How Getting Stuck Leads to Progress

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We’ve all been there: stuck, discouraged, lost, maybe even burnt-out and frustrated. And I know that many of you are there right now.

Have you ever thought about what causes “stuckness”? I don’t mean, how you got stuck, but why one person may feel stuck while another in the same situation doesn’t?

It’s our stories that define our stuck-ness.[tweet that]

We all have stories about how life is supposed to go, whether we realize it or not. We learn these stories from many places throughout our lives, particularly in our early and most formative years. The communities, cultures, organizations, and institutions that have shaped us tell us stories about who we are and the way life should go.

We often don’t notice these stories until things start to get complicated. We take a hit we didn’t expect: we loose a job, a relationship, a scholarship, an opportunity. However it happens, we find ourselves outside the storyline that we thought we’d be living.

We hear ourselves thinking things like:

  • “It’s not supposed to be like this.”
  • “It shouldn’t be this hard.”
  • “I shouldn’t have missed that chance.”
  • “People like me aren’t supposed to _________ .”
  • “It’s all supposed to fall into place. What did I do wrong?”
  • “I shouldn’t have to be struggling like this.”
  • And other more specific versions of all of these.

These are terrifying places outside the borders of the life we expected to be living. These are difficult and painful seasons that ask us to redefine how we think about ourselves, our lives, and our work.

It’s in these moments that we most want to give up because the stuck-ness and sense of loss can be nearly unbearable.

But these moments are also full of possibility.

When life takes you off of the path you anticipated, the stories that have guided you fail to make sense of your present.

In these moments there are two choices: try to fight your way back to the known path and back into the story, or begin writing your own.

Getting stuck isn’t a pleasant experience. But you shouldn’t accept that you are stuck without asking questions of it first, like:

  • According to who?
  • What standard is telling you that you’re stuck?
  • Who says you’re lost?

You may discover stories, expectations, and voices that you’ve never articulated before.

It’s only through the stuck-ness that we find our way.[tweet that]

It’s only by digging deeper into the stories that have brought us here and shaped us, that we find the freedom needed to take the next step.

It’s often when we think we can’t take it any more that our greatest breakthroughs happen.

In the comment, have you ever felt stuck or feel stuck now? Share some of your experience.

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  1. I’d say I’m stuck now, and have been feeling so for a couple of years at least. I went back to school in my early 40’s, with two young kids, a divorce, and language barriers at my side. I graduated top of my class with a BA and BEd, but found that those high grades did nothing in the classroom, and nothing to get me hired. I substitute taught for a year, and found it soul-suckingly difficult and utterly demoralizing. This year I have a 60% contract in my school board, which pays me about what I earned in 1997 as a chambermaid, and will end at the end of June. In terms of stuck- many times I have wanted to quit, to follow some other path; I have questioned my suitability for this work, and worried that I am doing a disservice to kids. I find it challenging to see through the instability of this career and this way of life. I have a good work-life balance with a 60% contract, but financially I am always sliding backwards and have not truly supported myself financially since I quit a lucrative career as a massage therapist to have kids 11 years ago. I don’t want to move laterally, I want to move forward, but I’m…stuck. Maybe teaching will get better. Maybe I need to accept that my parents are still helping me put food on the table and that’s the way it is when you start a new career in your 40’s, maybe I need to have more faith in the way of life- but I struggle with finding meaning in it. Education is a place I can get passionate about, but there’s not a lot of room for kids in the system- it’s a mess, and I feel powerless to affect change, even in my own classroom. I don’t know what first steps to take out of the mess. I want to live with meaning and purpose, and I’m not sure if that is what I am doing.

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