How to Get Unstuck

person and bike stuck in snow

I believe that one of the biggest obstacles to a person living her values is the ease at which we get stuck on any given day. And it’s rarely the big events that hold us back but the smaller, relentless thoughts, attitudes, and fears that show up all the time.

When I encounter a big problem, such as a job change or a death in the family, I’m on high alert for whatever opposes God’s goodness in my life. I’m probably praying more than at other times. I’m also more likely to take better care of myself, because I recognize that I’m going through a hard time.

But on an “ordinary” day, perhaps I’m not so alert. Or I’m looking only for big problems. So, what stops me in my tracks? Less obvious stuff:

  • the suspicion that a certain person doesn’t like me
  • my ongoing judgment against myself for being overweight or forgetful or not quite well-dressed enough or any other area in which I have assessed myself as not enough
  • the guilt that won’t go away, because I still haven’t returned that phone call
  • the uncomfortable emotion I have not bothered to name or address because it’s, well, uncomfortable
  • the event or responsibility I’ve added to my calendar without discerning how important it is and if I should have accepted it
  • my sense that God is disappointed in me and that the only solution is to spend about five hours in prayer

Getting unstuck is not a matter of making a huge change or declaring yet one more big promise to God or to myself. Getting unstuck is a matter of one small step forward. And usually the first step is an honest check-in with yourself. When you realize, midday, that you’re spinning your wheels, feeling stuck, try this process or some version of it:

  1. Get quiet with yourself for a few moments. Ask, What emotion am I feeling? Name that emotion.
  2. Now ask, Why am I feeling this? What is this emotion attached to? Pray for the discernment to identify the conversation (a rather sharp exchange with a colleague ten minutes ago) or the belief (I’m not [blank] enough.) or the worry (Is that check going to bounce?).
  3. Choose one action you can take to counteract what’s going on. Replay that unpleasant workplace conversation from more distance. Perhaps you feel deflated because that person really was unkind or unfair, in which case you can ask God to help you process these well-founded feelings or even go back to the person and try to clarify what’s really going on. If you feel that you are not enough, then get pragmatic about it. Has anyone else pointed out that you’re lacking—or is there any evidence whatsoever that you fall short? If not, it’s time to tell yourself the truth. (I’m spinning falsehoods again, which only works against me. Lord, forgive me for going down that road again. Help me see myself as you see me.) If the bank account is a worry, schedule one step of action, and ask for reinforcements if necessary.

Moving forward so often involves paying attention to what is rather than to what we imagine or fear. When you feel yourself grinding to a halt, allow that stop to trigger some on-the-spot awareness.

St. Ignatius advised people to “act against” whatever thwarted their spiritual progress. It isn’t enough to claim oneself a victim to falsehood, hardship, or roadblocks. The Holy Spirit is on our side, and we have the power to make good choices and take specific action. So, when false and hurtful self-talk is sabotaging your steps, use true words and images to combat it. When you feel overwhelmed by a task, break it into smaller tasks, and start with one of them. When your deep-seated feelings are dragging you to a stop, face them with courage. God designed us to experience a range of emotions, because life requires them. They are not moral choices but important clues. Grab hold of a clue, and look for the rest of the story. It’s your story, after all. You can own it and work with it—and God provides the grace to do just that.

About Vinita Hampton Wright 171 Articles
Vinita Hampton Wright has served as senior editor at Loyola Press for 16 years and recently became managing editor of the trade books department. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places with HarperOne, Days of Deepening Friendship and The Art of Spiritual Writing for Loyola Press, and most recently, The St. Teresa of Avila Prayer Book for Paraclete Press. Vinita is a student and practitioner of Ignatian spirituality, and from 2009 to 2015 she blogged at Days of Deepening Friendship. For the past few years, she has co-led small groups through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. She lives in Chicago with her husband, three cats, and a dog. In her “spare” time these days, she is working on her next novel.

14 Comments on How to Get Unstuck

  1. Thanks, Vinita, a great article. I read it before noticing the byline, and when I saw it was you, I thought , of course. So wise and so honest. I shared with my kids and sisters. Thank you!

  2. Again Vinita, you come right to the point of an important part of daily faith and offer real time help and practical suggestions. The balance you find in your writing is just what my soul needs. I always feel that you have come to visit me and we have shared our hearts together.
    Blessings on you as you reach across the miles to touch so many.

  3. Thank you Vinita. I love your articles. They inspire me and I love sharing them with my adult children. We are in a place of being “stuck”.

    • Maria, we are all in a stuck place from time to time, and some of those stuck times last a while. But God is good and makes a way for us. Peace to you, and thanks for posting,
      Vinita

  4. Another great article – I love this blog!! I love learning the “how to” to our spiritual walk. It very practical to real life learning and living. Thank you Vinita!

  5. Another fabulous article from Vinita — you’re the best! I’ve lost count of how many of your articles I’ve printed out and shared with others. You’ve even found a photo I’m not likely to forget soon — I live in a snow state.
    God’s Choicest Blessings to you.

  6. Thank you so much Vinita. Your comments resonate with me and I thank you for sharing and helping to put things in proper context and perspective. Another wonderful article.

  7. Thank you for the push and encouragement I so needed today.
    I love all you write and will be happier person today.
    With the Holy Spirit’s help I will look for the clues and and be open to all direction.

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