If You’re Feeling Stuck, Look Inward

If you’ve ever had a time in your life when you’ve felt like giving up, you’re not alone. I’d venture that many, if not most of us, have reached points when we’ve wanted to close the door on a relationship, a longtime goal, a time-consuming project, a career move, or some other aspect of our life for which we simply no longer have the physical energy or mental stamina.

Whether or not we follow through, reaching this stage can be a wake-up call to our senses and our psyche. It can force us to reexamine what we value and what we’re made of, leaving us exhilarated and newly energized or drained and depleted.

Though such choices can be difficult and even painful, they also shape us and our lives in ways that few other experiences can. If we choose to keep going, we gain all that comes from persevering and seeing our aim through to the end. If we choose the opposite, we risk losing out on all the rewards our endeavor may have yielded.

We’ll never know where each path will lead us, relying only on intuition, experience, logic, and the wisdom of others to guide us. Without having all the answers, whatever choice we make is a brave one, and one that we hope we’ll look back on and think was the right one. But rather than focusing solely on the outcome, there’s much to be gained by paying close attention to the journey that led to it.

If you’re wrestling with a decision, whether it’s as consequential as pursuing your dream and all that entails, or as small as keeping up your morning meditation practice, I encourage you to pause and look inward. Utilize it as an opportunity to:

Get to know yourself better. Ask yourself what makes this decision challenging. Perhaps what you’re considering feels like a big risk and you’ve always tried to play it safe. Maybe you’re afraid of failing, letting yourself down, or disappointing others. Or maybe things aren’t moving as quickly as you’d like, and you’re feeling discouraged by the lack of progress. Whatever your answers, examine them closely. They’ll likely reveal important aspects of your personality that you previously might not have considered. Use them to hone in on your values and what matters most to you.

Connect with others. Being vulnerable takes commitment and courage, and at times can feel scary. It also fosters deep relationships and engenders feelings of safety and understanding when we experience the gift of being heard. Reach out to a trusted support and share what you’re going through. Our friends and loved ones often have fresh insights into our lives and our way of being. They’re able to see us in a light that softens our insecurities and quiets our self-critique.

Recognize your limits. When we’re tempted to give up, our minds and bodies are usually trying to communicate a warning to us about how we’re treating them. Are you constantly stressed and tired? What about jittery or on edge? Ask yourself what you could do differently that would make the option of sticking things out more appealing. Maybe you just need to dial back your momentum or create more structure in your day-to-day routine. If there was one thing you could change that would make your decision a no-brainer, what would it be? Maybe it’s not just one variable, but several. Write them down and decide which ones you can start to conquer.

Recharge. Anne Lamott wrote, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” Take a break and reapproach your decision after a night’s sleep. Switch up your surroundings, drink a glass of water, open the windows, or go for a walk around the block. Ruminating on our concerns only increases their hold on us. Before you reach the point of frustration and overwhelm, give yourself space and time to recharge.

Practice gratitude. It’s easy to lose sight of our blessings, particularly when we’re feeling weighed down by life’s demands. But odds are, you have some pretty big things in your world to be thankful for, and whatever decisions you face likely won’t change that. You may have to downsize, work overtime, move cities, wake up earlier, write more, go out less, or come to terms with some hurdles you’d rather not face. Will you still have a roof over your head, friends you can call in the middle of the night, a beautiful garden, a full fridge, opportunities to grow, children who love you, and a body that keeps you going each day? Take a moment to reflect on all that is going right in your life and be grateful.

I hope these tips help bring clarity when you’re struggling with a setback or trudging through a tough season of life. If there are one or two that particularly speak to you, this is your invitation to start unpacking them more. Whatever decisions lie ahead, have faith in your innate drive to do what’s best, and don’t dismiss the value that comes purely from the process of seeing yourself through them.