I’m veering off topic for this blog post to share a personal story, but I think it’s a subject a lot of entrepreneurs can relate to: being stuck.
At a certain stage in our life and career, we may find ourselves in the monotony of routine, dissatisfied, yearning for more, feeling there’s got to be something greater to life than this but not sure exactly what or how to go about changing things.
Last night I was talking to a colleague and he was telling me about his stuckness. He has a million ideas and the skills and talent to succeed at any of them, but he isn’t sure what to focus on… so he chooses to do nothing instead.
He knows there’s a hole, but he’s not sure how he wants to fill it.
When we’re in this tough spot, there can be a lot of shame around our inaction: “Why can’t I just get my ass in gear and move forward?”
And that’s just not helpful.
The thing is, without a clear vision for what you want, it’s incredibly hard to take action. It isn’t that you aren’t capable, or lack motivation… it’s that sometimes it takes a bit of time for that fuzzy picture to become clear.
Please be extra super kind to yourself along the way if any of this sounds like you, because this stuff ain’t easy.
All of this reminded me of a blog post I wrote several years ago, so I went into my archives to find it and I was astounded to recall where I was at back then and all that’s transformed in my life since.
The post title was called “The Year Of Becoming Unstuck,” and I remember at the time, a lot of people read, commented, and shared this post and messaged me personally to tell me that it resonated.
Below, I’m going to share an excerpt, and then on the other side, I’m going to share an update for how it all turned out for me.
Some context first. Before I wrote this, I was horribly stuck and had been for a few years. I can remember one particularly dark and frustrating day when I just stood in the middle of my office with tears in my eyes proclaiming out loud the truth that was always there below the surface, hidden by false smiles and optimism:
“I hate my life. I hate my life. I HATE MY LIFE!”
I said it (loudly, I might add) because it was true, and I was tired of pretending. I think after that moment, after being honest with myself, I was ready to calm down and set change into motion.
Here’s the excerpt from the original post:
Today I turn 42, and my birthday present to myself is starting this blog.
While in years past I’ve given myself far more extravagant gifts — a week of spa appointments, a shopping spree and even a trip to London — this year I am giving myself the gift of starting. Not just this blog, but living.
I made the decision to start blogging again months ago. I made a mindmap and a blogging strategy, I consulted with colleagues about the strategy, and I brainstormed concepts for the design. I had a big folder filled with great ideas and plans and sketches… but what I didn’t have was a blog.
It dawned on me that this was a metaphor for my life. Big dreams, goals, and plans; skills, talents and a helpful community of people around me all shoved in a folder while I spent my energy yearning for things I didn’t have and imagining who I wanted to be rather than becoming it.
Dreams are vital to personal growth. We need goals both big and small or we’ll just tread water.
The things we are and have right now are a product of what we thought and dreamed about in the past and a result of the choices we made and the actions we took.
But I have come to realize that dreaming can work against you without the right (or any) action.
Too much thinking, too much feeling the need to be more or somehow different lead to some pretty dark periods of depression, anxiety, self-loathing and eventually, isolation.
To soothe myself I would immerse myself in distractions — the internet, reality television, cheese puffs, this bottle of wine or that book or that video game …
I’ll start my diet tomorrow.
I’ll get up early and go running tomorrow.
I’ll crank on work tomorrow.
I’ll begin/change/enjoy my life tomorrow.
Anything to avoid the reality that I was stuck, and if I wanted different results, I needed to do something completely different.
So I began doing things differently. Hell, I just began doing things.
- I reconnected with friends and I even told them they needed to help me get unstuck and I made them commit to spending regular time with me;
- I signed up for meetup.com groups (best site ever invented for the person who feels isolated);
- I enrolled in some professional development courses online (“sharpening the axe” if you will);
- I began meditating regularly (turns out this is the opposite of “thinking” and that’s exactly what I needed);
- I visualized what I wanted to accomplish the following day for a few seconds every night before falling asleep, and woke up setting an intention for the day to remind myself that life is not for “someday,” it is for today.
I start this year of becoming unstuck with the premise that the sole purpose of my life is to be alive. That’s it. Pressure? Off.
Whether I work from a laptop in a café in Paris (my dream) or from my home office, whether I could lose 30 pounds or whether I’m a size 6 … I am going to show up for life either way. While I’m here, I might as well do the best I can if for no other reason than it just feels better.
Where I used to get overwhelmed by all that needed to happen in order to get where I wanted to go–not even knowing where to start (so why not just put that off until tomorrow?)–I am just showing up to my life. Not the one from my dreams, but the one I have.
And turns out I like it far more than I ever realized. There can always be dreams of more, but not at the expense of enjoying today. No more of that.
I started feeling grateful for all I have around me — a cozy home of my own; an exciting, challenging and rewarding job; incredible friends; loving and supportive family; interesting and wonderful clients and people wherever I look who help me and make me smile.
Despite how it may feel at times, I realized I am not alone in the world, so the feeling of isolation began to loosen its grip.
I realized that I am living a life that others might only dream about (including a younger version of me), so the over-thinking of things that “are not” are becoming replaced by a pretty damn lovely “what is.”
All the motivational books and blogs–the tips, tricks, and lifehacks–weren’t helping and only made me feel more shame about the progress I wasn’t making. All of those things are great, but I realized they can actually cause even more suffering when you’re stuck. More “input” — no matter how inspiring — isn’t what I needed. I needed less thinking, more inner peace.
I replaced that feeling of shame and “why isn’t this working for me?” with this simple question:
Why do I need to be something else before I can begin enjoying who I am?
I don’t. I can change that today, at this moment.
Showing up for life is a different strategy than I’ve had for a very long time, and the results so far have been liberating.
Funny thing is? By letting go of my dreams a little, and becoming more awake to life at this moment, I have begun the process of becoming unstuck and I’m moving toward those dreams.
They are now something I feel entirely confident I will achieve and I don’t put off the things I need to do to achieve them until tomorrow, I do what I can today. And if they don’t come true that’s okay too, because I’m still alive and that’s all I need to be.
Who knows where I will be a year from now, maybe updating this blog from my MacBook in a café in Paris, or maybe still right here in this chair — doesn’t really matter. Life will throw me curve balls and it will twist and turn and there will be suffering and unexpected joy along the way, but that’s part of life too and I’m going to show up for it either way. That way, I won’t ever become stuck again.
I only have to be alive, the rest is just a dance.
What my stuck self longed for was a life filled with adventure, fulfillment, and love… but what it was was boring, lonely, and stressful. So I mentally escaped as much as I could and that was causing me to disappear from my life, and prevented me from seeing the opportunities that were there all along.
I chatted with my dear friend, trying to say the perfect thing to help him, but I realized after re-reading this that I had forgotten what actually got me unstuck and moving toward re-inventing my life.
It wasn’t magical motivational words of advice or self-help books that helped me get unstuck, it was first owning and declaring my stuckness and then the decision to settle into the reality of my life in the present moment. Then, I just did my best to show up a bit more and make the best of it. I made small teeny tiny baby changes at first, and then made bigger and bigger and BIGGER ones.
After I wrote that blog post, a lot has changed in my life.
One of the things I mentioned in the post was “working from my laptop from a café in Paris” and do you know what’s crazy? Not long after, I had the opportunity to do that. For three years.
I sold my home and just about everything else, packed three suitcases and moved to Europe, married an incredible man, filled our house with hilarious and adorable pets, repositioned my business and stopped trying to be a size 6 and just became more comfortable in my own skin.
None of that happened the day after I wrote that blog post. It started with, “I’m going to clean the house and buy myself some fresh flowers, then I’m going to call a friend and invite them over for dinner” rather than curling up on my couch to play a video game.
Along the way, I’ve had amazing adventures, but I’ve continued the practice of savoring the moment and the simplest pleasures in everyday life: a home cooked meal, a walk in the forest with my dog, a conversation with a friend, a smile from my husband, stopping at the window for a few moments to enjoy the sunrise.
I didn’t know how many years it would take to go from “I hate my life” to “I love my life,” but looking back I can see that the universe conspired to give me everything I longed for… but only after I started showing up and stopped spending every last drop of energy wishing my life were different.
The universe is weird you guys.
Since that time, I haven’t suffered from periods of depression. It’s been years since my last anxiety attack. I fall asleep at night with the help of chamomile tea and nothing more. I no longer feel “there’s got to be more to life than this” — even though I have big, huge dreams, I am grounded in today. Counting all my blessings. Present and grateful.
I’m about to celebrate another birthday and I look forward to the transformations the universe has in store for me. If you’re listening Universe? About that million dollars… 😉
This is 48.
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Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.