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Published on July 12, 2018

Being Self Aware Is the Key to Success: How to Boost Self Awareness

Being Self Aware Is the Key to Success: How to Boost Self Awareness

My intent for this discussion is to build on an article I published called How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind. The focus here will be on self-awareness, critical thinking and a new idea I am developing called “Swarming the Brain”.

I will use methods and frameworks from Systems Thinking V2.0, the Red Team Handbook from the Center for Applied Creative and Critical Thinking, and Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop. I will then demonstrate tools and techniques from these frameworks to show how you can improve your critical thinking abilities, as well as self-awareness.

4 Simple rules for self-awareness

Similar to how I introduced How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind, here I will introduce another version of it leading to greater self-awareness. In this version, there are four simple rules for self-awareness. These simple rules will move us from information to understanding.

Simple rules moving us from information to understanding:

  1. Observe. Sense information (think of nodes within a network).
  2. Orient. This is the process of making sense of the information (think of the process of connecting nodes within a network).
  3. Decide. Thinking is introduced to connect the nodes (the connection of nodes within a network is the creation of knowledge).
  4. Act. When we connect knowledge we attain understanding or wisdom (think of the emergence of a network or the edges of a network).

    For each simple rule, I will provide both a question and a set of tools or frameworks to use.

    The question should trigger the rule, where the tool or framework will lead to an emerging network. I use simple questions with simple rules because there is power in simple.

    Sometimes the best way to get at the heart of the matter (especially in a complex world) is to ask a simple question:

    Rule #1 — Observe: The Unexamined Life

    Observe (Awareness or Awakening)

    • Question: What lens do I see reality through?
    • Tool(s): Systems Thinking V2.0 (DSRP) and Who Am I?

    The process of improving self-awareness through introspection takes discipline to look inward to examine our own thoughts, feelings and motives.[1] Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection, as well as the ability to be more enabled as a critical thinker and more aware of your own biases. It is through this understanding of the individual that an expanded world view opens.

    By reflecting on our world view, we are essentially trying to understand our mental models. The Cabrera’s inform us,

    “Mental models shape our understanding of everything around us. The goal of systems thinking is the continuous improvement and refinement of our mental models such that they more closely reflect the real world. The closer the mental model to reality, the more useful it is to us.”

    The Cabrera’s discovered DSRP in order to interrogate our mental models. They remind us that our understanding of reality is just an approximation. Following the advice of the Cabrera’s, I used a combination of DSRP and a Red Team exercise to understand my own mental model.

    One of the first techniques we learn in Red Team training (instructed by the UFMCS Center for Applied Critical Thinking) is an exercise called Who Am I? This exercise requires reflection and introspection of your personal narratives and dynamics, culture, religion, education, and critical watershed moments that shape your worldview and values. Let’s briefly examine the method for this exercise.

    • Step 1. You must first recall seminal life changing events and moments that shape who you are. To do this you must conduct a disciplined self-reflection study of your life.
    • Step 2. Share your Who Am I? in a group setting or with another individual. The people or person listening should not speak or interrupt you in any way. So find someone who is good at active listening and explain to them specifically what you need prior to beginning the exercise.

    This is also a great team building exercise. You will find that you truly get to know each other on a deep level by simply conducting this exercise.

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    With that said, let’s a couple powerful tools offered by the Cabrera’s in Systems Thinking v2.0: Thinkquiry and Plectica.

    Thinkquiry

    Thinkquiry is the term the Cabrera’s use for thinking differently about how we ask questions from a systems thinking approach. What’s different about Thinkquiry is the underlying logic of DSRP which is multivalent. Traditional question logic is born of Socratic Logic (which is bivalent logic) and typically employs such rubrics as the 5Ws (Who, What, Where, When, Why).

    DSRP Logic expands on this bivalent Logic which means that these kinds of questions can still be asked, but we are encouraged to penetrate deeper into our topic and ask deeper questions. [2] The following illustrates some of these questions:

      Plectica

      It is a visual systems mapping software based on Systems Thinking v2.0. I personally use this free software daily to visualize, analyze and synthesize concepts to gain a greater understanding of ideas or concepts in their entirety. The image below represents the creativity this system offers us as I used it to create my swarming idea.

        I also recommend watching the following video for a deeper understanding of Systems Thinking V2.0 — DSRP:

        By thinking meta-cognitively (thinking about thinking) we are able reshape connections in our brain and reshape our mental models. You actually reshaped connections in your brain by simply watching the Systems Thinking v2.0 video.

        Rule #2 — Orient: Hang a question mark on things

        Rule #2: Orient

        • Question: What would have to exist for something to be true? Or why must something be true?
        • Tool(s): Simple Rules and the String of Pearls (Think IF-AND-THEN)

        In Flock Not Clock, the Cabrera’s provide an example of using simple rules leading to emergent behavior in an organization. This is a powerful technique and is the foundation for this entire article (as this article is essentially simple rule for an emergent behavior). Let’s see how this works.

        Step 1: Identify your future state

        Step 2: Identify simple rules

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        • Rule #1: Observe
        • Rule #2: Orient
        • Rule #3: Decide
        • Rule #4: Act

        Step 3: Emergent behavior (What can we actually see)

        We learn to observe the real world via a new mental model, orient to reality, make good decisions, and most importantly… to act (while receiving and reflecting on continuous feedback).

        The String of Pearls technique can be found in the Red Team Handbook. It is a way to ensure teams consider unintended consequences. It is a tool to help prevent “wishing” or “assuming away the problem” and to identify weaknesses in thinking or a plan.

        Moreover, similar to the domains within Bloom’s Taxonomy, this technique uses domains. Bloom’s Taxonomy provides three domains: cognitive domain (reflects knowledge); affective domain (reflects emotion); physical domain (reflects the body). Let’s further examine these three domains:

        • The Cognitive Domain: Reflects knowledge — the mind completes levels of understanding of a concept; building to the next higher level of understanding. To me, this is like visualizing the Rubik’s Cube as a brain.
          • The Affective Domain: Reflects emotion — our attitude and awareness. We feel levels of emotion about recognizing and synthesizing information.
          • The Physical Domain. Reflects the body — we connect mind (Cognitive Domain) to body events in a way that generates muscle memory for an action.

          Events (also known as actions) are called 1st order effects and occur in the Physical Domain. 2nd order effects represent how we feel about the event (Affective Domain). 3rd order effects represent thoughts about the event (Cognitive Domain).

          Furthermore, cascading effects follow a chain of actual causality (If-Then) as they occur in the Physical Domain — where one event precipitates the next. [3] Events subsequent to 2nd and 3rd order effects which precede them are unintended consequences of the first event. However, they are not caused by the original event. By identifying unintended consequences, we can minimize the likelihood of overlooking something.

          The following three questions are key to the String of Pearls technique:

          1. Will your plan or actions produce a cascade of other events? If so, what could they be?
          2. What message or information is being conveyed by the plan or action and to whom is it being conveyed?
          3. How will the message be interpreted by others?

          Rule #3 — Decide: Crisis hunters

          Rule #3: Decide

          • Question: Where are the pattern of bullet holes NOT located?
          • Tool(s): Scout Wheel

          Nassim Taleb writes in Fooled by Randomness,

          “In the markets, there is a category of traders who have inverse rare events, for whom volatility is often a bearer of good news. These traders lose money frequently, but in small amounts, and make money rarely, but in large amounts. I call them crisis hunters. I am happy to be one of them.”

          Taleb goes on to inform us of an asymmetry in knowledge. In his discussion on why statisticians don’t detect rare events, he provides the following example,

          “Common statistical method is based on the steady augmentation of the confidence level, in nonlinear proportion to the number of observations. That is, for an n times increase in the sample size, we increase our knowledge by the square root of n. Suppose I am drawing from an urn containing red and black balls. My confidence level about the relative proportion of red and black balls, after 20 drawings is not twice the one I have after 10 drawings; it is merely multiplied by the square root of 2 (that is, 1.41).”

          Taleb continue with the following remarks,

          “Where statistics becomes complicated, and fails us, is when we have distributions that are not symmetric, like the urn above. If there is a very small probability of finding a red ball in an urn dominated by black ones, then our knowledge about the absence of red balls will increase very slowly — more slowly than at the expected square root of n rate.”

          Here is a key point in his discussion,

          “On the other hand our knowledge of the presence of red balls will dramatically improve once one of them is found. This asymmetry of knowledge is not trivial.”

          What does this mean?

          What if red balls were randomly distributed as well? As Taleb informs us that we can never get a true composition of the urn. He provides an example of an urn with a hollow bottom, and as you are sampling from it, a mischievous child (without you knowing about it) is adding balls of one color or another.

          Taleb remarks,

          “My inference thus becomes insignificant. I may infer that the red balls represent 50% of the urn while the mischievous child, hearing me, would swiftly replace all the red balls with black ones. This makes much of our knowledge derived through statistics quite shaky.”

          So, what’s the point?

          Taleb points out that we take past history as a single homogeneous sample believing we have significantly increased our knowledge of the future by observing the sample of the past.

          Taleb asks two questions at the end of his example:

          1. What if vicious children were changing the composition of the urn
          2. In other words, what if things have changed?

          The point of this discussion is that things do in fact change. As self-aware critical thinkers, we should not be worried about increasing our knowledge about the absence of red balls… we should seek to improve our knowledge of the presence of red balls. Thus, we should never forget that things will change.

          This brings me back to my earlier discussion on changing how we phrase a question. A simple change in how we phrase a question allows us to completely change our perspective and potentially bring about a paradigm shift. The change here is the following:

          Change “absence” of red balls to “presence” of red balls. Thus, you seek to become a crisis hunter — an asymmetry in knowledge.

          For those of you who are a fan of Sherlock Holmes and have read How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind, go back and read my section titled SDWFAP.

          • Scouting (S): Think like a Scout — the drive to see what’s really there.
          • Dog (D): Find the Dog who isn’t barking.
          • Was (W): What would have to exist for something to be true?
          • Frightened (F): What’s not right in Front of us?
          • At (A): Ask what evidence is not being seen, but would be expected for hypothesis to be true.
          • Patterns (P): Where are the Pattern (or location) of bullet holes NOT located?

          Moreover, we can visualize using SDWFAP to swarm our brain. Using simple rules similar to how Artificial Intelligence (AI) would using swarming tactics: Sense — Decide — Act. Let’s see how we could “Swarm the Self-Aware & Critical Thinking Brain”:

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            Rule #4 — Act: Success = Sensors + Feedback

            Rule #4: Act

            • Question: Where is the dog who isn’t barking?
            • Tool(s): Swarming the Brain Tactics

            If we change our behavior we change our brain. “Swarming the Brain” is priming the brain to learn and we can do this through the development of sensors (or triggers), exercise, nutrition, reading and learning, the development of a morning routine, and receiving (and reflecting on) continuous positive feedback. We must also identify key indicators of change. These allow us the ability to assess change and the ability to place key sensors in the form of Indicators (or Expected Change).

            Moreover, the first rule is the most crucial — Observe. Let’s examine this from a parent-child relationship. If the parent is not aware then the child will not be aware. This is why something must serve as the sensor or trigger to bring about awareness.

            This reminds me of how I use my favorite iOS application — WikiLinks Smart Wikipedia Reader. This app mimics the way I think as it maps and connects concepts and narratives.

            For example, if we are only aware of the term ADHD as a diagnosis of a Disorder, then we will not be aware of any additional knowledge. But if we are aware of additional knowledge, and aware to the fact that ADHD is not a Disorder, then we start to see more links, then more links, then a paradigm shift takes place.

            Here, a parent must first shift their perspective from,

            “If my child is diagnosed with ADHD — And it’s a Disorder — Then my child will receive Negative Feedback.” to “If my child is diagnosed with ADHD — And it’s a Superpower — Then my child will receive Positive Feedback.”

            Once the shift takes place, they should establish Indicators (Expected Change) and set the conditions so that the swarm can proceed.

            The following are what I call Swarming the Brain Tactics:

            • Exercise and Nutrition: Dr. John Ratey wrote about one of my favorite topics — Neurogenesis in one of my favorite books Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. He found that, as we age, our brain is still forming new brain cells and can change its structure and function.
            • Reading and Learning: Through reading and learning, we can reshape our brain as it brings in new challenges and keeps the child cognitively active.
            • Morning Routine: Establishing a morning routine allows a child (and you!) the ability to wake up before anyone else, kick start your metabolism, and provides you time to read and exercise (I do them together by listening to audio-books).

            Finally, we all have the ability to improve our self-awareness. If we follow the simple rules outlined in this discussion, we have the chance to improve and become better (more self-aware) critical thinkers. Thus, we have a chance to bring about an intelligent emergent behavior.

            “People often do not realize that they have a chance, so they miss it.” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb

            To learn more about these methods/frameworks, I recommend you read the following:

            1. Swarming the Brain: The ADHD OODA Loop. I discuss this topic in greater detail.
            2. How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills for a Sharper Mind. I discuss each framework in this article.
            3. Systems Thinking v2.0. Dr. Derek and Laura Cabrera discuss simple rules of systems thinking — Distinctions-Systems-Relationships-Perspectives (DSRP) in two books I highly recommend: Systems Thinking Made Simple and Flock Not Clock. I also recommend using Plectica — their free visual systems mapping software based on Systems Thinking V2.0. Nearly every image I use in this article was created using Plectica.
            4. The University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies (UFMCS) Center for Applied Creative and Critical Thinking. I highly recommend reading the free Red Team Handbook published by the UFMCS.
            1. Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop. Frans P.B. Osinga provides the most in-depth description and understanding of the OODA Loop in Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd. I also highly recommend reading The Tao of Boyd: How to Master the OODA Loop.

            Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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            Reference

            More by this author

            Dr. Jamie Schwandt

            Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

            10 Hacks to Increase Your Brain IQ, Focus and Creativity 9 Game Changing Tips on How to Write Goals (and Reach Them!) Creative Brain Test: 10 Best Ways To Test Your Creative Intelligence How to Be a Maverick and Develop a Maverick Mindset Being Self Aware Is the Key to Success: How to Boost Self Awareness

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            Published on November 12, 2018

            10 Strategies to Keep Moving Forward When You’re Feeling Extra Stuck

            10 Strategies to Keep Moving Forward When You’re Feeling Extra Stuck

            We have all felt stuck at some point in our lives. Perhaps you feel stuck right now.

            Maybe you’re feeling a little stuck working on a creative project, like writing an article or painting a piece of art. Perhaps you started a new business, took on a major project at work or began a new health or fitness regimen.

            Your initial excitement has worn off and you’re now feeling stuck, confused or overwhelmed by how to keep progressing forward. Or maybe, you’re a lot stuck. You feel trapped in a job you hate, a relationship that isn’t working, a boatload of debt, or a life that has little resemblance to the one you’d imagined.

            Let’s be honest. Regardless of how stuck you are, it’s a terrible feeling. Feeling trapped and unsure how to move forward can lead to feelings of, confusion, angst, hopelessness, insecurity and overwhelm.

            Sometimes we just want to throw in the towel and give up. But don’t give up just yet.

            Whether you feel just a ‘little stuck’ or like you’re stuck in dry concrete; trying to make a small or big decision; wondering what you’re doing with your life), feeling trapped in a job, overwhelmed by debt, unhappy in a relationship or life that isn’t the one you want to live, these 10 strategies can help you move forward again.

            1. Take a step back

            Your first step forward when you feel stuck is to take a step back. Often, we try to get unstuck by pushing forward with sheer force or just trying harder. But as Einstein said,

            “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

            Access a different level of thinking by assessing your current situation from a new viewpoint. Whenever I’m working with clients who feel stuck, this is the first thing I ask them to do.

            I have them think about where they are, what got them here and what they really want. When you step back from your life, career, and challenges and look from a bit of a distance, you see things from a different perspective.

            Your Turn:

            Imagine you are lost in the woods. You could keep moving forward looking for your way out. You could panic and go in circles. You could head back the way you came. You could, as I learned in camp, just sit still until help arrives.

            Imagine instead that you could stop, take a deep breath and zoom out from your situation. Imagine you could fly above it all as if you were in a helicopter and look down at yourself among the trees.

            What could you see or notice differently from this perspective – a different route, people there to support you, the way out is closer than you thought?

            Another way to ‘zoom out’ is to look at your situation as a neutral observer. Imagine you’re a fly on the wall watching your life. What insights or advice would you give yourself?[1]

            2. Get specific

            It’s hard to move forward until you fully understand why you are stuck. You have to get specific and identify what’s really going on. You must name it to tame it.

            A great mentor of mine once said,

            “A well-defined problem presents its own solution”.

            If you want to find a solution, you must truly understand the underlying problem. This is one of the premises of coaching. When you dig a little deeper to the real issue/challenge/blockage, solutions tend to present themselves.

            For example, there are big differences between, ‘I feel stuck’ and ‘I feel stuck because I’m overwhelmed with the details’ or ‘I feel stuck because I’m worried what people are going to think of me.’ Once you name it, you are more likely to be able to tame it.

            One of the most important questions I ask clients is, ‘What’s getting in the way?’ When they answer, the next question is always, ‘What else?’ We continue along this route until we feel we’ve gotten to the real, underlying issue(s).

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            Your Turn:

            Seek to uncover the underlying issues that are getting in your way and stopping you from progressing. You can do this by journaling, talking to someone who knows you well, or simply taking the time to ask yourself these questions.

            Once you name it, perhaps the solution will then present and tame itself.

            3. Reconnect to your ‘why’

            Feeling stuck is often because you’ve lost sight of the bigger picture and what’s important. You’ve lost your why.

            Why did you start this in the first place? What reasons, values or passions drove you to make this change in your life? What picture do you have for yourself, your business and your life? Why are you wanting to achieve or accomplish this?

            By reminding yourself of your original intention and purpose, it gives you the intrinsic motivation to get back on track and move ahead.

            Connecting to your deeper ‘why’ will be the fuel that keeps you going, even through tough times and roadblocks.

            Your Turn:

            Whatever you’re stuck on right now, grab a journal and ask yourself, “Why is this important to me?” ,”Why did I start this in the first place?” “What am I trying to achieve here and why is that important to me? “

            4. Brainstorm Your Options

            We often feel stuck because we don’t see any way out from our current situation – we feel we don’t have any options.

            By brainstorming ideas and possibilities, you expand your mind and open your thinking to finding a new solution. When you can see potential options, you won’t feel so trapped anymore. 

            This is not about deciding the one thing or making the right choice, it’s about allowing your creative mind to expand and see all the potential possibilities. We often dive straight into finding the right one and eliminate anything that doesn’t feel perfect.

            That’s why so many people feel stuck. They are attempting to find the next right career, the best way to handle a situation or the one perfect idea. This can lead to a lot of stress and analysis paralysis.

            The reality is that there is no single best or right. There are many possibilities that could work for your situation. It’s about the next step right now.

            If you hate your career, what new potential careers are on your mind? List them all out – even the ones that seem unrealistic or silly.

            If you’re unhappy in your relationship, what can you do? There are likely a lot more options than you’ve considered. What are they?

            Your Turn:

            Make a list of options for your current situation – as crazy or ‘out there’ as they might be.

            When you think you’ve thought of everything, ask yourself, ‘What other options are there?’ This allows you to dig deeper and see ideas you might not have otherwise explored.

            Then, and only then can you start to identify the way forward.

            5. Take a brain break

            Full disclosure, I’m stealing this strategy from my 7-year-old daughter’s second-grade teacher.

            The other night I was helping my daughter with homework, she was getting super frustrated and wasn’t sure what to write in a letter to her big buddy. She was on the verge of tears when she looked up and asked, ‘Mom, can I take a brain break?’ She got up from the table, walked downstairs to her room and played with her stuffed animals. When she came upstairs a short time later, she was as happy as could be and jumped right into her writing.

            We could all use a brain break when we’re stuck. A chance to shift focus gives our brains a chance for quiet; it takes the pressure off so we can come back with a fresh mind and new perspective.

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            When we take a brain break, it refreshes our thinking and helps us discover another solution to a problem or see a situation through a different lens. The brain break actually helps to incubate and process new information.[2]

            A great brain break is to do something physical that gets you in flow. Take a hike, a run, a walk around the block. Another well-known brain break is meditation – which has so many proven benefits I can’t even begin to name them all. Try it, it works.

            I have one friend who says taking a shower helps her get unstuck. ’Somehow good thoughts come up in that silent space.’

            Your Turn:

            What kind of brain breaks can you give yourself? Which would be most helpful?  It’s not just for second graders anymore.

            6. Let go of what’s not working

            Have you ever walked through the mud and had your boot get stuck and your foot fly out? When this happens, you usually have two choices: either put your boot back on and keep plodding through, repeating the frustration as it continually gets stuck, or you can take off that boot and move forward.

            The same is true in life. When we get stuck, we often stay in the mud and try to drag our boot along. We keep doing what’s clearly not working. The boot represents limiting beliefs, old habits, or stories you’re telling yourself.

            Remember in the movie “UP” when Mr. Fredricksen is trying to get his house to fly? It was too heavy. He had to dump out his belongings until the house was light enough to lift off.

            Same is true here; you’ve got to get rid of the emotional baggage you’re carrying so you can move forward and fly.

            Take my client *Lucy for example. She was stuck trying to figure out what she wanted next in her life and career. She was having trouble finding a job she was interested in. Through our work together, we uncovered that Lucy had an interesting belief: that having a job and being happy were mutually exclusive.

            She believed she couldn’t have a job and be happy at the same time. This meant she was either going to be jobless and joyful or employed and miserable. In order to move forward in her career search, she needed to take off this ‘boot’ and believe she could find a job where she could, in fact, be happy.

            Your Turn:

            What’s holding you back? An old habit, limiting belief or story you are telling yourself? How can you reframe your thinking in order to change the direction you are headed?

            7. Know what you need to get unstuck

            We all have a way in which we operate that is unique to us. When you understand how you’re wired, you can understand more specifically what you need to get unstuck. It’s like your own personal formula for moving forward.

            For me, I need a crystal-clear picture of what I’m trying to achieve and a big, tangible goal to reach for.  When I don’t have a clear picture of the end result or challenging target I’m trying to hit, I feel stuck and demotivated. 

            Here are some common needs: 

            Astep-by-step plan, to understand why something is important, deadlines and impending pressure, unconditional encouragement and support, to think things through, connecting to a deeper meaning, freedom, and flexibility, and certainty.

            Do you relate to any of these?

            Your Turn:

            What do you need to get unstuck? If you’re not quite sure, you might want to check out the I.D.™ (Instinctive Drives™). It’s a tool I’ve used for almost 20 years (and have all my clients take). It helps you understand what you need to be at your best, including what will help you get unstuck.

            8. Shift your state

            When you’re in a stuck state, it actually creates a cycle of ‘stuckness.’ Get yourself out of there!

            Instead of placing all your focus and energy on the problem, shift your focus and energy to another area of your life. Go do something that brings you joy; spend time with someone you love.

            Do anything to shift your state and mood. This will switch your downward cycle of ‘doom and gloom’ into an upward cycle of ‘hope and possibility’.

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            A great way to shift your state is to practice gratitude. So, you hate your job. Practice gratitude for other areas of your life. Does it support your family? Allow you to work remotely?

            I’m not saying you should stay in a job you hate, I’m just recommending that you get perspective. A state shift brings energy, hope, and positivity into your mindset…keys to getting out of that dreaded stuck cycle.

            Your Turn:

            What always puts you in a good mood? What brings you joy, happiness or fulfillment?   Do it! And make sure to practice gratitude. Try this: each morning for the next week, write down three things you are grateful.

            9. Take action

            Getting into action is critical to getting unstuck. There’s no substitute for momentum. Action enables further action, while inactivity creates inertia, self-doubt, and confusion.

            I love this quote from Simon Sinek:

            ‘If we think of everything we have to do, we feel overwhelmed. If we do the one thing we need to do, we make progress.’

            My client *Marcus had just made a career move and was setting out to start his own wellness business. The biggest problem getting in his way? Inertia.

            The more he thought about what he was going to do, the bigger the endeavor began to feel. The more he explored the risks, challenges, and his extensive to-do list, the more he felt overwhelmed. He was stuck. 

            However, once he took action, starting with quick wins, he gained momentum and was able to move forward and tackle bigger and more challenging steps. Once he broke through his inaction, he was on a roll.

            My grandfather always told us: a path leads to a path. We can’t know what the future holds and trying to figure out everything before we start is a recipe for disaster.

            Know that a path will lead to a path, a step will lead to the next step, but you have to start walking first. 

            Your Turn:

            What’s the next step you can take to move forward? Where is there a quick win?

            When you think about your first (or next) step, keep it small and achievable to get the momentum going.

            10. Reach out for help

            This summer, my Dad took his new truck and my twin daughters on a trip to the Oregon sand dunes. Only a few minutes into the adventure, they got really stuck. They tried shoveling sand and getting out on their own, but they couldn’t. Nearly an hour later, (which felt like an eternity stuck in the middle of a pelting sandstorm), a little dune buggy came along. My Dad’s truck was six times its size, but all they needed was a little pull. They hooked up the wench and within minutes, they were free.

            We can all use a little help when we’re stuck. This might be talking to a good friend who knows and understands you or reaching out to get advice from someone who’s been in a similar situation to yours.

            Maybe it’s hiring a coach who will ask powerful questions to help you see things from a different angle, a therapist who can uncover hidden roadblocks or a consultant to share opinions and experiences.

            When you’re on your own, it can feel hopeless, overwhelming and just plain impossible. But, just a little push or pull from someone can quickly change your trajectory.

            While this may seem like one of the easiest strategies, it is actually one of the hardest to do. Why? Even though we are biologically wired to help each other, many of us find it challenging to reach out.

            There’s a reason for this:[3]

            ‘Asking for help exposes us to numerous possible social threats, which is why it’s so uncomfortable. It can feel like a tacit admission of weakness, which lowers our status, and can be an invitation for scorn. It creates uncertainty, and invites the possibility of rejection.’

            Your Turn:

            Who is your dune buggy? Who can you reach out to ask for help right now?

            Not ready to reach out to someone just yet? Maybe you can try asking the universe. Some call this prayer, others spiritual guidance,  others faith.  Whatever you call it, reach out to someone, somewhere, somehow…now.

            Afraid to ask for help? Here’s how to change your outlook to aim high!

            Bonus: When all else fails, be patient

            Sometimes when we’re stuck, we just need to practice patience. Patience that the answer is coming; the shift is going to happen. Patience that you’ve done all that you can and now, it’s time to wait and see what comes back to you.

            I’m not suggesting you wait for months or years; but sometimes we expect things to change quickly, yet things take time. This is especially true for big life decisions and transitions or when there are others involved, like your relationships or job.

            I love the line from Max Ehrmann’s’ Desiderata:

            ’…whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.’  

            Trust the unfolding and know that sometimes it may take a little longer than you’d like.

            There’s usually a good reason, even if you can’t see it. Maybe it’s not time to move forward or make changes just yet. Maybe you don’t have all the information you need, and when you do, you’ll quickly make progress. Maybe you’re actually stuck where you need to be right now.

            When I was in my most recent major career transition, feeling stuck and wondering if I would ever figure out my next step, this quote from Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu was exactly what I needed:

            ‘Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?’

            Stay strong. Be patient. The more stuck you are, the greater the freedom will feel.

            You’re going to be okay. It won’t always be like this. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Hang in there and trust the process. Your breakthrough is coming.

            Final Thoughts

            Which of these strategies feel like they will work best for you and your current stuck situation?

            You don’t have to use all of them, it just takes one.

            Remember, any movement, momentum or shift will help get you unstuck and moving forward again. Besides, it’s never too late to start things over! Here’s the proof:

            How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

            Featured photo credit: Michał Parzuchowski via unsplash.com

            Reference

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