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Ten Steps to Getting Unstuck
by Pat Catalano

Ever find yourself stuck in that terrible loop of inactivity, depression, and anger? Are you angry at the world, others or yourself because you're not getting things done - or even started because you're circling around and around, covering the same ground and never moving forward? Well, it's time to stop spinning your wheels and cursing the mud! Digging your way out of this rut is possible - and the way to do it may be closer than you think! Look at the steps below - one of them just may give you the inspiration - or kick in the butt - to break this cycle and start you down a happier path.

  1. Have manageable goals. If you can't get started because the task overwhelms you, break it down into small, manageable bites. You don't have to solve the problems of the world in 5 minutes. Take it one step at a time. For example, job hunting - that most terrifying of activities. Today's goal is simply to find your resume. Once that's done, relax and give yourself permission to enjoy the rest of the day! Tomorrow, you look up a name and number. The next day, you work on your resume for fifteen minutes. A day later, you call the number you looked up. And so on. At the end of a week, make a list of all you've accomplished and admire it! You may be surprised at how a little each day can add up!

  2. Go ahead - argue with yourself. Be your own best friend. Every time you say "I can't" - disagree! There is no law that says you have to agree with everything you think or say! Get creative. Aloud, in writing, or by taking action - note all the ways that you can - no matter how ridiculous or outrageous! For example, I know that climbing Mount Everest would help me get in shape! Brainstorm - each thought leads to another! Even if you start with completely silly and unrealistic, coming up with any opposition to a "can't" gives it less power and brings you closer to the positive!

  3. Break the rhythm by changing your routine. You need a jump start, so take action. Do something you've never done before. Go on a hike or to the opera. Eat something you can't pronounce. Or go even further. Want to date? Put in a personal ad. Want a new career? Sign up for a class. Upset the norm somehow! And remember, you don't have to do this alone. Enlist a friend. Sometimes making plans with a friend will help you break out and do something new! Free yourself from your mind's rut and go for it!

  4. Ask yourself, "What are my obstacles to moving on?" Understanding what's blocking you can help in forming a counter-attack. Are the obstacles of your own making? Are there any external obstacles? Differentiate between the factors that you have control over and those you don't. Put aside the factors you have no power over, and address the ones you do. Fighting what can't be changed is discouraging, depressing and will lead to feelings of hopelessness. Put your energy into what can be changed, and you will be encouraged and revitalized by the progress you will then be able to make.

  5. Make an appointment with yourself. Pick a time of day when you're at your best. Tomorrow at 11:00, I will spend 15 minutes -writing / cleaning / exercising / making phone calls / apartment hunting. Whatever! Turn off the phone if you have to and clear that time for yourself. You don't have to do anything more to achieve your objective for the rest of the day - just put in that 15 minutes! If you don't keep the appointment with yourself this time, then next time, don't bother writing down the appointment - make it for NOW!

  6. Your surroundings can have a powerful impact on the psyche. Sometimes a change of scene can help revive and inspire you. It's amazing the power new surroundings have to renew and refresh the spirit. And you don't have to travel to the far reaches of the universe either. If Tahiti is not an option, try sitting in a different chair at home, taking a different route to work, or working at the library. New perspectives are at your fingertips!

  7. Make bribery work for you! Reward yourself with a treat if you reach your day's target. Some of us will do anything for chocolate. But don't worry if you're not a chocolate doesn't appeal to you - treats don't have to be fattening! Instead of food, use something else. Imagine - if you reach your day's target early, you can play hooky! You can go to a movie, take a walk in the park, go shopping, or surf the net - because you're free!

  8. If you're trapped in an emotional "loop", such as anger at a friend or sorrow after a break-up, try distracting yourself when you feel the loop starting again - grab a book, watch a movie, call a friend. Talk to the person you're upset with, or if that is not an option, write a letter without mailing it. If, after a time proportionate to the situation has long passed, you are still having trouble getting off your emotional carousel, consider seeking professional help in order to find resolution or the strength to walk away. Looping wastes a tremendous amount of time and prevents you from finding satisfaction elsewhere in your life.

  9. Relax. De-stress. Take the pressure off yourself. Sometimes you need to give yourself a break from the constant nagging, and those shoulda's, woulda's, and coulda's that you keep running through your mind. Chastising yourself is clearly not helping you actually get anything done, not to mention that it's depressing and bad for your emotional well-being. So cut yourself some slack, do things to make yourself feel good, and when you've left behind all those shoulda's, think about what you really want, and go to another number on this list!

  10. You didn't think you'd get through this list without reading about the tried and true, take one day at a time. Don't try to accomplish a lifetime's work in an hour. That will only make everything seem hopeless. Take care of today. And don't worry about yesterday. Yesterday is over. If you wish you'd done something different yesterday - remember that tomorrow, yesterday will be today! Because basically, all your tomorrows and yesterdays start today! If you do something today, then tomorrow you won't need to feel bad about yesterday! (Got it?)

So the next time you find yourself unable to move forward, take a moment to believe in yourself. We all get stuck at times. The trick is to minimize the time you stay stuck! Any car can be gotten out of that rut in the mud if approached with the right tools. Trust that you will get out of whatever quagmire you may find yourself in - now that you have your own tools at hand to help!

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