Ever notice the everyday tyranny of Not Enoughness? It goes something like this: “I’m not enough. You’re not enough. Life is not enough.” Such a mindset can inevitably lead us to feel hopelessly STUCK coupled with feelings of frustration, impatience, disappointment, sadness, and at times, even resignation. In stuckness, we may be asking ourselves, “How in the hell did I get here?”, but more importantly, “What’s the way out and how much longer will it take?” Eager to find comfort again, we may be desperately searching for workable solutions or urgently seeking ways to change ourselves, change others, or change our situation. Perhaps, we fall back on old, unhealthy habits to cope or often catch ourselves venting to others over and over again, yet notice it does little to provide the lasting relief we need. Perhaps even, we’re ready to walk away because nothing seems to work. We’re still stuck and we’re still suffering. From one humbled by the vexing habit of longing for “something more” and frequently feeling stuck, I can assure you there is another way. Below are five empowering steps to experiencing more freedom and flow in your life.
Accept “What Is” One of my favorite authors, Byron Katie, wisely posited, “Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don't have to like it... it's just easier if you do.” Contrary to popular belief, avoidance or resistance is not the answer. Instead, it’s acceptance in the present moment that actually carries you through when there is a gap between where you are and where you want to be. Acceptance is an active state of awareness that moves you towards wise action, yet the true meaning of it is often misunderstood. In her article, “Keep on Moving”, Holly Rogers, MD states, “Acceptance is not the same as liking, agreeing with, or passively resigning yourself to anything, or making a decision about what you choose” (Mindful Magazine, December 2017). Alternately, acceptance takes work and is a practice that challenges us to stop complaining; acknowledge reality; and let go of how we think things “should” be or wish them to be. It invites us to act consciously to promote change where we can; relinquish control over what we get; and make peace with the process as well as the product of our efforts. So how might we cultivate acceptance of What Is? Just having a willingness and holding a conscious intention to accept things as they are is a great place to start. Alongside an intention, methods such as mindfulness, meditation, embodiment through movement practices, psychotherapy, and spiritual study as well as questioning our thoughts, rewriting our story, and tools for self-discovery are often very useful. Connect with Values Values are like a compass. Values are ways we want to behave on an on-going basis, qualities of being, or directions we want to move towards throughout life. They help keep us “on track” in our day-to-day experience. They are not feelings, what we hope to receive from others, virtues, morals, ethics, or codes of conduct. Nor are they desires, wants, needs, or goals. Goals are something to be completed or achieved. Values, on the other hand, are expressions of what truly matters. Values are on-going and available to us in every moment of each day. According to Russ Harris in his book, ACT Made Simple, there are five key attributes of values. Values, he explains, are here-and-now; never need to be justified; often need to be prioritized; best held lightly; and are freely chosen. Essentially, values of this nature can not only help us get unstuck, but also infuse our lives with greater purpose, passion, and meaning. Learning, healing, growth, freedom, and peacefulness are a few of my values. What are some of your own deeply-felt core values?
Commit to Values-based Action
When talking about values-based action, the Serenity Prayer comes to mind. This prayer reminds me to accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can, and develop the maturity and wisdom to know the difference. In moving towards greater freedom and flow in life, committed action speaks to our efforts to change the things we can. It exacts a fiery will to readily adapt to current challenges, change or persist in behaviors that work, and do whatever it takes to live in alignment with what is most important to us.
In moving towards what we want, however, it is helpful to be patient and appreciate the process. Attempts at flexible and effective values-based action may not immediately deliver us to the desired changes we have in mind. Until then, we can at least begin to acknowledge our efforts and the positive emotions that are likely to emerge when living in alignment with our values. In doing so, the change process offers its own kind of reward. In truth, our acceptance and appreciation of the process despite outcomes can be a real life-saver, especially when significant or difficult changes need to be made or the time is takes to effect these changes will likely demand much time, effort, and resources or involve others.
Ask yourself while keeping your values in mind, “What is the most sensible move I can make to get closer to where I want to be?” Break it down. Think “baby steps”. Make it something you can do in the short-term – today, tomorrow, or next week.
While there are many ways to get unstuck, one of the most essential and powerful means is gratitude. Perhaps, you’ve heard this many times before. In my own life, I intentionally recall what I’m thankful for not only when I’m feeling stuck, but when things are not going my way in my day-to-day experience. When doing this coupled with the breath, my frustration slowly, but surely, falls away. And when I’m in a particularly dark or demanding cycle, I return to my Gratitude Journal to write down three things I’m grateful for each night.
Take a moment now to count your blessings. If gratitude seems too far of a stretch for you, I invite you to pick just one thing to appreciate and focus on that. Like acceptance, gratitude can not only help carry you through hard times, but also invite a state of greater peacefulness, ease, and comfort.
Life is benevolent and all my experiences lead to my greatest good. I choose to believe this and the idea that I’m loved and cared for by Everything—the raw aliveness of existence. This understanding is central to my perspective on life, yet I recognize it may not resonate with everyone. We are each on our own unique journey and while we share the human condition, our lessons and experiences as well as our paths to healing and growth may not be similar.
Yet if such a notion rings true for you, I believe it can help a great deal not only in navigating the vicissitudes of daily life, but also in moving through extreme losses, life-altering challenges, or existential crises that can leave us feeling woefully stuck. In my own experience, it also inspires the humility, courage, and fierce strength to meet life on its terms. When in trust, I remember my life is an adventure and I am not lost. I realize I’m exactly where I need to be. I believe that everything is going to be ok….eventually.
You are the hero in your story
Oftentimes, the painful experience of stuckness is rooted in the belief that we are not enough, others are not enough, and life is not enough. It may be frustrating, disappointing, and downright disheartening at times, yet it doesn’t have to be that way. These five steps or practices can offer a release. Try one or all of them. Stay open. Give it time. Be kind to yourself and others; you are still learning. And, trust what comes. In her book, A Heroic Life, Gina Lakereminds us, “Not only do things naturally move on to something new, but you are likely to have become a better human being for having gone through the fire of your trials. You are bound to have become stronger, more positive, and better able to cope with any future difficulties. Challenges transform you into the hero that each of you is meant to be.”