What gets us stuck? Feeling like we’re running out of fuel. Uncertain about our future while resenting where we find ourselves today. Rejecting our present. Without a clear sense of purpose or direction.
Everybody’s truth about that is different. We all have our own stories, circumstances, and beliefs. Unique to us and different from anyone else. But the one truth that we share is that we all end up feeling this way. Stuck. Unhappy. Pissed off and lost.
For some of us, stuck happens from time to time. Temporary. A period that we can work ourselves through. A bump in the road. That kind of stuck is natural, and maybe even healthy. It’s muscle-building and confidence-building.
For others, it can become forever. A valley we enroll ourselves into and then can’t graduate from. A feeling that we can’t shake. Unhealthy and permanent. A system we don’t know how to change. An obligated existence.
In the worst of times, we get comfortable in that place. We fool ourselves into believing it’s not our fault we’re here. It’s because (insert reason). We want to blame someone else. Make us being here someone else’s problem and responsibility.
Focusing on fault is always a bad place to start when you feel stuck. It’s an ineffective bandage. Put on a healthy part of your skin while the open sore, the real problem, remains exposed.
I get stuck like everyone else. Sometimes for just a while and sometimes for years. I’ve also studied stuck. Trying to figure out why it happens to me and what I need to do to move past it. Through it. To get to the other side or back to the surface. I spent more than a year figuring out how to describe my experience with getting stuck and breaking through it. I even wrote a book about it called, OWNER SHIFT.
My book’s subtitle is ‘How Getting Selfish Got Me Unstuck.’ I used the word selfish intentionally. Because it’s the correct word. Because it’s what worked for me. Because it may just work for you. And because the word’s connotation, the way it makes most of us feel (and the way most of us have been taught to feel about it), gets in the way of us embracing it as a key to moving from stuck and toward a better feeling. A liberating feeling. A progress and freedom feeling.
It wasn’t always that way for me, of course. I was (and am) naturally designed and inclined to be a helper. A worker bee, not the Queen. Selfless. A person who put me at the back of the line. Servant. The last one to eat. I agreed to things I didn’t want to do but thought that I had to. Because no one else would do it, or because I wanted to prove that I could – or because someone asked, and I didn’t want to say no.
While I was doing those things that I didn’t want to be doing, I often felt angry and frustrated. It simmered. I asked, under my breath in company, or out loud when no one was around, why I had agreed to this thing that I didn’t want to do. Crickets answered.
Truth is, I failed to connect the dots. Hell, I didn’t even see them. The dot that started with a request I’d rather not accept, to the one where I agreed, to the one that transitioned my agreement to a commitment, to the one that transformed my commitment to an obligation and, finally, to the one where I finished what I’d agreed to – accompanied by a worn down, unhappy, and frustrated feeling. Then….inevitably and in the absence of any good or healthy reason, I’d raise my hand to do it again – and again – and again. Perfecting the recipe for getting and staying stuck.
If you think that selfish is a horrible word, try obligation on for size. An obligation is something that you MUST do. An obligation doesn’t care about what you want. No matter what, you feel like you are responsible for getting the obligated thing done. No matter how much you regret taking it on, no matter how bad getting it done makes you feel, and no matter how much energy and confidence you’ve lost by the time it’s done.
For far too long, I didn’t get obligation. That it was the cause or what it meant to me. I didn’t even think about being obligated. It was speaking a foreign language and I was just smiling and nodding yes because I didn’t understand.
Thankfully, I do now. I see that selfish and obligate are diametrically opposed words. Oil and water words. They reject one another and can’t be in the same room together. On the other hand, obligate and selfless are like identical twins. Soluble. They complement one another.
Being selfish forces me to run every choice and every commitment through an energy and progress matrix first. I ask myself, “is this person, or this thing, something that agreeing to will commit me to something desirable and meaningful? Or, is it something that is, or could become, an obligation?”
Some might say that I am lucky that I have the choice. That it isn’t that black and white. That we all don’t have the luxury of eliminating obligations. That they are just part of the world we live in.
To that I say, maybe you’re right. And, if so, I’m thankful to be so fortunate. To pursue options, rather than invite obligations. To let as few things as possible get in the way of what I want to commit to. The things that move my needle. Because when my needle moves, and when I’m not feeling obligated and stuck, I perform and deliver at my best. For me, and for everyone around me.
I’d also say that you probably have more choices than you think when it comes to avoiding obligations. Choices have a deliberateness to them. They are measured and considered. Choices have a future attached to them. A desire and a goal. If you’re not thinking about what you want from your life and the choices you need to be making to get what you want, to move your needle and the needle of the people in your circle, you’ll likely attract – and welcome – more obligations to it.
Protect the door to you.
An open door is an invitation to stuck. When your door is open, anyone can walk in and once they’re in your house, you’re obligated – and stuck is waiting in the hall closet. An open door is an invitation to stuck.
Choose who and what you let into your house. Close and lock your door. Open it only for options. Be selfish about who and what you let in.
You can also listen to my podcast on the Top 5 Things I learned while writing my book.
Or you can read recent reviews and order my new book, Owner Shift, on Amazon.