We all face challenges. Some dilemmas feel pretty big and we find ourselves at a crossroads feeling overwhelmed, frozen, and stuck.
But what does it mean to be stuck, exactly?
Stuck is seeing no alternatives to your dilemma. Stuck is fear of failure. Stuck is making your plans and setting goals but postponing taking the first step. Stuck is breaking promises you made to yourself and then feeling guilty. Stuck is waiting for a catastrophe to strike before doing what you knew you should have done all along. Stuck is feeling hopeless, frustrated, angry, and trapped. Sound familiar?
It happens to all of us.
We often stay stuck by overlooking past personal successes and downplaying our inner resources. We stay stuck by mentally affirming our reasons not to change: “I tried that and it didn’t work.” “It’s genetic.”
Another major barrier to change is all-or-nothing perfectionism—thinking if you can’t do all of this, you won’t even try. Because you want everything or nothing, nothing is what you usually get.
A variation of perfectionism is telling yourself you’ll begin as soon as the perfect time arrives. It seems that something always happens today that makes putting it off until tomorrow more attractive. It’s as if we honestly believe that at some magical point in the future we won’t have any temptation or interruptions. That day will never come! Waiting keeps you frozen and stuck. Waiting keeps you paralyzed. Moving ahead imperfectly is better than being paralyzed perfectly.
Once Impossible, Now Easy
Can we get unstuck? Yes! Is it difficult? Sometimes. Have you successfully accomplished other difficult things in your life? Sure, you have! Think about some of the things that, at one time in your life, you couldn’t do—things once impossible, now easy.
At one time in your life, you couldn’t walk, talk, or even control your bowel movements. There was a time you couldn’t tie your shoes, read, spell, or do math. At one time, you couldn’t ride a bike, swim, or drive a car. Here’s a suggestion: Make a list of some of the things that once seemed impossible and display it where you can see it. This list can serve as a powerful reminder that you have accomplished many challenging things and you can do it again.
Truth is, people pretty much change themselves. Often it’s a simple process, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy; you have to want to change. Between wanting and having, there usually has to be some doing.
Finding Your Inner Resources
Truth is, people pretty much change themselves. Often it’s a simple process, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy; you have to want to change. Between wanting and having, there usually has to be some doing. Wishing for something is not the same as deciding to do it. Simply preferring that things would turn out a certain way won’t produce the same results as making a commitment to do whatever it takes. When you want to feel something different, you have to do something different.
To do and feel something different, you have to access your inner strengths and resources and use them to help create that “better future.” Based on my personal and professional experience, I’m convinced we all possess those inner resources but sometimes need someone to reassure and remind us.
Standing at the Crossroads
People at the crossroads often feel uncertain and in a state of flux, yet they are—either by default or desire—frequently ready and willing to change. It is at this critical juncture that well-timed, appropriately delivered professional interventions can make a significant and positive difference.
Many people who feel frozen and stuck want things to change. They hope for a “better future” but aren’t exactly sure how to bring it about. Sometimes they seek professional help: they call a therapist. When they do, a major part of the therapist’s job is to create a safe, supportive climate for the change they’re seeking and to help them find their own way to that better future.
Give Birth to Change
Therapists, metaphorically speaking, often function like a midwife. They observe people experiencing the labor pains of change, recognize how vulnerable they feel, and offer gentle reassurance that not only is change possible, it’s inevitable.
In the context of a professional relationship—a relationship rooted in trust and built with rapport—they provide a therapeutic delivery room where they do their best to help people feel safe. And in that private space—filled with compassionate concern, hope, encouragement, and helpful suggestions—they are often privy to the miracle of birth: the birth of change.
If you feel it’s time to deliver the change you want, you might benefit from enlisting the help of a therapist—a midwife of change.
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