What to Do When You’re Feeling Helplessly and Hopelessly Stuck

Those periods in life when you feel helplessly and hopelessly…stuck. Something needs to change. Something needs to MOVE. You just don’t know what. 

Each morning you wake up with a renewed enthusiasm to ‘figure out’ the answer, only to find by the end of the day, 10 hours of increasingly random Google searching and round-and-round thinking later, you’re mentally exhausted and no closer to a solution. 

That utterly stuck feeling isn’t a good one. Desperate for change but unable to see the change to make, you’re torn apart.

I’ve been re-reading Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham. It’s a book and accompanying online test designed to give you your five signature strengths. The theory behind it all is that contrary to what most of life is set up to tell us, we’d be much better off understanding our natural strengths and spending our time honing and developing those than identifying and attempting to improve our weaknesses. Our personal combinations of strengths, the book tells us, is unique and comes from the connections our brains make early in life.

According to the StrengthsFinder Profile, my five biggest natural strengths are:

Empathy - I sense the emotions of those around me and feel what they feel. I hear unvoiced questions, anticipate people’s needs. 

Activator - Impatient for action, it’s impossible for me not to act once a decision’s been made. I don’t need to see the full picture and I believe action is the best way to learn. It makes it easy to see why quitting my job without a plan, moving to California to live with a man I barely knew for three months, and selling my home not knowing where I was going to live next were actually energising decisions for me.

Futuristic - Fascinated and pulled forward by the future, I’m always dreaming of a better tomorrow. An ability to paint pictures of what’s possible for others, inspiring hope for what the future could bring.

Intellection - Introspective, I like plenty of time alone to muse and reflect. Sometimes leads to discontent when I compare all my ideas, thoughts and visions with what I’m actually doing.

Learner - I love to learn and it’s the process more than the result that matters to me most. 

Diving back into this book and my five signature strengths has made it crystal clear to me why I feel so hellish right now. Because that stuck feeling I described? That's what life's been like the last few weeks.

I’m spending a great deal of time (as always) in thought. Imaging scenarios and possible futures, ideas and all sorts of things I could achieve in this life. Two of my biggest strengths are being put to work - Futuristic and intellection. And at the SAME time, my Activator strength isn’t seeing the light of day. I haven’t been taking action on…well, on pretty much ANYTHING recently. 

Full of ideas but taking action on none, it’s hardly surprising when I look at my StrengthsFinder profile that I feel massively out of alignment and that familiar feeling inside telling me something’s totally OFF.

Re-engaging with this information and getting reconnected with my signature strengths made it a whole lot clearer on what I needed to do to move forward and yesterday it all came together.

Having just sold my home and with no real ties in the UK, I’m at a point in my life in which I have a huge amount of freedom and choice. I’ve known for a long time that the UK isn’t where I want to be right now and yet every country I’ve been testing out in my mind just hasn’t felt right.

New Zealand is hugely appealing for the nature, hiking and all the other outdoor activities and yet still I just can’t quite imagine myself there right now. Bali seems like a natural choice given so many location independent entrepreneurs flock there and yet it’s almost for that very reason I don’t feel drawn to it at the moment. Australia - I have a lot of friends who’ve moved there so it could be a good choice. But again, there’s no pull in my heart for any of it right now. 

What I understood and articulated for myself more clearly yesterday is that the reason I’m not feeling pulled by any of these places is because I don’t want to travel. I mean I DO want to travel because it’s now August 2nd in the UK and my bones are COLD, but it’s not about the travel.

What I’m actually craving is growth and learning - personal, professional, spiritual.
I recognise the feeling I have inside right now as the same one I had learning languages at university - I’ve plateaued. Learning French and Spanish, there'd always be a big spurt in learning and development and then huge frustration as my development plateaued out. That’s where I’m at right now. My business went through huge change and growth earlier this year and now I’m in a period of frustration as my growth plateaus out.

What I’m actually craving isn’t a travel adventure, but a learning adventure. Something challenging for my heart and mind. 

So yesterday I had a think about what learning opportunity would really appeal to me. It didn’t take me long to come up with an answer and a few hours later I booked myself into Byron Katie’s School for The Work in California in October. I’ll spend nine days there going deeper into The Work - a simple but profound teaching to end all of one's suffering - hurrah! If you don’t know Byron Katie’s work already, I can highly recommend checking her out. 

It's no mistake the place I was drawn to was California. I’ve fallen in love with that place. It's also a mecca for all things personal development. And whilst it’s impossible for me right now to see how I might make that a more permanent part of my life, it seems to make sense to start by spending some more time there.

I’ll spend another 3 months. After finishing my nine days with Byron Katie, I’ll go on to take some more trainings in coaching to deepen and sharpen my skills. I can feel I’m ready to pull on my big(ger) girl pants. I want to serve my coaching clients even more deeply. I want to hold myself to an even higher standard. And I want to step into a role in which I’m holding other people to a higher standard too - coaching and working with people who truly want to serve the planet in a meaningful way. I'm just ready for so much MORE.

And there it was, in just a few short hours I’d completely eliminated that horrible feeling of stuckness by engaging every single one of my signature strengths. I feel lighter and with a renewed sense of purpose and direction.

A lot about me today, but the point is this:

If you’re feeling stuck, it might NOT be about taking some big immediate action for you but you might just find the answers you’re looking for in your signature strengths. They might just help you piece together the puzzle and help you find your way. Understanding WHY you feel stuck is an essential part of making decisions to get yourself unstuck. 

I’ve always touted that action is the answer to everything. Feeling bad? Just take action why don’t you? But action, actually, is MY answer. It quite possibly isn’t yours. Your job is to get to know YOU and the things that drive you. Armed with that knowledge, you can find out why you’re feeling out of alignment and understand more about what you need to do to get back on track.

Feeling stuck sucks but if you want a different result, you’re going to have to do something different. That means no more random Google searching and round-and-round thinking. It’s about investing the time into really getting to know who you are. The more you do that, the more easily you’ll be able to make decisions that move you in the right direction for you.

Love and courage,