How to get unstuck in life

7 Ways to Get Yourself Unstuck

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By Patricia Harteneck, Ph.D.

It's easy to get in a rut. Maybe you have goals but for some reason, you are not reaching for them. Maybe self-judgment is causing you to lower your expectations, or low self-worth is preventing you from making positive changes. You can also get stuck in worry, afraid to make a decision or change something in your life. Or maybe you're disappointed with how a particular situation turned out, and it just feels too hard to move on.

When we get stuck, we often wait for external change to happen. But change doesn't happen to us, it comes from within us. Change is scary and painful, but it's also necessary for getting unstuck. And when that happens, many opportunities open up.

Try these seven strategies when you feel stuck:

1. Let go of the past.

Listen to the stories in your head. Are you thinking about events that happened in the past? Are you unable to forgive yourself for the mistakes you made? Are you blaming yourself or others for things that did not turn out the way you hoped? Ask yourself why you are stuck on these memories, and what you can do to live with them, accept them, and move forward. You can't undo the past, but you can choose to find peace. Forgiving yourself or others is a way to let go and move on.

2. Change your perspective.

Once you release the grip of the past, you will see your reality in new ways and feel freer to change your attitude. To gain a new perspective, meditate or spend time alone and listen to your inner voice. If you can, travel or take a break from your daily routine to clear your mind and get distance from your current situation. Open yourself up to new people and ideas, and introduce regular physical activity into your routine. All of these changes will help you gain a new perspective on the future and what is possible.

3. Start with small changes.

Change stimulates different parts of the brain that improve creativity and clarity of mind. You can start small by changing your daily routines, moving things in your house, or making new friends. Every choice matters. You might be tempted to skip the little things because they don't always seem important in the moment. But after a while, an accumulation of small changes will help you accomplish your goals, and you will start feeling unstuck.

4. Explore your purpose.

Your life purpose is not just your job, your responsibilities, or your goals—it's what makes you feel alive. These are the things you are passionate about and will fight for. Examples of a life purpose could be:

  • Helping people overcome the sadness of being ill.
  • Helping others reach their full potential.
  • Growing as a human being.
  • Protecting animals who suffer.

You may need to change your life purpose if it no longer inspires you. Or, if you feel like you haven't had a purpose, this is a great time to define it. Ask yourself the following questions as you consider your life purpose:

  • What makes me happy?
  • What were my favorite things to do in the past?
  • What are my favorite things to do now?
  • When do I enjoy myself so much or become so committed to something that I lose track of time?
  • Who inspires me the most, and why?
  • What makes me feel good about myself?
  • What am I good at?

5. Believe in yourself.

Trust that you can reach your expectations and get out of your comfort zone. Make a list of your strengths and positive traits, and remember that you are very capable. Many people sabotage their own progress—consciously or unconsciously—as a result of deep-seated fears and limiting beliefs.

The first step to believing in yourself is to recognize your self-doubt. Pay attention to the ways you react to situations. Then you can work to reframe your self-doubt. Limitations like, "I can't" or "I don't know" can be replaced with, "I can't do that yet, but I'm working on it," or "I don't know now, but I will." Another way to instill confidence in your abilities is to write down your past successes and keep the notes on hand when you need proof that you can do things that are challenging or new.

6. Practice being hopeful.

Maybe you have had a lot of disappointments that led to this moment in your life when you feel helpless. Maybe you are experiencing a naturally protective feeling of pessimism. This is something you will have to work to change. Find a practice, such as meditation, prayer, or reading inspirational books, and do it regularly. Hope is not a permanent state. You need to work at it every day.

7. Consider talking to a professional.

If you find that you are unable to change unhealthy thought patterns, consider consulting a mental health provider to help you figure out why you are stuck, and to find ways to get unstuck. Feeling stuck can be part of a mental health disorder that can be effectively treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two; having professional support as you work to change long-established thinking patterns can be tremendously helpful. Sometimes asking for help can be the most hopeful and powerful step you can take.

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4 Ways to Get Unstuck in Life (and Why You Need to Take Action)

Most of us are familiar with the nagging feeling of getting stuck, the sensation of being trapped in one place for too long, and the seeming absence of a way out. But what if there was a way to get unstuck?

Getting stuck is common and it can happen in any area of your life. The good news is that getting unstuck is entirely possible. Depending on why you’re stuck, it can be as easy as finding a new hobby or doing something you’ve always wanted to try, or as difficult as rearranging your entire life and reconsidering your purpose. Either way, getting stuck doesn’t mean you’re stuck forever.

In this article, I’ll take a look at what we mean when we talk about getting stuck, why it happens, and most importantly, share four tips on getting unstuck.


  • What does it mean to get stuck in your life?
  • Why you need to take action when you feel stuck
  • 4 ways to get unstuck in your life
    • 1. Make a radical change
    • 2. Find out why you’re stuck
    • 3. Find or remember your purpose
    • 4. Focus on the journey
  • Wrapping up

What does it mean to get stuck in your life?

At some point or another, most people report feeling stuck in their careers, relationships or lives in general. Despite the ubiquitous nature of this phenomenon, it’s quite hard to explain what we mean by “feeling stuck”.

Before you read any further, I invite you to think about what “feeling stuck” means to you. What does being “stuck” look and feel like?

Feeling or being stuck often prompts people to seek counseling or therapy, even though “stuckness” isn’t a clinical diagnosis or a psychological condition.

In her PhD thesis, British psychologist Marianne McGoldrick researched therapists’ understanding of client that reported “feeling stuck”. The interviewed therapists described “stuck” as “a place, one in which the client felt tethered and restrained, an unrelenting position from which there seemed no escape.”

Does this description align with your experience and understanding of feeling stuck? It’s possible that you recognize the feeling of being restrained, but your experience might also be completely different.

Everyone experiences stuckness differently. For some, being stuck means being trapped, for others, it means inertia and stagnation.

Only one thing is for certain - no one wants to be stuck.

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Why you need to take action when you feel stuck

Despite our best efforts, we do get stuck occasionally, for various reasons, some of which are eminently practical.

For example, a recent article found that people often get stuck in unsatisfying relationships for reasons like cohabitation, marriage, children and family entanglement.

Similarly, a 2016 article implies that people might be stuck at an unsatisfying or emotionally draining job because of job insecurity.

While feeling stuck is generally perceived as something bad, the feelings that come with it can act as a catalyst for change. This can ultimately result in something positive.

As for the less practical reasons of getting stuck, the literature is less conclusive, but throughout my career, I have identified some common reasons for getting stuck.

Sometimes it’s because our goals and dreams have changed or because we didn’t have a goal in the first place. Sometimes it can also be because we’ve been following someone else’s goals instead of our own. It’s often goals that give our lives meaning and it’s having a meaning in life that makes us happy.

Sometimes there is simply too much on our plate and being on a one-way track to burnout is what makes us feel stuck.

When we do not feel that we are in control, the feeling of being trapped is quick to follow. We tend to thrive in situations where we have a say in the outcome, and wilt in ones we don’t.

4 ways to get unstuck in your life

Getting stuck may feel scary and discouraging, but it is possible to get unstuck. It’s important to remember that most people experience a spell of stuckness at some point in their lives and no matter how strong the feeling, it won’t last forever.

Here are four tips on how to unstick yourself.

1. Make a radical change

There’s a tip I give to fresh high school students every year: if you’re stuck on your homework or an assignment, put it aside and do something else for a while. If you’re stuck on a math problem, work on your English homework for a while.

If you’re stuck on the opening paragraph of an essay, close the document and do something fun. When you come back, your mind will be clearer and the solution will come to you more easily.

When we are highly focused on one task, it’s easy to get lost in a never ending spiral of the same thoughts over and over again. Some variety will help to break the spiral.

The same idea applies to unsticking yourself in life, just on a larger scale.

If you find yourself stuck in life, change one aspect radically. Whether it’s picking up a new hobby, changing your job, moving to a new place, ending an unsatisfying relationship, or doing the one thing you’ve always wanted to do.

Obviously, quitting your job or a relationship, no matter how unsatisfying, isn’t an easy choice that should be made lightly, and sometimes it may not be an option at all.

That’s why I’ve included taking up a hobby or fulfilling an old dream here - although they don’t seem like the biggest changes, they can still be radical and the key to unsticking yourself.

For example, a great unsticking moment for me was getting my first tattoo. I had been wanting to get one for years, but something always held me back. Will I regret it? I’m not a “tattoo person” - whatever that means. What would I even get? It has to be meaningful, right? What will my family and friends think?

Eventually I got a small branch design with leaves that doesn’t symbolize anything other than me conquering my hesitation and doing something indulgent for myself. Letting my tattoo artist friend poke me for an hour turned out to be the start of one of the most productive and fulfilling years of my life (so far).

2. Find out why you’re stuck

Solving any problem starts with identifying the problem.

When you’re feeling stuck, try to find the reason why. You may not be able to pinpoint the exact reason, but try to find the general category.

Check in with yourself. Are your basic needs taken care of or are you stretched too thin and overworked? Does your life have meaning and are you finding satisfaction in your work and relationships? If not, why?

Figuring out why you’re feeling stuck will help you unstick yourself faster.

3. Find or remember your purpose

Working or living without a purpose is often the reason behind feeling stuck. When you get stuck, it’s good to reorient yourself to your goal. Why are you doing what you are doing?

You may find that your goals have changed and that’s completely okay. We are constantly learning and evolving as people, so it’s natural that our priorities, dreams and purpose may change.

Feeling stuck may be a sign that you need to reconsider your goals and the meaning you seek in life.

If you’ve never had a goal in life or if you’ve been working towards someone else’s goal, it’s time to figure out what matters to you. Working towards a personal goal that has importance to you will create meaning in your life. And not only will creating meaning unstick you, it can also prevent you from getting stuck again.

4. Focus on the journey

While finding your purpose is important, it’s equally important to stay in the present and not focus too much on the future.

Keep your purpose in mind, but be mindful of your journey and how far you’ve already come, not how far you still have to go.

Enjoy the little successes and wins and don’t forget to reward yourself for them. Trust the process: don’t give up when things go wrong, but try to find lessons in your missteps.

They say happiness is found in the journey, not at the destination

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, we've condensed the information of 100's of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Wrapping up

Getting stuck is a natural part of life, but staying stuck doesn’t have to be. Whatever your reason for feeling stuck - insecure job, unfulfilling relationship or lack or purpose - you can unstick yourself and find meaning and satisfaction again. Just be prepared to modify your goals and make changes in your life and you’ll be back on the road in no time.

What do you think? When was the last time you felt stuck in your life? Do you want to share a tip that helped you deal with this situation? Please share your voice in the comments below!

Maili Tirel

School psychologist

School psychologist, teacher and internet counselor from Estonia. Passionate about coffee, reading, dancing, and singing in the shower, much to the neighbors’ dismay. Counseling catchphrase: “It’s okay!“

Stuck? Here are 8 ways to move your life forward

I'm sure everyone experiences this feeling from time to time. And some stay in it all the time. This is an unpleasant feeling of powerlessness, doom, fatigue that occurs every time you want to change something in your life, but circumstances prevent this. You hit your forehead against the wall, but you can't move an inch. You rake out of the swamp, and it sucks you back with gusto. You're stuck...

At such moments, you really want to give up, put up with it and pretend that everything is going as it should. Do not give up. There are effective ways to regain control over the situation and get the ball rolling. nine0003

Decide on the terrain

First, determine where you are and where you want to go. Do you feel stagnant and lack of perspective in your work? Do you have problems in social life or in relationships with colleagues? Maybe your family relationships have exhausted themselves and require renewal? Decide what problem makes you feel negative and think about how you can solve it. Do not grab changes in all areas at once, focus on the main thing. This will help bring much more clarity to the situation. nine0003

Find a tugboat

Sometimes there are such circumstances that it is simply impossible to get out of life's impasse on your own. Experienced motorists know that if you are really seriously stuck, then you need to stop stepping on the gas (only dig deeper) and follow the tugboat. In our situation, such a tug can be a best friend, family, teacher, therapist, or even a professional coach. Put aside excessive pride and do not hesitate to ask for help. You have to move forward, don't you? nine0003


Try to keep a journal in which you record the details of your life journey. Write down why you feel stagnant in life, what opportunities are available for you to move forward, what you have tried and what results you got, new ideas you can try, and so on. Ask yourself tough questions that no one else would dare, and answer them honestly. You may be surprised how much this can help you.


Practice at least 10 minutes of meditation a day. Very often, this is a good way to find a way out of a seemingly hopeless situation, when all attempts have been tried, and the brain is driven in circles, sorting out deliberately failed options. In the process of meditation, our consciousness relaxes, but the brain continues to work on the problem sitting in the subcortex, so as a result, you can get a sudden insight into the issue that is tormenting you.


Google is available to everyone and is completely free. Almost certainly one of the billions of people on earth has already been in your situation, solved it and shared their experience on the network. Of course, there may not be 100% identical cases, but you will surely find some similar situations. Perhaps this is what will give you new ideas and strategies for overcoming the crisis.


Brainstorming is a great way to get on the right track. Just take a piece of paper and write down all the ideas that come to your mind to solve your problem. No thinking, evaluation or discussion - a maximum of ideas, even the most crazy ones, in a unit of time. Then you can calmly weigh all the pros and cons and in a pile of frank slag you will find that diamond that you missed so much. nine0003

Change your surroundings

If you want to start running, but your friends pull you for beer every night, then you will have to overcome not only your internal resistance, but also theirs. If you want to devote your life to music, then surrounded by musicians it will be much easier to do. Try to surround yourself with people who, if they don't help you, at least won't hinder you.

Try something new

Albert Einstein said that “madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a new result.” So why don't you, if you want to break out of the quagmire of life's stagnation, try to do something new? New recipes, music, routes, hobbies, goals. This is the only way to break out of the vicious circle of routine, when it seems that everything has already been tested, passed, felt and nothing will happen in life. nine0003

Do you ever have a feeling of stagnation in your life?

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What to do if you get stuck in one place and start to degrade

The statistics are grim. A recent study showed that 69% of people feel trapped in an unbearable routine, and only 3 out of 10 people are satisfied with their lives. Most are “stuck in the textures of reality”, where there is no intellectual and emotional development, expansion of boundaries, career prospects. Complete dissatisfaction that drowns out everything. Reminds me of running on a treadmill that can't be turned off. You seem to be trying to run forward, but you stand still. How does it happen? Are you doing something wrong? Why don't you move forward? What can help you? Let's try to answer these questions right now. nine0003


Causes may vary. For example, some people work long and hard towards goals that do not match their true desires at all. We call such goals false. Things like that break people down, make them feel overwhelmed and lost. You can be successful, build a "successful life", but if this success does not go hand in hand with your will, then it will mean nothing. You just wasted your time. It is difficult to realize your potential if you do not understand who you are. nine0003

Other people feel "stuck" because they have not surrounded themselves with mentors and friends to serve as examples. They hover in uncertainty, which kills them. Either everything comes from banal laziness, which develops into complete impotence. For example, you want to become a cool musician, but you don’t do it, instead you watch TV shows in the evenings and drink beer, although you could play the guitar. The more such meaningless evenings pass, the more difficult it is for you to take up the guitar in order to bring the dream one step closer to reality. nine0003

Two questions you need to ask yourself every day

If you want to get out of the cycle of endless repetition, which is called a dull life, then you need to change every day, every day you need to take some steps forward. To get started, ask yourself two questions that will help you test the ground, find a direction.

Why am I going to do what I'm going to do today?

Get up in the morning and just ask yourself this question. It is important to delve into this “why”, because all your life you are doing something. And don't tell me you only go to work to pay bills - that's a shitty reason. Ask yourself what you are doing with your life. This will allow you to focus on what's important. nine0003

What would I like to do today?

Then ask the second question: what would I like to do today? Again, don't ask this question superficially. Yes, we all would like to drink today, relax, have sex with a beautiful woman. But it's not about that. The point is that you have to make a decision from the point of view of the future, from the point of view of development, from the point of view of your true will. Try to make this decision. In the end, you will be able to sketch out a few goals that you can already focus on. Well done, you're starting to get out of the swamp. nine0003

Choose a realistic goal

Do you remember that you have to figure out what you want to do today? Great, now think about what goals you set in your personal life and career. Write down all these goals, and then highlight the main thing, because most of the things that you described are complete nonsense. This is the pursuit of achievement, not the pursuit of real life that moves you forward. Priorities should not bring suffering, they should help.

Watch your thinking

Work on your inner voice. He should not convince you of your insignificance, on the contrary, he should give you strength for new exploits. If he whispers to you, “You can never be a successful businessman,” then rip out his tongue and adopt a new voice. Try to rephrase your thoughts. For example, in the case of a business, it should be like this: "I don't know how to start a business, but I can learn." It's much better than it was, isn't it?

Challenge yourself

Moving forward is when you deliberately go to danger in order to get some significant jackpot. Moving forward is when you are not afraid to be a hero, at least within the framework of your own life.

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