Everyone gets stuck at some point.
Whether it’s deciding on the kind of car you want to buy, taking the next step in your relationship, or even getting started on that dreaded project, we’ve all experienced that inexplicable stuck-ness at some point.
You know you’ve experienced feeling stuck – But, why?
Have you ever wondered what is actually going on inside your head that is failing or causing the breakdowns?
Well, maybe it’s the narrative. Maybe all you need to do is think positively and you’ll manifest your answer, and solve all your problems…
Maybe. But I suggest it goes deeper.
Perhaps instead of defining ‘stuck’ as failing, what if feeling stuck is actually the result of your brain doing its best work on your behalf?
Maybe it’s time to consider a new perspective.
What if the truth behind feeling stuck lies in the very survival of our species?
What if being stuck is actually the result of an ancient survival mechanism built into our brain wiring?
It’s true. It all boils down to chemistry. And stress makes everything worse.
Let’s unpack that.
Feeling Stuck Is A Matter Of Survival
In order for you to do anything, your brain needs to ‘allow’ you. And, the brain’s main job is survival.
So, if you’re struggling with feeling stuck, perhaps it’s a matter of survival. Your brain is most likely keeping you safe because it’s missing some key data. Let’s take a closer look at understanding how your brain works, first.
The Homosapien’s brain has developed over approximately 300,000 years always solving for survival. We’ve made it this far, so what would make your brain change its self-preserving behavior? NOTHING. It will always solve for safety and survival on your behalf.
Recent discoveries in the field of neuroscience have offered a deeper understanding of brain chemistry and knowing how our brains work. And, it turns out that when you are stuck, your brain is really doing its job. Your brain delays decisions and actions because it feels unsafe. In essence, your brain needs some sense of certainty before it will do something that could be life-threatening, dangerous, or challenging. It all boils down to evolution.
In other words, stuck is an emotion you’ve attached to uncertainty.
What if a simple algorithm could work every time to help you get unstuck?
Well, there is one.
Since we’re hard-wired for survival, and feeling stuck is one symptom of uncertainty, we need some sense of certainty to move forward.
According to Andrew Huberman @hubermanlabs, your brain is always solving for three things before it allows you to endeavor to take action. When you’re feeling stuck, your brain is most likely unsure at three levels: duration, path, and outcome.
In order to take action, your brain is constantly sizing things up. It’s an efficient organ. Your brain is the most expensive organ to run and it wants to conserve its fuel. Being your brain is a tough job. There are a ton of things it needs to do to keep you alive: pump your heart, digest your food, oxygenate your blood… It’s busy, and working on your behalf all the time.
So, as a result, your brain is constantly looking for time off. In order to work efficiently and spend its energy wisely, it’s constantly sending out signals to know how long it needs to pay attention.
So, if you are unsure of how long something will take, or how long something will last, you will delay a decision or course of action due to uncertainty. After all, how can you start something if you don’t know how long it will take? As a result, when your brain can’t solve for the duration, it will stay stuck until you give it an estimate. When it has a duration in mind, it knows it can have some time off to rest and refuel. Therefore, if you’re feeling stuck try solving for how long you’ll pay attention to something first, and see if that helps. Then, when you reach that time, take a break. This will help your brain stay focused enough on something small.
The second area that can cause you to feel stuck is when you don’t understand the way forward – path.
Remember Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz? She really didn’t know how long it would take, nor did she really know the outcome, but she was able to ‘follow the yellow brick road’ because she had a clear path to follow. That was what she needed to overcome her fear of the unknown and start moving forward.
In real life, too many choices are options that flood your cognitive field. As a result, you feel overwhelmed. Overwhelm will almost always blur your path. Experiencing overwhelm can feel as if you’re in a fog. When you feel unclear about what your path will be, you will delay taking steps out of fear.
So, in order to get unstuck, zoom out. Articulate a few big milestones and try to find clarity with your path at a broader level. Discover the milestones on your way may bring some certainty to the field. When your yellow brick road appears, it will allow your brain to let you take steps forward toward that first milestone.
Finally, many of us have made a habit of ready-fire-aim living. Meaning, we often engage in risky, impulsive behavior before we really know where we’re going, or what we want to accomplish. Taking some time to down-regulate, get present, and truly picture your outcome can be super helpful in getting unstuck.
Before you start, your brain waits for clarity on where you’re going. So if you spend time with a trusted friend to verbally process a clear outcome, it may be all you need to get started.
In conclusion, feeling stuck is highly correlated to your survival instincts. So, to get unstuck, you need to solve for one of three things: duration, path, or outcome. To take action, your brain needs to feel ‘safe enough to handle the uncertainty of what’s ahead. All you need to do is solve for one, and see what happens. Try it! See if zeroing in on how long you’ll do something, the high-level steps to follow, or clarifying the final outcome you hope to achieve, provides your brain with enough data to get unstuck and move forward.
If you’re feeling stuck, working with a coach can help. I’m an ADHD Life and Productivity Coach for high performers who want better, more consistent results. You can learn more and connect with me here.