Feeling stuck is an indication that you believe most of your experiences are out of your control.

And you’re not completely wrong.

You see there are patterns to the way you think, feel and act. The more these patterns repeat, the stronger and therefore more automatic they are.

It’s super easy to be swept up in your patterns, routines, habits, and attitudes, and forget that you have a choice about all of it.

In fact, whether you realize it or not, you’re choosing all of it already.

Like when you wake up. Think about the way you get out of bed, and the next 2 or 3 things you do. It’s likely the same routine every day.

Or how about the way you sit, stand, or walk. There are patterns in the way you use your body.

What about your habits, do you drink coffee every morning, bite your nails, or always put your phone on your nightstand?

You also have well established patterns to the way you think about things.

Like your political views, your likes and dislikes, being indecisive or jumping to conclusions.

Thoughts that are repeated and believed become your attitudes about ourselves and life.

Any pattern that is reinforced strengthens.

Any thing you’ve thought or done over and over again becomes an automatic pattern that you don’t even think about, you just do.

Imagine a herd of deer that sleep in one place in the forest and eat in a field on the other side of the forest. Each day, they have to walk through the forest to get to breakfast.

The first time they make the trek, they have to really pay attention to make sure they’re going the right way, they must take their time making their way through underbrush, low hanging branches, rocks, streams, any obstacle they come across.

If they take the same route back, it’s a bit easier because they’ve done it before, and if they continue to use this route, it becomes a well worn path.

Once that happens, they don’t really have to pay much attention to directions, or take their time. They just follow the path and automatically end up at the field for breakfast.

This can make life easier.

Remember when you learned to drive? You had to manage steering and staying on the road, maintaining your speed by accelerating and braking appropriately, maybe shifting gears, signaling other drivers of your intention to turn, there’s a lot to do to operate a car.

But now that you’ve been doing it for awhile, it’s an established skill or pattern. You don’t have to consciously think about every aspect of driving, and this makes it much easier to get from one place to another without expending so much mental energy.

You can also have automatic ways of doing, feeling, and thinking that make life harder.

Some examples might be slouching over your phone (which wreaks physical havoc), being impatient (which is self-imposed stress), or judging yourself or others based on appearance (which denies a deeper truth).

Ultimately, these patterns cause suffering and threaten your wellbeing.

Like any pattern, these are reinforced by repetition and can become unconscious. And because strong patterns, whether helpful or not, are easier to follow, you can end up feeling stuck and unable to change.

But your experiences are not out of your control.

If you’re intentional about your patterns, routines, habits and attitudes, you can get unstuck and shape your experience.

Let’s go back to the herd of deer and imagine a wolf has found their trail.

The deer want to make it to breakfast safely, and because taking their well-worn path has become an automatic pattern, they have to take 2 important steps to change it.

These are the 2 simple steps to getting unstuck.

  1. Be aware of the need for change. 
    In the case of the deer, they know the wolf is threatening and they have to find a different way to get to the field.
  2. Recognize the opportunity to choose. 
    When the deer start out each morning for breakfast, they must make the conscious decision to take a different path.

There are challenges to getting unstuck, but forging a new pattern, habit, or routine, gets much, much easier.

Think about the deer.

They have to encounter the wolf to become aware of the need for change. (Enough said.)

Then, when they make the conscious choice to take a new path, at first, they have to really pay attention to make sure they’re going the right way, and they must take their time making their way through underbrush, low hanging branches, rocks, streams, any obstacle they come across.

But the more they reinforce this new path, the easier it becomes to get to the field for breakfast.

They stop having to make that conscious choice to actually take the new path, because it becomes automatic.

And because they stop using that old path, the forest reclaims it and it actually goes away.

Are there patterns in your life that cause suffering and threaten your wellbeing? What new path will you choose?