you want and need more, but not believing you can do better, has led many people to settle for unhealthy relationships that do not serve them well, or to compromise themselves by accepting situations that go against their core values and beliefs.
Six Lessons to Get Unstuck
So, here are six lessons from Hem’s story that you can apply to your own situation to help you get unstuck:
- Notice your beliefs: A belief is a thought that you trust is true. But not everything you think is true. Because you trust your old thoughts, you remain a prisoner to old memories and beliefs and sometimes refuse to change or venture outside of your comfort zone to try new things. If you closely examined your thoughts or beliefs, you might realize that some of these trusted thoughts aren’t true and might need to change.
- Don’t believe everything you think: Sometimes “facts” are just how you see things. But the “facts” you believe are limited to the information you have, your exposures and the meanings you give to events. So, resist the urge to feel threatened or offended when someone challenges your beliefs and don’t be afraid to question and change them on your own.
- Let go of what isn’t working: You can’t launch a new quest with old baggage. Stop blaming others and shaming yourself for the past. As Einstein said, you cannot do the same thing repeatedly and expect different results. As you move forward, you must be brutally honest with yourself about your patterns, the things you have been doing that no longer work and what you might need to do or look at completely differently. So, let go of what you have you been dragging around and anything that has left you feeling burdened or stuck.
- Look Outside the Maze: Consider the unlikely, explore the impossible. The fear of change, the uncertainty it brings, and the challenges associated with trying something new and different are perhaps the biggest reasons people fail to get unstuck. And if you add the fear of failure into the mix, the more likely it is that people will stay stuck in situations no matter how bad they are. However, getting unstuck will require you to have the courage to act towards what you want, though the risks are many and the future is unclear.
- Choose a new belief: Changing what you think doesn’t change who you are. You get to change an old belief and choose new and different thoughts. Sometimes you hang on to thoughts and beliefs that aren’t working because they are familiar. This is a sub-optimal way to live and will not make you happy or successful. You reserve the right to change your mind, your beliefs and consider what other options available to you.
- There are no limits to what you can believe: Your whole world is held together by a complex web of beliefs and thoughts that you trust, and hold be true. You can experience and enjoy a lot more than you think you can. To get unstuck from old cycles, you must choose to have an open mind and believe that something else is possible for you. Have faith to believe it before you see it. As you lean into that hope, commit to exploring, learning, and discovering yourself and the vast world around you.
Feeling stuck is not a death sentence, it is a normal part of life. It signals that something you need to be happy and healthy is lacking or that your need for growth and progress is unmet. Therefore, feeling stuck is your heart, mind, and body’s way of telling you that you need change your approach to make progress in your life, your job and in your relationships.
What will you do to get unstuck?
Until next Remember, ItsALearningLife!