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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life

How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life

We all know the feeling—when you sense that you are not completely happy and fulfilled with your life—things are not where and how you envisage them to be. You go through the motions everyday, angry with yourself and the universe for throwing you such an unfavorable dice.

You can’t help yourself but feel a perennial envy towards those who are smiled upon by karma—the lucky individuals who seem to have the Midas touch and everything they undertake ends up with success, recognition and greater opportunities. Life must be so exiting.

Unlike yours.

We call this sensation many names: I’ve hit a wall; I’m not making progress; I’m stagnant; I’m moving in loops; Something is off in my life; I’m off balance.

Or simply: feeling stuck.

In this article, we’ll look into the reasons behind this feeling and how to get unstuck in life and live a more fulfilling life.

Is Being Stuck Really Such a Bad Thing?

Is it really so bad to be stuck in the status quo? After all, not everyone can be a super-star, right? What’s wrong with living a quiet life, with not many turns and twists and just going with the flow?

True—there is not much fun in this, but there is not disappointment, anxiety, stress and ill-ambition either. Life is easy and uncomplicated.

So why do we keep hearing over and over from the greats that staying is one place is not a good thing?

Tony Robbins gives us an elegantly simple answer to this question:

“If you are not growing, you are dying. “

“Progress equals happiness,” he says. “That ’s because reaching a goal is satisfying but only temporarily. Life is not about achieving the goals, life is about who you become in pursuit of those goals.”[1]

There you have it—staying in one place makes us unhappy.

We all know that the comfort zone can be great. It’s like a warm old blanket you wrap yourself around on a cold winter night, cuddled in front of your favorite TV show.

But just because something feels comfortable, does it mean it’s ok to stick to it forever?

Progress equals happiness, remember.

You may not even fully be aware of the small voice in the back of your mind that’s been bugging you, but you better learn to listen carefully—because you may wake up one day and realize that your productive life is gone and you haven’t achieved many of the things you wanted for yourself.

Pretty gloomy picture, indeed.

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Simply put, what the wise men advise us of is not just some self-help fluff for them to gain more popularity or sell more books. It is true—as you will learn below—that not moving forward, not even making the effort to do better or become better—even if you don’t always succeed in these endeavors—is a mental demise and a waste of your potential.

The Common “Stucks”

There are many reasons why you may feel stagnant in your life—some may be completely out of your control even. The main thing, though, is to be able to identify the reasons and then try to take some remedial actions.

But it starts with an awareness—because you can’t fix what you don’t know about, right?

Here are some of the main contributors to your feelings of stuck-ness:

You Lack Purpose in Your Life, or the “Why” of What You Do

Simon Sinek, the best-selling author and motivational speaker tells us in his famous TED talk that every successful endeavor—be it related to an organization, your career or personal life needs to begin with defining the “Why.” You need to be able to explain to yourself why you do what you do and what drives you.

It is the thing (s) that gives meaning and inspires you to wake up in the morning and to want to take on the world. It is your reason for being.

You Like the Status Quo

You may like your comfort zone. After all, it’s…well, comfortable. But as we established, the good old blanket is not necessarily going to make us fulfilled in life. You can watch so many TV shows wrapped in it before you get bored.

We, humans, still carry our ancestors’ fighting instincts—for hunting, for self-preservation, for taking actions to make our lives better. Inaction is not what made the mankind create all the innovations we enjoy today.

The Good-Old Fear of Failure and of the Unknown

Admittedly, it’s not an emotion to be taken lightly—it can be quite real and powerful for many of us.

According to a Gallup poll done a while ago among U.S. teenagers, the fear of being a failure and not succeeding in life was at number four.[2] More specifically, this feeling was described as “making mistakes that will mess up my life,” “not measuring up,” “not leaving a mark.”

So, fear can be a powerful paralyzer and can elicit a “safe-mode” response—i.e. stuck-ness.

Your Crowd

We all know the famous adage that we are the average of the five people we rub shoulders with. So, if your in-crowd is similarly stuck as you are, although it may be consoling at times, you won’t be motivated to make much progress yourself.

It’s called a social proof bias—if everyone around you is doing (or not doing) something, then it is ok for you to follow suit.

Comparisons to Others

While comparisons are not always bad, according to the Social Comparison Theory,[3] they have to be handled with caution.

Faring against others can make you very unhappy with yourself. Failing to recognize that your path is not the same as others’ and that there are many ways to get to an end-point (goal) can be very discouraging to taking the first step to unstuck-ness.

Personality

Our temperaments can also contribute to a sense of feeling stuck. For instance, you may be more of a passive, dreamy kind of person who prefers observing to taking action, pensiveness to gregariousness, solitude to venturing out in the world.

That is, you have more of a slow-burn personality vs. a fiery one—therefore, it takes you longer to contemplate all alternatives before taking the plunge.

And that’s ok. But you need to recognize that this may also be the reason why you are not progressing as fast or as much as you would like towards your goals.

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And while changing who you are is hard (impossible even, according to some psychologists), there are things that can be done to make it so much better for yourself, which I will discuss a bit later.

A final point to note here is that, paradoxically, it is possible to feel both stuck and unstuck at the same time. For instance, you can have a great career, but your family life may feel a bit stale, or wise versa.

As our personal and professional lives constantly fight for the top spot on our attention list, the feeling of stuck-ness may also depend on where you are on your life’s trajectory.

For someone who is younger and single, stagnation may be felt more vividly in their professional lives, as opposed to someone who is in their mid-life, where family takes priority—such individuals may not feel as down-hearted that they are not progressing quickly enough professionally.

How to Get Unstuck in Life

The neat thing about your path to becoming unstuck is that it follows the so-called Principle of Equifinality,[4] which states that the end state can be reached by many means.

It’s not just one thing that can help you to start moving forward again. There are many avenues you can explore to find out what works for you and with your own story and personality.

1. Show up and Be Willing to Do the Work

Woody Allen has famously said that “80% of success is showing up.” That is, you need to begin with the right motivation and willingness to take action towards unstucking.

You must want to improve your current state. And you must follow through.

2. Self-Reflection

Spend some time alone. You need to figure out why you are stuck—that is, what is the root of your discontent. Meditation may help here too. But this step is essential:

Packing on some self-knowledge and awareness on why you are where you are in life can help you discover a whole new universe of ideas on how to make it better for yourself.

It is as the saying goes: Identifying the problem is half of the solution.

Start to do self-reflection with the help of this article: The Power of Self-Reflection: Ten Questions You Should Ask Yourself

3. Break a Sweat

There is an avalanche of research on the benefits of exercising for the body and the mind. The latest research tells us that if you want to put your mind in the best possible focus shape, a 15-minute jog will do the job better than 15 minutes of relaxation and meditation.[5] It also clears your thinking, improves your attention spans, and can generally make you feel like a “brand new person.”

4. Find a Purpose

As I already touched-upon, the “Why” behind your actions is a prime driver of self-progress. If you link your goals—be them personal or professionals—to a “bigger-than-me” aspiration, then it will be so much easier to convince yourself to keep moving.

According to recent research,[6] we all have a specific purpose-seeking style—similar to our own way of writing, dancing or speaking.

There are four types or “Whys”—creative, prosocial, financial and personal recognition. The prosocial approach to finding meaning, though, which is based on kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others, is the best one in the long-run—it was shown to lead to greater caring, integrity and personal growth.

Here’s How to Find Purpose in Life and Make Yourself a Better Person.

5. Find a Passion

It’s barely a secret that if you enjoy something, you will want to do more of it and it won’t feel like an obligation. You will have an internal motivation to keep going despite setbacks, despite the stress or the tiredness you may experience at times.

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So, find what thrills you and makes you come alive and strive to become better, the best even, at it. The more progress you make, the more confidence you will have that you can apply the same passion and dedication to all other parts of your life that feel stagnant.

Learn How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life.

6. Nudge Yourself

The Nudge Theory[7] has been around for a while and has shown some wonderful results in positively influencing people’s behaviors—from making us conserve more energy, to improving the payment rates of fines, to making job-seekers more engaged and involved.

Small things as daily reminders in terms of micro-goals you can set on your phone, for instance, can have a profound favorable effect on becoming unstuck.

Nudging can also help overcome some of these personality traits we talked about—like passiveness or acute proneness to procrastination.

7. Seek Different Experiences

Even if you are in a happy relationship, you may still feel stuck—i.e. you may be unfulfilled, uninspired, or bored even of doing identical things over and over. The same rings true for your professional life.

The end-point is that you need to feed your brain different experiences if you want to get unstuck. If you repeat more of the same thing, you will end up with more or less similar outcomes. Change requires taking the path less trodden, experimenting, learning new ways, seeing new places, reading, travelling—it’s an endless list, really, to personal growth.

According to research covered in Psychology Today,[8]

“Activities that lead us to feel uncertainty, discomfort, and even a dash of guilt are associated with some of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences of people’s lives. Happy people, it seems, engage in a wide range of counterintuitive habits that seem, well, downright unhappy.”

8. Leave Behind the Things That Are Not Constructive for You

Arianna Huffington put it in a great way:[9]

“You can complete a project by dropping it.”

Assessing the things that make you feel stagnant is important. But equally valuable is to recognize that just because it may be hard or even impossible to get something that you really want, it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed or that you are necessarily stuck.

Maybe it’s simply not your thing. For instance, you may want to become a professional golfer. You practice and practice but you can’t quite reach the level of Tiger Woods that you aspire to. Perhaps it’s time to take stock of your life and shift your focus.

9. Compare Wisely

Comparisons can often make you feel down and create a sense of stagnation, which may not always be valid. You must realize that your pace of progress differs from your friends’, neighbours’, siblings or even significant others’.

Just because you are not a millionaire by the age of 30, or haven’t started your own business, or written your third bestseller yet, doesn’t mean that you are not moving forward.

So, mind how you measure your progress and your state of stuck-ness. Your perceptions may differ from reality.

Besides, it’s never ever too late to start things over! Here’s how:

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

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10. Ask for Help

Finally, remember that you don’t have to do it all alone. If you feel stuck in your personal life, you can speak to your close ones and find a solution together. Maybe they feel the same way.

At work—raise your hand, speak to your manager, volunteer to do things that can help you learn and become more valuable.

You don’t have to come up with all the answers right now. The most important thing, going back to the first idea, is to be willing to make a change.

When Is Enough Enough?

Seeking progress is a great thing. Who wouldn’t want to become a better version of themselves after all?

But the pursuit of growth should be handled with caution. It can become very addictive and sometimes even be counterproductive.

It’s true—you may experience a “runner’s high” and success can make you overflow with dopamine, but the constant chase of “more” can toss you into a never-ending spinning wheel.

You will never be happy with the status quo and won’t accept things as they are—which, naturally, can open a Pandora box of mental health issues.

That is, too much of a self-improvement drive may leave you unable to enjoy your life, to be fully present in the Now and to appreciate the person that you are.

And this is not necessarily a good thing.

So, should you strive to improve yourself, so that feel unstuck and free again? Absolutely.

But remember to take a breather and be grateful for what you have.

Summing It All Up

The feeling of being satisfied or unsatisfied with one’s life is very personal. Similar to its cousins—happiness and success, it is best measured by and depends on our individual histories, personalities and paths—i.e. my trajectory is different than yours and what makes me feel content may not create the same feeling for you.

For instance, you may be happy to be in a position where you help others and their gratitude is sufficient enough reason for you to wake up in the morning. But for someone else, this situation may create a sense of stuck-ness.

The main take-away here is that you shouldn’t compare your story to anyone else’s because you may end up feeling constantly stuck. And this, speaking from experience, is not the best place in the world to be.

Progress is great, but don’t forget that your life is here and now.

So, try to enjoy yourself some too, while making your grandiose plans to take on the world, will you please?

Featured photo credit: Camila Cordeiro via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Evelyn Marinoff

A wellness advocate who writes about the psychology behind confidence, happiness and well-being.

How to Have Self-Control and Be the Master of Your Life happiness and self confidence Why Confident People Are Also Happier People What Is an Existential Crisis? (And How to Cope With It) Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It) What Is the Meaning of Life? A Guide to Living With Meaning

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Last Updated on December 3, 2020

How to Compartmentalize Emotions for Mental Wellbeing

How to Compartmentalize Emotions for Mental Wellbeing

No matter who you are or where you’re from, your emotions can get the best of you.

This isn’t your fault, and you’re not alone, but this is a fact for nearly every person on the planet. Today’s fast-paced world has amplified everyone’s emotions without leaving enough time to handle them. Luckily, every human can compartmentalize emotions to get around this issue.

Emotions aren’t harmful in and of themselves, but issues arise when these unhandled emotions deter your focus, motivation, and productivity.

If you are unable to perform well in work, relationships, and life in general it’s time to learn some tricks to keep your emotions tamed for a healthy life!

Why You Should Compartmentalize Emotions

The mechanism that will help you keep your emotions organized in compartmentalization. Before you learn the dos and don’ts of the process, keep the final expected outcome in mind. When you know what you can achieve, you’ll be able to build a better path for yourself to reach your destination.

It goes without saying that compartmentalizing emotions will give you more time to manage other important tasks. You’ll be able to put your emotions in an orderly manner to be more peaceful and relaxed.[1]

Looking Deeper

If personal benefits and tranquility are not what you want, you should still compartmentalize emotions. It is vital for success in other parts of life, too.

Look at it this way:

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The world today is highly competitive. Why is that, you may wonder. The answer is simple. Everyone has the world at their fingertips. You can get information on any topic from any part of the world within seconds. This easily accessible knowledge has given everyone an equal opportunity to be educated and smart. So, even with all the knowledge that you have, you’ve become easily replaceable. There’s nothing unique about you or your skills because someone out there might always know more.

What puts you apart is your emotional intelligence in this world. How you manage your emotions helps you use your knowledge appropriately[2]. You could be the smartest mathematician in the world, but if you cannot control your rage due to unforeseen circumstances at the time when your mathematical skills are needed, you’re useless to everyone around you.

This also plays an important role in relationships. Your love and care can only be communicated if you can manage the emotions associated with these feelings.

When you compartmentalize emotions, it helps you keep distinct cognitive functions separate. Your feelings and emotions are connected, but feelings and emotions should be placed in separate places depending on the situation and function of the emotion.

Basically, you won’t be deprived of feeling your emotions. You’ll learn to control your emotions instead of being vulnerable to them. Since your emotions will not be a mess, you will act more rationally. Long story short, if you compartmentalize emotions, you minimize the risk of mental illnesses and overreactions.

How to Compartmentalize Emotions in a Healthy Way

To compartmentalize means to organize things in your mind so that they are easier to manage. In the case of emotions, this mechanism can quickly take an unhealthy turn if it’s not done the right way.

Emotions are sensitive, so if you mess up, you’ll do more harm than good. So here a few things to keep in mind to ensure a positive outcome.

1. Identify Your Emotions

A common yet unhealthy habit a lot of us have is to label our emotions without actually identifying them. Anything that makes you feel down is connected to depression or sadness. Anything that triggers your defense mode is anxiety.

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Start looking deeper. Stop using the terms that you know. Instead, feel what your emotions are communicating. Where are your relationship issues arising from? Is it somehow connected to your anger management? Is your childhood trauma affecting you?

Ask yourself the what, why, how, and who of everything you feel. This is the first step to categorize your emotions.

If you’re having trouble in this stage, which you most definitely will in the beginning, try some exercises to gain control over your emotions. Incorporate one little activity every day to slowly get the hang of this step.

2. Group Them Together

This step becomes a piece of cake if you’ve mastered step one.

Look for similarities and differences in your feelings. Be aware that whatever you feel is a result of your emotions. So, whichever emotions lead to similar feelings are usually connected.

While you’re connecting related emotions and feelings, group them together mentally. At the same time, anything that feels different or especially contradictory, group it separately. Opposing emotions should never be nearby.

You may be confused about how you can have opposing emotions. Look at an example of a mother-daughter relationship. A mother loves her daughter to death. But the daughter always has a habit or two that the mother despises. If the feelings of love are put together with what she feels towards these bad habits, she will neither be able to express her love properly nor will she be able to be strict against the bad habits.

3. Avoid False Negativity

When you’re struggling to build connections in your emotions, you can be misled by false negativity. It is usually prevalent in negative emotions.

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What happens is that you continue to relate events that aren’t even close. For example, one day you failed to finish your work on time. The next day you have a bad hair day. You connect it all to your bad time management. While that may be true for the first case, it isn’t necessarily relevant to the latter.

You have to be extremely mindful and focused to avoid false negatives. Mastering the identification of emotions will help you out here, too.

4. Maintain Boundaries

Some emotions will bother you more than the rest. While that is totally normal, what isn’t is if you just cannot shift your attention away from one compartment.

You have to maintain some limits and boundaries so that the other compartments aren’t left unattended. Overthinking one part of your emotions can give you false sadness or false happiness, neither of which is good for your mental state.

The Don’ts of Compartmentalizing Emotions

When you’re focused on doing things right, it is easy to get pulled into a toxic routine without realization. In this process, two specific mindsets can prevail. Do your best to keep them out of your routine.

1. Avoid Multitasking

This happens mostly when you’re just starting off with the process. Since there’s a lot to deal with in your head, your focus keeps wandering from one compartment to another. You’ll either want to go through different compartments at once, or your mind will be finding it hard to disconnect certain emotions from others.

All that you can do in this case is practice. Consciously identify when your mind is doing this. You can practice meditation to get better at maintaining your focus. As time goes on, you’ll get over this issue.

One of the main aims of compartmentalizing emotions is to increase your mindfulness. Force yourself to strictly keep all attention on one compartment unless you’ve fully dealt with it.

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2. Stay Away From Denial

While you’re avoiding multitasking, you may unintentionally keep avoiding a few compartments in particular. These are usually emotions that are very strong or hurtful.

Denial is only going to make it harder for you to deal with this part of your mind. You can keep the dark thoughts in a faraway corner in your mind so that you’re not constantly bothered. However, make sure to find the right time to confront these feelings.

If you ignore some emotions for a long period, they can lead to lifelong mental issues. For example, if something bad happened in your past, you will continuously avoid anything connected with it. But since you haven’t confronted these feelings, they will keep getting stronger and stronger. One day, this compartment will burst open and take over your mind. You’ll become a different person when you’re forcefully faced with these emotions.

To avoid a situation where you won’t know how to handle your thoughts, you should come face to face with them bravely, on your terms, and at the right time.

Conclusion

In the end, keep one thing in mind:

The way you deal with emotions is unique to you. So, there is no right or wrong way to compartmentalize them either.

With that being said, you must also stay cautious. There is a fine line in the process that will either encourage your social identity to grow or lead you to issues such as multiple personality disorder.

With the above tips and the final goal in mind, your brain will unconsciously lead you to the right path.

Let your brain get in the flow, give yourself a boost, and get ready to enjoy the benefits of compartmentalizing emotions!

More Tips on Handling Emotions

Featured photo credit: Juli Kosolapova via unsplash.com

Reference

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