We spin our wheels for a few reasons, but the are some to things consider no matter the cause. We put so much pressure on ourselves, and that sense of ‘direction‘ can be so difficult to ‘tame’ or ‘fine-tune.’ Equally, we may feel clear in the path ahead, yet still find ourselves stuck on taking the actual next step.
Here are a few things to consider when you’re spinning your wheels, not making progress:
1. Question: “What’s working?”
I’m not saying we should ignore all the difficulties, but generally the most mentally balanced way to move forward is to seek solutions and build on foundations which currently are stable. If we can focus on and spend time building and making progress, I’d rather it be on the stable rock than wet sand.
Track what’s currently strong or working well, and then you know where to place your next layer.
2. Take Action: Take a step towards a broad aim, not a specific one (if you’re uncertain of the specific one.)
If you feel stuck, staying there won’t change that.
I know the pull of ‘potential’ that had kept me stuck before, if I just think it over more, or consider the possible paths a bit longer, then I still have the potential to make the ‘right choice’ but after a while I think it’s crucial to recognise that staying still is ALSO a choice, and if you’re feeling stuck, it’s likely not the right choice.
3. Reflect: Are you feeling limited by the options? Time is never ‘wasted’.
We cannot, physically or mentally, do it all. For some, the difficulty comes from so many options to take, and that then limits the chance of them getting it right (see #2.) However, the opposite can also block us.
When there are just two or three places to spend our time, the pressure to make this one count is high. Everything you do will have some kind of learning experience or transferable skill for later, which it’s always useful to remember. Nothing we do actually “wastes” our time, especially if it’s one of those steps which will move you toward the final aim or goal.
4. Take in the View: A direction is not a limiting as a destination.
When you’re not sure of a very specific destination, following any nudge can be a great way to keep moving, to build momentum and also to help you get closer to a destination even if you’re not sure where that is.
For me, I following psychology, then neuroscience and mental health, with bits of teaching interlaced. I knew I wanted to teach, I knew it would relate to wellbeing and understanding our existence… but I couldn’t see a clear path to follow. So I taught in a nature reserve, I training companies to look after staff’s wellbeing, I spoke at Westminster Briefing and I took a MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience. I knew I didn’t want to work in dementia/brain injury or research, so it seemed like a strange topic to take. But I was drawn to it and here I am, fascinated by the brain and how the mind interlinks with its functions.
5. Values: Themes from Life so far (that work well!)
Similar to following a vague direction, looking at the themes that fire you up or have been constant in your life can be a good compass when you don’t have a clear map to follow. Sometimes listening to the things that upset us or frustrate us can be a great little indicator of what’s beneath your inner light.
I’ve always been drawn to fighting for wellbeing, for us to own our strengths and for people to mind what they say as I knew speech and thoughts impacted the way they experience life.
The one thing that has followed me has been the need to teach life skills, rather than teach geography or maths. My ‘theme’ has always been about our inner world than the ‘real-world’ around us. Following this led me to spirituality and psychology, to Reiki healing and cognitive behavioural therapy training.
6. Prioritise: What is the one thing that will allow you to move forward, for the other goals to then be possible?
Each month I focus on a mini-habit or two to cultivate. I could pick from tens of habits that I know would help my life be smooth, but we can’t do everything at once. Thus, I prioritise based on what habits will open the door to future habits or steps.
I’m currently working out three times a week and focusing on eating enough protein because I have some aims for the future that require arm and core strength. I also know that without exercise, my mental health suffers. If I have to choose between meditation and exercise, exercise is the one which actually opens doors toward my specific goals, so that’s my priority.
Consider Each Step
Ask yourself the questions and consider each option above. You know yourself best.
In short, the main hiccup is not moving at all. Stagnation won’t tell you info for the party forward: even heading the wrong way will give you information to help tweak the path.
You can’t edit a blank page in writing, and you can’t change path while you’re sat still.
Need Help to Map Out Your Path?
I help lifelong learners and curious quest-seekers who have that ‘feeling of being drawn forward’ to plan out the next steps ahead and feel ‘alive.’
The tools I use to make those changes focus on building emotional resilience, putting our wellbeing first and becoming aware of those negative thoughts that can hold us back.
If you want some support and extra skills for making those first couple of steps, take a look at these Focus Sessions.