While there are a number of different ways to parse a journey out into parts, I structure a journey like this: a journey has a destination – the flag pole planted at the top of the mountain, which gives us something to aim for and a sense of direction; a journey has a route – the path marked out and walked step by step, each stride of which is itself the journey; and a journey has drive – the sense of impetus which holds the journey together as a cohesive whole, giving us a sense of momentum.
All of these parts are significant for a journey that results in transformation. However, for these different parts (purpose, path, passion) to function together and move us into positive, permanent change, we need to know whether or not we have them. And if we do have them, we need some sense of in what degree. This assessment forms the starting point of our journey.
In this blog series we’re aiming to identify your own starting point, assessing if and to what degree you know your purpose, and your path, and if you have passion. Our overview started with Purpose and asked, “Am I Scattered?” (Part 1) and “Am I Focussed?” (Part 2) to help us to evaluate the level of meaningfulness in our lives. Then in Part 3, we turned to our Path and asked, “Am I Unsure?” and “Am I Firm?” to evaluate the level of movement in our lives. Now, in Part 5, we turn to address Passion and ask, “Am I Stuck?” to evaluate the level of momentum in our lives. Finally, Part 6 will finish out our overview and continue our evaluation of the level of momentum in our lives by asking “Am I Fearless?”
Getting stuck in life happens when we have no or little sense of passion driving us forward. This stuck life can have many different symptoms. Here, I offer three symptoms, as a starting point to assess your sense of passion. They will help you determine whether you are experiencing momentum in a fearless pursuit of your path to purpose or if you’re stuck:
For example, a stuck life is one where we regularly experience a sense of struggling to make a mountain of decisions. Every day we feel confronted by a million choices, different directions we could go in and take others in. We labour under the weight of all the decisions we are expected to make, with each one increasing the load. As a result, we start to procrastinate, avoiding decisions or sticking with the status quo. Alternatively, we act impulsively, in a game of eeny, meeny, miney, mo or ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’, in order to resolve the tension we’re under. We look back on a week, or month, and wonder why we keep agreeing to things we later regret.
At its worst, being crushed by decisions leaves us exhausted and paralyzed with decision fatigue. We wear ourselves out with tiny decisions and find ourselves lacking self-control and struggling to take in new information. Moreover, fearing a wrong choice, we fail to act at all, trapped in a loop of endlessly looking for the perfect choice. If you find yourself reacting aggressively, or slipping into anxiety and depression, you might be stuck.
To evaluate yourself against the symptom of being crushed by decisions try the “Am I Crushed by Decisions?” self-check quiz.
Another symptom of a stuck life is we are frequently pressed into immobility by the weight of details. We long to achieve a sense of flow in our work, but somehow the details of every project (or of an organization’s life) end up on our desk. Even when other people are involved in the work, we carry the lion’s share of the invisible, intangible tasks that go with managing a project or the life of a community.
In order to cope, we treat our time like we’re jugglers. We switch back and forth between tasks, trying to keep a hand on all the moving pieces of every project. While we might avert disaster, we never seem to get traction either. We never seem to free our hands long enough to make headway on the things that are important to us. As a result, we discover that we have become a bottleneck; we are the very thing stopping the very movement we long for.
At its worst, this sense of drowning in the details weighs us down with an ill-defined sense of stress. It drains us of emotional, mental, or spiritual energy. Consequently, we begin to despair of ever achieving the significant milestones that are important to us. Moreover, we can start to resent others in our community or organization. We might feel like they are letting us down or even burdening us. If you experience significant mental fatigue or worry about burnout, you might be stuck.
To evaluate yourself against the symptom of drowning in details take the “Am I Drowning in Details?” self-check quiz.
A stuck life is one where we are paralyzed by the gulf between where we are now and where we want to go. We have a clear sense of the destination. In fact, we even see some significant milestones along the way. But it feels like a super-human feat to get from here to there. We feel like the attempt to bridge the gap is a make-or-break prospect; and so, we struggle to engage, but the stress of moving to our goal is more than we can manage. And so, we begin to fixate on the uncontrollability and unpredictability of the situations we might have to negotiate or the people we might have to deal with. As a result, we look toward the future with the stomach-dropping dread of standing at the edge of a cliff.
At its worst, reaching the point where we are paralysed by the gulf between what is and what might be, leaves us in overwhelm. We become distressed and anxious due to the seeming impossibility of doing the things we (or maybe others) expect of us. We feel like a 20-foot wave is crashing down on us and the stress outweighs our ability to cope with it. If you feel guilt/shame over not moving forward or helplessness and even despair, you might be stuck.
To evaluate yourself against the symptom of being paralyzed by the gulf try the “Am I Paralyzed by the Gulf?” self-check quiz.
If the description of these symptoms sounds familiar, or you used the self-check quizzes and the results raised some red flags, you might very well be stuck. A stuck life certainly don’t sound optimal. But what does being stuck cost us? The answer is momentum.
All of us want a sense of momentum. We long for that sense of building energy as we pursue the great goals in our lives. However, a stuck life where we are depleted of our drive as decision fatigue leaves us crushed by decisions; where we are diverted from the big picture as carrying out the cognitive labour of an organization or community leaves us drowning in details; and where we are overwhelmed and left helpless by the paralyzing gulf between where we are and where we want to be; is one that leads to the death of momentum.
The alternative is to shift from being stuck to being fearless. We can do this by returning to vision, by delegating and inviting partners, and by experimenting with the manageable.
If you are stuck and want to make the move to being fearless, coaching can help. Make an appointment or check out the blog: “The Goal of Fulfillment”