“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
A few weeks ago, I published a post called 10 Life-Changing Facts About Fear. I was walking on the beach yesterday with my lovely friend Evan who suggested I write a 10 Life Changing Facts series. “Brilliant!” I thought (thanks, Evan), and what better topic to write about than getting unstuck.
The Pain of Being Stuck
And who doesn’t know what it’s like to be stuck? We find ourselves doing the same unsatisfying thing time after time or looking at situations and people in the same habitual way that doesn’t get us what we really want. Being stuck is tunnel vision, it’s prison, it’s limited and small and frustrating.
It can even lead us to despair, feeling there is no way out.
But here’s the good news: you can get unstuck. You absolutely can. No matter what habit is gripping you, you can find the courage to explore it, to understand how it works, to uncover the feelings that drive it.
Be Inspired to Get Unstuck
Need some inspiration? Here are the words of Deb, who commented on a recent post:
“A little over a year ago, when I first found your blog, I felt exactly as you describe in the first paragraphs. I wondered how I could ever not feel so alone, so unworthy. You are right, you just have to keep acknowledging your feelings and letting them go. I kept it up and one day I thought, hey, I don’t feel bad. I stepped out of my tight little box of unworthiness and insecurity, a little at a time, and it worked.”
Habits can’t sustain themselves in the light of conscious awareness. They thrive on resistance and evasion. But when we illuminate them with laser-like attention, when we are willing to see things exactly as they are, they soften. The momentum begins to slow, and we become aware of space for new perspectives and choices. We realize freedom.
Consider the Facts
Whatever your habit is – busyness, overeating, over-thinking, procrastination, passivity, argumentativeness, shyness – consider these life-changing facts about getting unstuck, then the ball is in your court. What do you really want for this precious life?
1. Moving through habits takes focus, willingness, and perseverance. You are addressing an automatic, repetitive, long-standing pattern that has momentum. Your true desire to be free of the habit has to be stronger than the force of the habit itself.
2. Habits stay in place through unconsciousness and inattention. If you keep doing the same thing, you will get the same result. The radical choice is to enter into whatever you experience rather than avoid it. See how your thought process works, what feelings drive you. Get to know the direct experience of desire and lack that underlies many of our conditioned tendencies. Eventually, the habit will surrender, I promise you.
3. Habits are driven by feelings you aren’t aware of. If you are carrying out a habit that isn’t serving you, you haven’t yet acknowledged the underlying feeling. It might be fear or sadness, anger or loss. Gently explore the deepest places inside you so can be free.
If you are afraid of the pain, meet that fear first. Then welcome the feelings – they have been waiting for your loving attention.
4. Habits are perpetuated by a story that runs in your mind. Look for thoughts that start with: I need, I can’t, I am missing, I have to, if I don’t. These are stories you tell yourself that convince you to play out a pattern that you know doesn’t serve you. Investigate these thoughts to see if they are actually true.
5. You will experience urges and cravings. No matter what pattern you are addressing, the moment of the urge to engage in it, once again, is the moment of truth. Are you going to experience this moment or avoid it? Urges have a physical component, so get to know what that feels like in your body. Go through the fire, and you will come out the other side.
6. Getting unstuck from habits means facing the unknown. When a habit drops away, your experience changes. You think and feel differently, your insights and perspectives change. You see choices you never noticed before. Don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from the happiness, peace, health, and well being that are your birthright.
7. Dismantling habits takes patience. Your habit has probably been in place for years, so it will take some time to unwind. This means you will keep doing it even when you don’t want to. Be gentle with yourself, but don’t lose focus. Start small, and keep going, seeing each experience as an opportunity for learning.
8. There is no goal. I know you want to change your habit, but don’t turn it into a fight. Rather, be conscious, loving, and aware. Be willing to experience your feelings and investigate your thoughts. Lovingly usher yourself through the moment each time you feel the pressure of the habit. Then your whole relationship with your experience changes, and there is space for your inner wisdom to be heard.
9. The root of being stuck goes back to childhood. Many long-standing patterns start when we don’t have the skills or support to deal with strong feelings. In order to survive, we send them underground, and they stay there fragmented and lost. Then we come up with any number of creative ways to avoid them.
The medicine for this cycle is loving attention. Make a safe space for these experiences to come out of hiding. Integrate them into the whole that you already are. Let go of the effort to manage your inner world. Take a deep breath, let it go, and let everything be.
10. Getting help helps. I just finished eight sessions with a therapist. My friend, Tess, from The Bold Life, speaks about how getting help saved her marriage. Talking to an objective, skilled person helps you clear the fog of your habitual ways of thinking. Do yourself a favor: if you’re stuck, consider getting help, with me or anyone else you trust. Just one session can often make a difference.
Now it’s your turn. Here are the facts about habits. What is your next step? Any stories of frustration or success? I’d love to hear…