12 March 2013

Getting Unstuck From “The Problem”

If you find yourself so attached to your “problem” that you resist moving into solutions, you actually have two problems.

Here’s how that plays out.

  1. Someone says, “My family didn’t really support me in finding the right career for myself.”  And while saying that, stays stuck in the “wrong career” for 20 years.
  2. Another person says, “When I was in law school, no one advised us candidly about which kinds of law practice were more conducive to having a balanced family life.  I became a litigator and there’s no balance possible.”  And stays stuck as an unhappy, unbalanced litigator, unmarried and with no children even though she still wants both. 
  3. Here’s another: “My problem is that I’m just not the kind of person who’s comfortable networking or promoting my business.  It feels too sales-y and artificial.”  And stays stuck with a lackluster business even though he’s a very talented consultant. 
  4. Or how about this one:  “I’m easily distracted.  There’s nothing I can do about it — it’s just the way I am.  So I can never get on top of my bills and papers.  I’m always having to pay late fees.”

You might be asking, so what’s the alternative?  The alternative is to actively choose not to be a passive victim of the “problem,”  and to find solutions.  Here’s how that looks:

  1. My family didn’t know how to help me choose a good career given who I am.  But there are resources out there that can help me figure that out now.  I still have a lot of working years left, so I might as well figure this out already so that my NEXT bunch of working years can be more satisfying.  I know people who have figured out how to go back to school; if that’s what I have to do, I’ll figure it out too.
  2. Being a litigator isn’t working for me.  I need to figure out how to segway into another kind of law, even though it’s not commonly done.  I sure wish I knew then what I know now, but at least I know it now and can make some changes, whatever it takes.  It’s too important to me to not do this.
  3. I’m not a natural networker or self-promoter, but I also don’t want to spend the rest of my working life just barely getting by.  So, I either need to get over myself and learn how to do it, regardless of how uncomfortable it is (after all, I learned how to roller blade and that was totally out of comfort zone for me), or I have to find a situation where someone else does the marketing and I just get to do the work.   But probably to find that I’ll have to go out there and talk to people.  So either way. . . I have to do this.  I owe it to myself.
  4. I’m easily distracted.  Over the years I’ve found some tactics that make a difference for me.  At this point I have a few things in my back pocket I can deploy when I need to.  I guess I could develop some more of those, and maybe get some help.  I really, really, really need to straighten out my paperwork even though it makes me very anxious.  The truth is it also makes me anxious not to have it straightened out.

Bottom line: you don’t have to stay stuck!

Where have you been successful in getting unstuck from a problem that held you back for a while?  Please share your experience or what you learned in a comment.


© 2013, Sharon Teitelbaum.  All rights reserved.

Categories: Personal development

  • Susan Guest

    Once I recognize I’m stuck I try one small thing to see if I can shift into movement of some kind. Baby steps! Bill Murray in a movie, What About Bob, gets advise from his therapist, to take baby steps. That becomes my mantra whenever I feel stuck, and also it provides lightness and humor in the situation when I visualize his silly face! There was someone talking about goal setting who asked, What is your 20 seconds? Whenever I have a goal, say to work out, but have not gotten to it, I ask, What’s your 20 seconds? It may be to put on my workout clothes. Any little step helps me gain momentum.

  • Very wise, Susan! Thank for your comment. I love that 20 seconds tactic. And yes, any little step helps us gain momentum. The difference between stuck and in-motion is always much greater than the difference between step 1 and step 2, etc.

  • One of the David Allen GTD coaches always says “You don’t have a problem, you have a project”. I find that really helpful. Especially because then I will hopefully go into GTD project mode: identify the successful outcome and the next action.

  • Thanks, Sally, for sharing this strategy. Not only is it a great tool, but it sounds like the catchy language of it makes you think of it when the word “problem” comes up.

    For readers who aren’t familiar with David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) approach, take a look at http://www.davidco.com/.

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