5 Tips for Getting Unstuck

August 14, 2020

Throughout my life, I have gone through seasons of being completely fired up.  Maybe you have felt that way too? Where ideas flow easily at a rapid-fire pace even waking me up at 4 am.  The horizon is filled with endless possibilities.  In some ways, I feel invincible.  I’m excited about the journey and the adrenaline rush that I know is coming.  I love those seasons.  And yet, sometimes the winds change.  The sky fills with haze and my mind is foggy.  My thoughts are jumbled at best.  I feel a bit lost.  I begin to question what the heck I’m doing here in the first place.  How did I ever have the audacity to dream a dream so big? 

Ah, the place of “stuck.”

The shadowy pit of self-destruction where doubt and misery thrive.  But here’s what is interesting about the pit, it’s only as deep as we make it out to be.  Our perception can either make it easier or harder to climb out of.  I love in the book “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, she slices this idea right to its core and properly addresses the culprit: our ego.  She references back in Roman history when the thinking at the time stated that our creativity in anything, business, arts, science, etc, was because of a genius that guided us.  Instead of thinking of our creativity as us, they thought of it as an assistant if you will.  We had a genius, instead of being the genius.  Why is this distinction so important? Because it takes our ego out of the equation.  

I’m a firm believer that God designed each and every one of us with unique talents and abilities.  I believe we are made with a purpose.  I also love this idea of our genius as a gift that is one step removed from ourselves because it takes the pressure off.  Later on, in history, people abandoned this notion and the artist and genius became one.  The rise and fall of creativity sat squarely on the shoulders of the creator, to either be praised or ridiculed depending on the outcome.  One takeaway for me is that my ego cannot be a factor or even a spectator in the creative process.  That voice cannot be trusted. It’s too much pressure.  If during the process I’m already editing myself or worse yet criticizing, then the ideas won’t flow.  Not in art or business or even cooking.  But when I let go and give my genius freedom to simply create, it’s like magic.  When the sharp edges are erased, that’s when my thoughts tend to run free. New ideas are born and old ones revamped.  I see hope and solutions, rather than all the problems.  This is not an easy, overnight process.  Rather it is truly an exercise in self-love.

In reflecting on the ways that I have “unstuck” myself over the years, here are my best tips.

  1. Gratitude.  Every time I start lamenting how difficult it is to push the boulder, I have to look around and be grateful for all the things I do have.  The kids under my feet, the husband that supports me, the home we live in, the breath in my lungs.  I once read an article written by a woman who spoke about how her husband would leave his dirty socks all over the house.  Wherever he would sit down, the socks would come off.  It irritated her to no end.  On some occasions, she would patiently remind him to put them in the hamper, and other times she would pelt him in the back of the head as if she were Clayton Kershaw, a pitcher for the Dodgers.  Only a few short years into their marriage, he was killed in a car accident.  She finished her story by sharing how desperately she wished for dirty socks around her house.  How something that was so trivial and irked her endlessly now is something she would give anything for.  The memory of the mundane sticks out in her mind because her ordinary life had been completely shattered.  This story struck me because in my younger years of marriage especially, I was a Kershaw-style pitcher per se.  The piles of dishes and baskets of laundry drove me batty.  As the years have tumbled by and I’ve gained a bit of wisdom, usually the hard way, I have come to realize that when I see my family through the lens of gratitude, then I’m able to relax a bit.  The perfectionist in me calms and ironically enough my creativity returns.  When I see the mess as a sign of happy kids rather than an all-out affront, I’m able to let the joy in.  

I’ve also found that finding gratitude for the boulder is a key and necessary component.  The very hard thing in my path that I’m trying desperately to tackle is where I need to seek a grateful heart the most.  Even during a pandemic where my husband’s job in the fitness world is incredibly vulnerable and I’m looking at juggling work while having all three kids home, I have to make a choice on how I’m going to respond to this newfound normal.  So, what if the script was flipped? What if instead of a boulder, I saw it as a gift? That on the other side were the very lessons and tools I need to learn.  What if the fire is where I need to be in order to experience the refinement?  I saw this firsthand when my hubby was incredibly sick 7 years ago and we almost lost him.  I wrote more about that time in our lives in my blog post Kaleidoscope, check it out here.  

Fast forward to two years ago, I experienced another kind of boulder when I started my health and wellness business with Arbonne.  I was terrified.  I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know what anyone was going to think or how they might judge me.  Would it work? Fail spectacularly? I had no proof either way.  But I did have a choice to make otherwise I would have been stuck in fear mode.  The initial step I had to take was to see the big picture and remind myself why I was pushing the boulder in the first place.  Which leads me to tip two.

  1. Vision. There’s a saying and I really wish I could remember who said it but the sentiment goes something like this: make a plan on where you want to go because no matter what, you’re going to end up someplace.  With or without a vision, our life keeps moving on. Whether we have a plan or not, we will ultimately end up somewhere.  So isn’t it better to be the one with the road map in hand, mapping out the course ahead?  Now, I’m not saying the plan will be executed exactly as we envision it.  Wouldn’t that be nice? We do live in the real world where change is inevitable and flexibility required.  But I would argue it is so much easier to modify a plan than to create one on the fly.  Or worse yet, be constantly on defense simply reacting to the obstacles that life throws our way.  As we all know, there are many.  

I love visuals and have found vision boards to be very helpful.  Seeing the images in my mind come to life makes them more real.  The more real they are the easier it is to believe they are possible.  And it’s fun to see the changes.  My early vision boards included writing music, singing the National Anthem at Staples Center (I did have an amazing opportunity to sing there for a Clippers vs. Rockets basketball game), getting married and having a baby (my oldest arrived on the scene shortly after that one!).  There were years that I was too distracted and exhausted from raising babies to even think about the vision for my life.  It was more like survival: keep tiny humans alive one more day.  Now with my littlest turning four this month and I’m sleeping through the night most nights, my urge to create a vision for my life has returned.  To shape it with my own two hands, rather than chasing after a car flying down the highway.  

I think there’s something very powerful about being in talks with our Creator about our life.  For me, that looks like regular conversations with God.  Each morning I pray that he will guide my hands, feet, and heart.  I know His plan is far better than mine and I simply pray that He would nudge me down the path He has set before me and maybe once in a while give me a sneak peek of what’s to come.  I have also learned to pray big, bold prayers.  To ask for big, scary things.  To heal a husband whose body was poisoned due to a ruptured appendix.  To heal a marriage that was exhausted and strained.  To give me work I love and that is home-based. The means to pay for a private school that we fell in love with for our girls.  I have seen God show up and oftentimes in ways, I never could have seen coming.  But each one started as an idea which led to an ask.  

Let me tell you, I tried to drive the bus myself.  For years I piled on all the pressure.  I worked like an absolute crazy person.  My fear of failure was so strong that in a lot of ways I did achieve some of those big goals.  But there was a huge piece missing from my life: joy.  I was anxious and usually on the brink of exhaustion.  My tears were lingering just below the surface.  I didn’t sleep well and at one point I was using diet pills and caffeine to stay awake and “focused.”  But the caffeine would cause more anxiety.  It was a crazy time.  I didn’t sit.  My roommates would make fun of me because I wouldn’t watch TV.  I couldn’t sit long enough and if I did, I fell asleep every time.  My only way of relaxing was to drink.  It was a vicious cycle.  Eventually, I had to turn over the keys and give up control.  

Now I’m not saying to stop dreaming or achieving, I’m simply saying you are not alone in this endeavor.  Quite the opposite.  I believe we are all blessed with unique talents and creativity.  There are things that excite us and light our hearts on fire.  I know I am close to my creativity when joy starts spilling out of me.  When I want the moment to linger and time to pause.  When we are close to that joy it breathes life into us and I believe that’s where vision starts.  When we have an idea of how we want to experience more joy, the beautiful part is that our hearts lighten and every aspect of our lives is touched.  For some, this might look like adding something.  Maybe the vision is to write a novel, plant a garden, write music, redecorate a room.  Maybe it’s a complete overhaul, like finding a different line of work or moving across the country.  The point is by having a direction first, we are then able to craft a plan to seek it.  

  1. Action.  This is where our vision gets its legs.  We can craft our beautiful plan, create our vision board, write all the lists of where we want to go, but without this crucial step, we won’t budge.  The work starts here.  How do you eat the elephant? One bite at a time.  See sometimes I think we get all fired up over our big vision. Our huge life plan.  Then almost immediately excitement shifts to fear.  Fear wrestles the keys right out of our hands and attempts to drive the bus into a ditch.  We start questioning if we can do it.  “How dare you dream so big! Who do you think you are?”  Or the journey looks like it’s a million miles long.  The staggering amount of time, effort, and energy seem insurmountable.  Our excitement has been hijacked by self-doubt and every insecurity wants to speak its mind.  

The cure? Action.  

I’ll tell you, every time those voices of doubt have attempted to take hold I have found the only suitable response is forward motion.  Sometimes those steps are tiny (remember how we’re going to eat the elephant?) and sometimes they are lightning speed.  Then comes revision.  Revisit the plan, modify as necessary, and then move forward.  Carve out time every day to do something towards your goal.  Make the phone call, play the music, write the words.  Focus on the action steps for today.  After 30 days you will look back and be amazed.  Just wait till you hit the 6-month mark or better yet one year.  Your life will look so different because of the decisions you chose to make today.  There’s something so powerful that transforms inside of us when we are working towards creating a more joy-filled life.

  1. Get Moving: Your Body and Mind.  Everything is connected.  The way we treat and feed our bodies is directly related to how to treat and feed our minds.  I have seen first hand what a life with regular exercise can transform into.  Have I mentioned that I used to be roughly 35 lbs heavier than I am now? Nope, I wasn’t even pregnant at the time.  The weight piled on as a physical response to an emotional problem.  I think my sweet therapist from a decade and a half ago would be very pleased with my ability to articulate this.  She certainly was a miracle worker.  I used food and alcohol to mask the stress, anxiety, and fear.  But when I added exercise into my life, I didn’t need those crutches any longer.  For the first time in my life, I was dealing with stress in a responsible way.  My thoughts became clearer and I loved the feeling of being stronger.  My self-confidence started to grow and joy returned to my body.  I started seeing life in a brand new way.  Interestingly enough it was during this time that I also met my husband.

I still enjoy exercising.  Before this pandemic, I loved group exercise classes, like spin, and I certainly look forward to returning to those classes.  For now, I’m enjoying my time on my treadmill in the garage.  Let’s be clear, I don’t love running.  I used to joke I’d only run if someone or something was chasing me.  But I do love the result.  My body feels better and the stress build-up can be washed away.  My shoulders can relax and afterward, I thoroughly enjoy the extra energy.  I also love to find sneaky ways to exercise like playing tag with my kids, going for a walk or bike ride, and playing soccer with them at the park.  A side benefit is the more I exercise the more I want to feed my body with healthy foods.  Shoot, if I just spent 45 minutes on the treadmill I don’t want to undo my good work! So it also becomes easier to make healthy food choices which my body certainly appreciates.

The mind.  I’ve always loved to read, but about 2 years ago I made it a mission to tackle more personal development books. Arbonne, the health and wellness company I work with has a rich culture of encouraging people to dive deep into personal growth.  I have loved it.  It’s like food for my mind as well as my heart and the transformation has been profound.  I’m pretty sure the pandemic would have crushed me if I didn’t have some of these newfound tools.  I also love devotionals and spending time with God.  Hearing His words is like water in the desert.  Having something to cling to especially in these times has made a huge difference in how I see and respond to my world.

  1. Seek Joy.  I love talking about this because it’s a two-fold idea.  I mentioned the author Elizabeth Gilbert (she also wrote the best seller and another book I love entitled, “Eat, Pray, Love”) a bit earlier and in her book “Big Magic,” she introduces this brilliant idea.  What if we sought creativity merely for the joy of it?  What if we didn’t put any pressure on how it would be received once the work is out in the world?  What if our task is to create the work and ENJOY the process.  I have known many tortured artists and let me just say that this concept of joy flies right in the face of that thinking.  Now let’s take this idea one step further.  What if the joy was meant to be found in all the work that we do? Now, before you shake your fist at me and say that is just not possible.  Let me explain.  I’m not saying that joy will be found in every aspect of our work.  I fully recognize that sometimes we run across difficult situations that suck the very breath out of us.  Or the heat is turned up so high we fear singeing off our eyebrows.  

I worked for a boss in my early twenties at Warner Bro.’s Music who was such a character.  Let’s just say he was known for being the resident jerk (I really thought through my choice of words here to describe him and sometimes my 10 year old reads my posts so I’ll settle on “jerk” but perhaps you substitute something a bit stronger that better fits his description).  Anyway, the point is that even despite my difficult boss there was joy to be found. I made friends, talked to and learned from many high powered (and very kind I might add) managers, and got a glimpse into the inner workings of a record label.  In the end, I knew I didn’t want to work on the business side of the music business but the experience taught me how to adapt even within a difficult situation.  I also became very much aware of my desire to seek joy even in unlikely places because life is simply too short not to at least try.  Ironically the more I looked, the more I began to find.

Now the flip side.

Take a break!  Read a fabulous Emily Griffin novel just because they are wonderful (I’ve listed a few other books I love from my book list here.) Go outside and play with your kids.  Plan a super fun date night.  Watch the movie, play the board game, take the bike ride.  I’m notorious for not taking breaks.  I will work like a crazy person, ignore my family, and eventually get so burnt out that I can barely function. It’s not good and I usually would get sick.  I had a wise mentor say you have to “slow down to speed up.” In other words, be intentional.  Now maybe you’re shaking your head and saying, 

“Ok I hear you, but I don’t have time.” 

Yes, yes you do! There are so many things we do throughout the day that can either be made more productive or eliminated.  When I first started my Arbonne business I stopped watching TV, for the first year I quit completely.  After that, my hubs and I would watch one or two shows on the weekend and that was it.  I taught my kids how to help me with chores like sweeping, taking out the trash, and watering the plants.  I also limited my time on social media.  I suddenly had more time. I’m definitely a morning person and that’s when my brain works best.  I like to get up and be productive.  But at night my mind is usually mush, so that’s when I do my reading and personal development.  I have also found other ways to multiply my time such as folding laundry while taking a call, making dinner and listening to a podcast, walking on the treadmill while returning emails.  All of these are great ways to give me more hours back.  With the added time, I then very intentionally spend it in the ways that bring me the most joy like hanging with my family, calling a good friend, cooking something delicious, or reading just for fun! The best!

Ok, I’m sneaking in one more! REST. I’m telling you this one is huge.  When we don’t take the time to rest, sleep, and recharge we burn out.  The motivation wanes and everything feels harder. For me, I would become exhausted and then get sick.  Every dang time.  So I had to learn to stop.  I also have retrained my body to get up earlier so I can take advantage of the morning hours when my brain is most alert and before my sweet but ever-interrupting kiddos wake up.  Nothing helps my creativity more than a quiet house.  I’ve also become a big fan of naps.  A perfect Sunday afternoon includes a cozy blanket and the long side of our L-shaped couch.  Giving my body what it is begging for allows me the space to be recharged and ready for when it’s time to work.  

The balance of rest and action has been crucial for my creativity and motivation.  I’m not perfect at this.  The workaholic in me usually wants to push forward and steamroll right through all the boundaries.  But that leads to destruction, exhaustion, and bitterness.  So instead, I have found it helpful to listen to my body and take breaks when I need them.  Life with kids is fluid and always changing.  Someone gets sick, needs help with a project, or simply wants to snuggle.  To save my sanity, I have learned I must be flexible.  But the key is to make up the work time later because the only way results appear is through consistent action. 

My dear friends, I’m learning this right alongside you.  The lesson of taking the birds-eye view rather than staring almost obsessively through the keyhole is one I am constantly reminding myself of.  To embrace the notion that life is meant to be a journey, not a sprint.  The bottom line is that this is the work of our lives.  The work, creativity, time with our family and friends, rest, joy, gratitude are all brushstrokes of a greater picture.  When I keep that perspective at the forefront of my mind then I’m more likely to see the vision for my life in the greatest sense. 

My work and creativity are part of my life, but not my whole life.  Doesn’t that take the pressure off a bit? It sure does for me.  And I find that when the pressure is released that is where I find my voice and my wings.  Where my hesitations fall away and my “stuckness” feels less sticky.  By having a plan I feel more like the pilot following a map and making course corrections along the way rather than trying to create the entire picture at once.  The goal isn’t meant to be completed overnight.  It is a process that we are supposed to learn from and grow through.  When I put these steps in place, I notice that joy enters the room and provides fuel for the process.  With excitement, rather than fear or exhaustion at the helm, then our creativity suddenly appears and the journey feels like it has been sprinkled with a bit of magic. 

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