Being stuck stinks. You’re stuck when you know you can’t stay where you are but you don’t exactly know where to go. It’s like running on a treadmill covered in molasses — slow and sticky. And you’re forever running in place.
Why do we get stuck at all? Why can’t we rational human beings simply decide to do this, that or the other thing and get a move on?
Ah, if only it were that simple.
A few years ago I read a fascinating article in Fast Company magazine called “Change or Die”, and it’s been really helpful in so many ways. It gave me insight into something important: people stay stuck in situations that aren’t good for them because they can’t see how making a change will lead to anything positive.
Let’s look at wellness. The bulk of medical expenses come from five lifestyle habits — smoking, drinking, eating, stress and not enough exercise. Most doctors tell patients “make changes in these areas, or you will die”. But in a few months or years the patient goes back to the bad old habits that brought on the trouble in the first place. We know what’s good for us, but we just don’t do it. Why?
“Change or Die” cites the work of Dr. Dean Ornish, who has achieved remarkable long-term results by taking a different approach with heart patients:
“Doctors had been trying to motivate patients mainly with the fear of death, he says, and that simply wasn’t working. For a few weeks after a heart attack, patients were scared enough to do whatever their doctors said. But death was just too frightening to think about, so their denial would return, and they’d go back to their old ways.
“The patients lived the way they did as a day-to-day strategy for coping with their emotional troubles. ‘Telling people who are lonely and depressed that they’re going to live longer if they quit smoking or change their diet and lifestyle is not that motivating,’ Ornish says. ‘Who wants to live longer when you’re in chronic emotional pain?’
“So instead of trying to motivate them with the ‘fear of dying,’ Ornish reframes the issue.He inspires a new vision of the ‘joy of living’ — convincing them they can feel better, not just live longer. That means enjoying the things that make daily life pleasurable, like making love or even taking long walks without the pain caused by their disease. ‘Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear,’ he says.”
This approach makes a difference for my clients. And it can for you, too. Simply look for a positive motivator — and believe it’s possible to achieve — and stuckness disappears.
Rather than focus on how alone you’ll be when that cheating boyfriend is out of your life, think about how wonderful it will be to find a loyal and faithful partner. Rather than beat yourself up for not losing weight, think about all you will be able to do when you’re healthier. Rather than dwell on how horrible it was to be fired, consider how great it will be to get a paycheck again.
Hey, if you’re stuck in some area of your life, here’s your homework: take out a piece of paper. Write one sentence about where you’re stuck. Then write down what the happy outcome will be when you get unstuck. Shift it, baby. Then hold on to that positive glimmer and make a couple of teeny-tiny steps every day directly toward it.
It’s not “change or die”, my darlings, it’s “change and be happy”. And I’m here to tell you — it’s completely possible.