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5 TIPS FOR GETTING UNSTUCK AS A COACH, COUNSELOR OR THERAPIST

Updated: Feb 5


How to get unstuck

Photo from https://www.trackinghappiness.com/how-to-get-unstuck-in-life/


When you’re uber-dedicated to building a coaching practice, tending to counseling clients, or offering therapy to struggling patients, it’s all too easy to ignore your own mental health, physical wellness, and spiritual wellbeing.


Due to drive, purpose, and the heart of a healer you might find that you expend much of your focus on helping those who enter your office identify and release their own limiting beliefs, fears, and self-imposed boundaries but all too often ignore tending to your own.


When was the last time you took an hour (or two, or ten!) to look deeply into yourself and identify what’s holding you back from life, relationships, business, and other outcomes important to you?


THE #1 MOST COMMON PROBLEM IN THE HELPING PROFESSION


All too often those in the helping profession give so much of their energy to their clients that they find themselves depleted, burnt out, unhappy and unsatisfied.


Know that feeling of running to keep up?


Aware that you’re continually not meeting your business goals?


Recognize that you’re more drained after working with clients than before?


Realize that the days blend together without distinction as you work both on and in your practice without real, solid breaks, downtime and vacations?


These are all common experiences of coaches, counselors and therapists - but they don’t have to be a part of your experience in the people-helping-people field.


What would be different if today you began to pull back, step away and review who you are and how you can express that essence in ways that allow you to build a practice and a life that lift your soul higher?


YOU KNOW YOU’RE FEELING STUCK WHEN…


Maybe you know very consciously that you’re hitting some internal limit - but you’re pushing against it because you think you ‘should’.


Perhaps you hear that soft whisper inside to slow down, change course, or deliver your genius difference - but you don’t know what else to do.


Or, maybe you’re driven unconsciously by old programming that still has a grip on you – and you haven’t yet figured out how to change the program (or, in some cases) even know what it is.


These examples start to define what being stuck feels like. In my practice I’ve heard ‘stuck’ expressed by many names:


I’ve hit rock bottom.


I’m just moving in circles.


I’m stagnant.


My life is a complete mess.


Whatever we call it, we all know the feeling: We are stuck, and we don’t know what to do to change our circumstances and free ourselves.


IS FEELING STUCK GOOD OR BAD?


Often, feeling stuck can make you look around and wonder why other people seem to achieve what you want in ways that look easy, flowing and simple.


Ever find yourself feeling jealous when you scroll through Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn and see coaches, counselors and therapists showing off fully booked calendars, gorgeous vacations and quick ways for you to build a multi-figure practice?


Or, maybe you see all of that and feel a wave of anger that others have already reached where you want to be. (Don’t sweat it – admit it, that kind of reaction is totally normal!)


Stuck naturally raises issues of jealousy and anger because the limits of stuck impose restrictions that feel bad.


So, is feeling stuck a bad thing?


Heck, NO!


Stuck is like a flashing neon sign in your brain, body and nervous system that signals you to pay attention to the voice of your soul as it strongly attempts to tell you something important.


While having the feeling of being stuck can feel, sound and appear to be all negative, it can actually bring about extremely good changes when you recognize, recalibrate, and reward that feeling with your time, focus and action.


5 ACTIONABLE WAYS TO GET UNSTUCK TODAY


Being stuck can actually be an eye opener and provide motivation to (professionally, personally or both) improve your circumstances, change your situation and actually create the life and business that allows your heart to sing.


How can you start getting unstuck today and start experiencing more satisfaction in your practice?


Let’s deep dive into some actionable steps.


First, identify the problem. As the scientific method suggests, identifying the problem is the starting point to finding a solution.


Find out where the problem lies by checking in with yourself. From there, you’ll be able to find out one-by-one how to get unstuck.


NOTE: As pointed out by Brenda Bomgardner, the problem lies in being unsure of where to start and how to effectively get there. Our feeling of getting stuck still may arise even with a solid idea of who we want to be and what we want to achieve. But, whatever it is, the acknowledgement of the root cause can go a long way.


Today, run yourself through this quick 20-question checklist:


  • How well defined are your work hours?

  • How well defined are your client boundaries outside of sessions?

  • How often do you negatively react to clients’ comments during sessions?

  • How exhausted are you by practice-building activities?

  • How energized are you by the clients you see?

  • How much of yourself do you feel gets positively expressed in your work?

  • How happy are you with your relationships outside of work?

  • How much downtime do you schedule weekly to reset your own energy?

  • How much connection do you have with colleagues and peers?

  • How much support do you experience (professionally and personally) in reaching your therapeutic intentions?

  • How clear is your practice-building focus?

  • How much does your actual practice align with your intention when you launched it?

  • How energized do you feel when you enter the office?

  • How excited are you to speak with potential clients?

  • How happy are you when a client cancels?

  • How satisfying of a role does your personal purpose play in your practice?

  • How closely does your vision for your practice match the reality of it?

  • How often do you feel you’re operating in your zone of genius with patients?

  • How often do you find yourself saying, “I can’t keep up this pace.”?

  • How clearly have you defined the next five years in both your business and your life – and realize that they actually don’t mesh well?


These are just some ideas to get you started identifying where the stuck originates or expands.


Add your own inquiries to personalize this to your experience. (You’re trained to ask great questions! Turn that skill on yourself today.)



Second, let go of your past. We’re going to approach this in two ways: mentally and physically.


Intellectually, you already know that the past has passed. In fact, you’re trained to help others understand that what happened yesterday, a week ago, or years ago lies outside the scope of control today.


While it’s true that whatever happened cannot be undone, who your past has caused you to become most definitely can be changed.


What’s hanging out in your past that’s causing the drive, passion, purpose - or lack thereof - that’s got you stuck today?


[Yep, that’s right: Sometimes it’s the drive, passion or purpose that is the problem.]


Patricia Harteneck, Ph.D, suggests that an important element in how to get unstuck is to forgive yourself and other people.


Full disclosure: I’m not always a fan of forgiving others. It needs to be the right time, in the right way, and forgiveness definitely isn’t for everyone. However, when it comes to forgiving yourself I am a HUGE fan.


Actually, appreciating your best intentions and letting yourself off the hook just might be the best way to start getting some movement into an internal area of stuckness.



Now, physically, what are you holding on to from the past? This can be objects in your environment or even in your body (i.e. fat cells).


According to professional organizer, Julianna Poplin, often it’s an unwillingness to let go that makes us stuck. (Poplin, 2021).


Yes, you may have been holding onto it for a long time and for a good reason. And, you may think that letting go may not be that easy. But to be able to get yourself unstuck you might consider letting go of the comfortable and familiar.


Case in point:


Back around 2013 I interviewed Dr. Robin Zasio, Psy.D. L.C.S.W., (you might recognize her from the television show, Hoarders). In our conversation she said something that stuck with me ever since. She said,


Your external environment reflects your internal environment, and vice versa.


At the time, I took a quick inventory and realized that I had a real example of that myself:


During my PTSD years I liked clutter. The energy of it made me feel safe, contained and held. (Who can really explain the weird workings of the mind!)


My workspace was strewn with papers, piles and notepads. My home was clean but messy.


Even my outdoor landscaping I had purposely allowed to grow into such a jungle of foliage that the front gate was inoperable.


In retrospect, I liked holding on to things and surrounding myself with mights and what ifs. As in, ‘I might need that,’ or ‘What if that’s useful.’


My trauma survivor mindset spilled out into every area of life.


Until I cleaned up my past.


At the end of my PTSD recovery the first thing I did was call the landscapers to come cut down the jungle!


Literally, I had become unstuck in my mind and wanted that front gate to my house unstuck as well.



A client did this step recently to get rid of feeling stuck in the past: She went into her closet and filled three trash bags with clothes that reminded her of who you used to be.


She reported, “I looked in the closet and said to these clothes, ‘You’re in the way!’ And that made it easy to remove them.”


Indeed, when you physically remove what’s in the way of your getting unstuck new space immediately opens up for you to move forward.


Third, know your purpose. Living without a purpose is one of the major reasons people feel stuck. It’s like sitting in a car without an engine. Literally, impossible to move.


Without a congruent and aligned “why” behind what you do there’s no va-va-voom! No spark, no combustion, no inspiration, motivation or aspiration either.


Lacking all of that it’s easy to get lost. As a new client recently explained,


‘To sum it up, I’m stuck, lost and frozen.’


Oddly enough, defining your ‘why’ can be incredibly difficult. Often, we know what, how, and when but we don’t necessarily (consciously) know why.


Or, we don’t connect the why to the how, what and when. (Usually, that’s because the who element is missing.)


Recently I heard Dr. Dawa Tarchin Phillips interviewed by Dr. Fleet Maull about purpose and vision.


I’m paraphrasing here but Phillips delineated them this way:


Purpose is why you get out of bed in the morning.

Vision is the plan you create to achieve your purpose.


Since I was thirteen my purpose has been to help people heal faster than I did.


My vision has been to do that through writing, speaking, and 1:1 connection.


Why are you doing what you’re doing?


More importantly, does the answer and its subsequent actions light you up with the excitement of implementation?


Answer that affirmatively and you’ll find yourself feeling that you’ve got a Maserati engine humming inside.


Or, as Evelyn Marinoff puts it, it will be easier to look back and convince yourself to keep moving even when circumstances are difficult.


While knowing your full purpose helps the road endlessly unfurl before you, the truth is, you don’t have to know it all at once.


Just knowing (or thinking you know a little bit) is enough to slowly get you unstuck because it gives you a sense of direction that inspires action.



Simon Sinek is very clear on his purpose. Look at this simple statement:


To inspire people to do the things that inspire them so that, together, we can change our world.”


Sinek explains that people don’t care what you do or how you do it – they care about why you do it.


That goes for you too – about yourself. Your why plays a big role in your purpose.


You may be stuck in a rut of doing the how and what. Over time, your approach to work, health, and relationships may have morphed away from your why without you even realizing it.


Jumpstart your how-to-get-unstuck process with a little inspiration from Sinek as he explains how he developed The Golden Circle, and how you can apply it to your life today.



Fourth, create small changes. When you float up above yourself and look down it’s easier to understand that getting stuck lets you know it’s time for growth.


Or, that growth is happening and something in you is resisting it.


As a child you accepted growth without thinking about it. You outgrew clothes, shoes, and grades with total acceptance.


You never looked at your baby shoes that had become too small and thought, “Oh, but I really love those! I want to keep wearing them.”


Instead, at every age of outgrowing shoes you excitedly stepped into the new pair.


So, why do we resist growth as adults?


The one-word answer is fear.


In fact, your brain is biologically designed to resist change. It likes what is familiar – that’s how it keeps you safe.


The more familiar the landscape the more your brain can anticipate and manage potential threats.


In fact, the more familiar any moment is, the more quickly and efficiently your brain activates your knowledge, understanding and response within it.


Which means that change - and the unfamiliar - post a threat to the brain’s ability to protect you. Hence, fear kicks in and creates both conscious and unconscious resistance.


Change in the adult world is certainly more scary than pulling on a new pair of Keds. However, when you manage the fear of change, how to get unstuck becomes exponentially easier.


Even when you are excited to create change, a twinge of fear can function as both a motivator and a reminder to be present and prepare to manage the unexpected.


Managing fear (of any size, small or large) offers the first small but important action step to getting yourself unstuck.



Maybe you feel stuck in your relationships, or maybe in your career. Whatever it is, be brave enough to name it.


With the fear named (first small change from chaos to clarity)...


… it’s possible to begin deconstructing the cause of it (second small change from unconscious to conscious)...


…and finally, identifying how to ameliorate it (third small change from powerless to powerful).


Clarity makes it possible to begin chunking down the solution. Consciousness access creativity. Powerfulness energizes long-term action.


In combination, these three small changes lead to small actions that can resolve fear with calm and clarity.


See how many small actions steps you can outline for your process in this approach.


Fifth, believe in yourself. All too often we sabotage our own progress. We limit ourselves and believe that it is impossible for us to accomplish things, change our circumstances, or alter a situation.


Success begins with optimism. My dad is wildly successful as a money manager. I don’t know how he does it. The ups and downs of the market emotionally drive many people to the brink of insanity.


When I asked my father how he could stand the pressure and tumult every day in an environment where he essentially lacks control ( and in a way that allowed him to reach the pinnacle of success at more than one corporate institution before launching his own), he said,


I’m essentially always optimistic. I so deeply believe in the success of every idea that I invest in that despite market reversals and other events that impact investment outcomes, I always remain optimistic.


Could you be that optimistic with millions of dollars at stake?


Luckily, you only need to be optimistic about your own self and life outcomes - over which you do have a lot of control.


To begin (re)building your sense of optimism, I love this quote by Maya Soetoro-Ng. A faculty specialist at the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Soetoro-Ng defines optimism in this powerful sense:


“You really need to love something or someone in order to work hard enough to be very successful. You have to believe in something and have a certain optimism. Faith and optimism come from love.”


So, the question becomes: What do you love so much that you have an endless amount of faith and optimism?


The answer to this might be yourself.


Or, it might be something else to which you commit to and by transference the love and belief comes back to you.


Believing that you are capable of creating some or all aspects of what you want naturally leads to the necessary creativity and action that helps you get unstuck.


As we saw earlier, sometimes, the simple shift for how to get unstuck comes back to language.


Last week, when sharing with me how stuck she felt in her trauma recovery process, a client said to me,


These memories are killing me. The very existence of them saps all of my energy so that I have nothing left to bring to working on letting them go - or anything else in my life.


At that moment I quickly paused her to listen back to her language. Together we then revised the statement so that it both acknowledged the toll of the memory while also still allowing her to retain her own power.


You can do this, too. For example, fostering belief through optimism might start in this simple shift:


…. from I can’t do it, or I don’t know….


…switch to, I’m not sure how to do it yet, but I’ll work on it, or I’ll figure it out and get it done soon.


Such words of affirmation activate the brain's reticular activating system which then scans the environment for solutions for getting you what you want. This quick act of building up confidence provides critical currency for how to get unstuck moment by moment.


Additionally, you can start upleveling your language through expanded awareness.


Listen to how you speak to yourself and others in everyday interactions. What kind of words do you use? How do you construct your sentences? Does your language reflect confidence, decision-making, control? Or, does it sound like waffling, wavering and unsure?


A quick way to start training yourself to get unstuck through language in any situation is to:


Listen - notice your language, tone and vocabulary

Hear - the message it sends to you and your audience (verbally and non-verbally)

Edit - revise what you say and how you say it to reflect who you truly want to be (even if that’s different than how you feel in the moment)


This process can quickly help you get unstuck by getting you into the habit of introducing an improved thought to yourself and others.


Introvert entrepreneur coach, Mia Brox, gave a great example for this one. She illustrates:


Once your mind is on board with “I have a 9-5 and I have results,” consider changing it to something like…

“I have a 9-5 and I have results, but I am capable of more, and I’m going to make things happen for me” (Brox, 2020).


When you change your thoughts to more action-oriented language you direct your brain toward more action-oriented problem-solving. And THAT is when you start to really amp up your ability to get unstuck and build a career you love while feeling energized, excited, and happy with how you express who you are in the world every day.



Consider how you describe what stuck means, how it holds you back, who you are because of it, where you bump into it the most, and even when it infringes on your ability to act.


HINT: For a fully comprehensive assessment remember: Others often know more than you do about your language, so ask friends, family, and colleagues what they’ve heard you say.


After compiling a series of sentences that offer the full picture of your experience, deconstruct the language and see where you can rephrase, reframe, and reconfigure your perspective by changing the language to reflect your optimistic belief in yourself.


HOW TO START GETTING UNSTUCK TODAY


Change, whether small or big, can stimulate different parts of the brain, bringing about creativity and clarity of mind. In fact, the more creativity you bring to your change process the more smoothly and courageously you’ll move through it.


To increase your creativity, clarity (and calm), take some time to stretch and exercise your mind by feeding your brain different experiences.


Learn new things - often.


For example, set aside time to experiment with new recipes, travel to new places, read (or listen) new books, or learn a new (fun) skill.


I make sure to do this all the time. A brain experiencing novelty increases neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections), which makes it more and more adept at change - and less fearful of it, too.


But you don’t have to think about this as an ‘assignment’; think of it as a time to play.


I’ve been a Latin dancer since the mid-2000s. Salsa, bachata, Argentine Tango – you name, I dance it.


And while I still love those dances (after all, I fell in love with my dance instructor!) I'm currently learning how to dance hip hop style – just because it’s fun to learn something new doing something that I love. Eventually, when my brain gets up to speed with all the newness I’ll be able to do a fun dance like this:



Why take the time in our oh-so-busy-world to do something fun and new that makes you feel slightly uncomfortable and incompetent? And, how can it help to get you unstuck?


Because happiness can be a quick bridge to feeling good about who you are, which floods you with vision, purpose, creativity and confidence.


And because science says so.


According to research,


“Activities that lead us to feel uncertainty, discomfort, and even a dash of guilt are associated with some of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences of people’s lives. Happy people, it seems, engage in a wide range of counterintuitive habits that seem, well, downright unhappy.” (Kashdan & Biswas-Diener, as cited in Marinoff, 2022)


The brain can’t simultaneously hold two opposing emotions; the dominant one always wins.


Fact: You were born to feel good. Your brain wants to be happy. Your mind wants to experience peace. If you feed these assets then your brain will start seeking ways to achieve these things for you.


In the end, feeling stuck is simply a signal that you have reached the end of one phase and it’s time to shift into another.


A normal response to feeling stuck is to strain against it. We feel confined, afraid, uncertain, and often without options.


But what if the best way to get unstuck is to stop focussing on being stuck and start focussing on having fun?


Larry James said something simple that just might be the best advice for getting unstuck:


If you’re not having fun, do something different.


Take stock of whatever has brought you to this feeling of being stuck - and then plan how and when and what to do differently to break you out of that state.


You can do this in two quick ways:


First, examine accomplishments and milestones in your past - experiences that made you feel proud. When you feel stuck or unworthy, take a look back at those examples - regardless of how large or small - as proof that you can do things and achieve your heart's desire. Seeds for doing things differently can be found in what worked in the past.


Second, challenge yourself to take risks in ways that allow you to do things differently. This might be engaging in an activity that forces you to risk believing in yourself., or your capabilities, or your vision. In whatever area the risk lies, taking the risk of daring to boldly be who you truly want to be (in all or any areas of your life) can quickly bust you through to getting unstuck today.


When all is said and done, you just must have that come-to-truth moment with yourself and ask,


How much longer do I have to feel this way before I give myself permission to break free?


That’s right: Ironically, the thing causing you to feel stuck is simply your acceptance of what is.


Businessman, N. R. Narayana Murthy, says,


Growth is painful. Change is painful. But, nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong.


When that pain becomes great enough to spur you to action despite the fear, then you’ll start to discover that the options and opportunities for getting unstuck today (and tomorrow and the day after that) await in huge quantities.


Now is your moment to decide:


What’s the first thing you’re going to do to start getting unstuck in ways that, er, stick?



 

References


Bomgardner, B. (n.d.). Getting Unstuck: Are You Ready To Live A Life Of Meaning, Purpose And Joy? Retrieved from https://brendabomgardner.com/getting-unstuck-coaching/


Brox, M. (2020). How To Get Unstuck In Life: Actionable Tips. Retrieved from https://shedreamsallday.com/how-to-get-unstuck-in-life/


Harteneck, P. (2016). 7 Ways to Get Yourself Unstuck. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/women-s-mental-health-matters/201612/7-ways-get-yourself-unstuck


Tirel, M. (2021). How To Get Unstuck In Life (4 Best Tips). Retrieved from https://www.trackinghappiness.com/how-to-get-unstuck-in-life/


Marinoff, E. (2022). How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life. Retrieved from https://www.lifehack.orghttps://www.lifehack.org/813291/how-to-get-unstuck-in-life/813291/how-to-get-unstuck-in-life


Poplin, J. (2021). How to Get Unstuck in Your Life. Retrieved from https://www.thesimplicityhabit.com/how-to-get-unstuck-in-your-life/