There is so much written about getting unstuck these days. Apparently we are a nation wading through super glue, and we are begging for help. Whether this is because of a changing economy, a shift in consciousness, or a dying patriarchy (all great things), it’s still not helpful when you just want to go to work, come home, and be just the teeniest bit excited about your life. Yes, we know that Instagram is just someone’s highlight reel, but you’d like your own highlight reel too.
1. Stop thinking what you want is something you’ve lost and now have to find.
What you want, your desire, and your passions are not fixed entities you’ve somehow carelessly misplaced. It’s not like everyone else kept careful track of theirs, and you are the one person who lost yours in a giant pile, like coats thrown on a bed at a party and are now digging around trying to remember what exactly it looked like, and are you accidentally going to take home someone else’s.
You don’t know what you want because you haven’t created it yet. Maybe it used to be one thing and now it’s not that thing anymore. Maybe you got bored of it, outgrew it, or mastered it. That doesn’t mean you were wrong or misguided at any point. It just means it’s time to create something new: a goal, a habit, a theory to test out.
It can be really exciting to find something we that interests us. We think, finally! I’m set! I’ve solved this problem. And then we learn more about it, or learn how to do it and our interest wanes. Sometimes when we get good at something we love, we get bored. Once you learn how to do something, you don’t need to keep learning how to do it. You can keep getting better at it, or you pick something else to learn. That can seem frustrating when the point was to identify something you love so you don’t have to identify any more things that you love. But, once you learn to knit, you don’t keep learning how to use needles and wrap yarn around them. You either make a sweater or put down your needles and learn how to roast a chicken. It doesn’t mean you never should have learned how to knit. It just means maybe you’ve submitted that mountain, and now you need to climb back down and find a new hike to go on.
2. Ask easier questions. I bet you’ve been asking yourself lots of great questions like, “Who am I? What is my bliss? What makes me lose track of time? What’s something I would do even if I didn’t get paid?”
All good questions, but you need to stop asking them immediately. The way out of this is not with deeply philosophical questions about life and love and happiness and purpose that have no concrete answers. Don’t get me wrong, I love those questions and will be more than happy to talk with you about all of that stuff. But in this very specific, frustrating scenario, those kinds of questions will do more harm than good. Switch to yes or no questions, or this/that questions. Questions that have a definite answer and allow you to track a progression. For example, Is this how I want to spend my time? Yes or no. Do I dislike this? Yes or no. Would I rather be doing (fill in the blank) Yes or no.
The antidote to stuckness is movement, so we want to ask questions that will get us going. Sure, maybe there are better ways to ask questions. But, if they keep us paralyzed because we can’t answer them, they are not better questions. Maybe it’s not the answer for everything, but maybe it will lead to movement or testing or pivoting. All things that feel fantastic in the face of overwhelm. Narrow the problem to what you can solve. Do not broaden it until it becomes unmanageable.
And sometimes narrowing the problem to something you can solve can be just as scary as wallowing in overwhelm. It’s probably even scarier because by now the overwhelm might feel slightly comfortable or familiar. If you have been in this headspace for a while, it’s very unlikely you will wake up tomorrow without a single harrowing or uneasy thought. But you can make navigating those thoughts easier, and you can do that by asking yourself easier questions.
3. Formulate a hypothesis and then test it out. Let’s bring it back to seventh grade science for a minute.
Take all the answers you got from these easier questions and formulate a hypothesis, aka a decent guess. Keep it at the seventh grade level. We have been trying to keep things simple this whole post, so now is not the time to switch to a graduate level hypothesis. Based on the answers you just got, what is your best guess for a way to move forward? Not the perfect way to move forward, or the best way to move forward, but A SINGLE way forward. Then test it out.
I guarantee you that at this point, the hypothesis is not “find more questions to ask”, “read another article”, or “learn more about this industry”. You’ve done more than enough homework, now you need to send your thing out into the world (BTW, this can be terrifying, but I 100% know you can do this). You need action, and the opportunity for other people (and the Universe!) to work on your hypothesis. I love you and think you’re brilliant, but we all only know so much. Now is the time to get other people involved. And maybe those other people will have answers and maybe they won’t, but they will give you perspective. And that is always valuable.
So, let’s pretend there is nothing to uncover or discover. Let’s assume there is only what we build and create and the reason you don’t know what you want is because you simply haven’t decided on it yet. If you don’t like what you decided on, pivot and keep going. The skill is not only in creating what you want, it’s developing the resilience to keep moving when you are still deciding on an answer.
I promise there is no treasure map you’re missing. There is no pirate’s chest that goes lost and uncovered if you don’t “find your purpose”. The purpose that was somehow predestined before you got here (no pressure!). There is only the purpose you choose. So, ask easy questions to narrow it down. Pick something. Low stakes test it out. Rinse and repeat. I swear, that’s all it is. You’re going to be amazing at it. You just have to give it a try.
SARA KRAVITZ helps women start side hustles to they can build a second income stream and have more money in six weeks. As a life and career coach, she loves helping people understand (but, like, really understand) that this doesn’t have to be life. You can climb out of every hole. It might be awkward and uncomfortable at times (in fact, you can probably guarantee it will be), but there’s always a solution. (Even for you.)
She is also the author of the international, bestselling book Just Tell Me What I Want. You can download her book for free here. Or, if you’d apply to work with her to build your side hustle, click here.