It happens to all of us at one point or another. You’re going along, minding your own business, when all of a sudden, you realize that actually, you aren’t anywhere close to where you thought you would be.
Feeling stuck is like being stranded on a deserted island. You set your coordinates and coasted for a while until you landed somewhere that seemed pleasing enough. Everything was a-ok... until you realized your boat sank and no one was coming to rescue you.
So what do you do now?
Back in the real world, maybe you try to ignore it and hope the feeling will pass. Maybe you go home and binge watch Scandal on Netflix. Maybe you clean your apartment and feel like things are maybe, just maybe, starting to move in the right direction, only to realize you still feel the same way next week — your kitchen is just spotless now. Maybe if you keep waiting, something will happen on its own.
You can do all of those things, and they could alleviate some of the tension, at least for a little while, but they won’t address the real problem. The “stuck” feeling is a flashing neon sign that you’re ready for change, and the only person who can save you is yourself.
Here are 4 things to do when you feel stuck:
1. Go to an event.
It doesn’t matter what kind of event it is — the important thing is that you go. It could be a professional event, a networking cocktail hour, a conference, a book reading, or a poetry slam.
Pick events by what interests you and what you are drawn to. Not only will you meet new people who share your interest, you’ll also have a chance to expand your network, whether it’s out of professional interest or personal interest, a growing network is never a bad thing.
When you’re narrowing down your niche, your personal and professional lives tend to overlap, so it’s 100 percent okay if you choose an event for either reason. If you aren’t sure what you’re interested in, testing the waters by attending different events is a great way to find out!
2. Review and update your resume (and LinkedIn profile).
If you’re feeling stuck in your professional life, an objective review of what you’ve accomplished (or not accomplished) over the past year will give you some insight into what would be a smart, logical next move for you.
Were you thinking about applying for graduate school this time last year? Why haven’t you? Go back through what you’ve done in the past year and ask yourself, “why?” for every single thing you worked on. Doing so will help make what step you should take next much more clear.
While you’re at it, create a failure resume for yourself to identify areas where you can improve. Keep your resume updated so you are prepared for when opportunities arise.
3. Seek out someone who inspires you and ask to meet them for coffee.
If you don’t have a mentor, it’s okay. That doesn’t mean you won’t succeed, and it certainly doesn’t mean you won’t have one one day. An excellent method for sidestepping the lack of a mentor is the informational interview.
Consider an individual who is in a role you might want one day or someone successful in your industry, and get in touch. Send them an email and get the ball rolling.
The key to rocking an informational interview is preparing. According to Natalee Desotell, there are three types of informational interviews. Here she shares her experiences and how to really prepare for and get the most from each type of informational interview.
4. Sign yourself up for a 5k or 10k.
Wait… what does this have to do with anything? My answer is everything.
When you’re feeling stuck, you also tend to feel as if you’re lacking purpose and a goal. Signing up for a race gives you both.
One of my favorite running quotes comes from Haruki Murakami in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you think, ‘Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore.’ The ‘hurt’ part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself.”
Running requires perseverance. Oftentimes your body is capable, but your mind holds you back. I believe the same holds true in all aspect of life. We are capable of far more than we think we are, but our minds tend to work against us.
When you set long-term goals, you typically set short-term goals as well to help you reach the long-term goals. Whether your goal is three miles or 26 miles, you slowly increase your distance each week until you reach your ultimate mileage goal. The rest of our goals are like that too.
Signing up for a race will give you long-term and short-term goals. In my experience, this will also translate to other areas of your life as well — bringing your next step into focus and helping you out of your rut.
If you’re in a rut, try not to stress too much, but rather pour your efforts into being proactive. Feeling stuck can also be incredibly frustrating, upsetting, and discouraging, but ultimately you need to take it as a sign that things will only get better from here.
Change is calling, are you going to answer?