My dog has become more cautious as she’s gotten older. Yeti’s only 7 but things have changed a lot since just a few years ago. We used to go on long runs. Climb mountains. Rain, wind, snow, or heat. It didn’t matter to her. We’d get back home and she’d give me a look that screamed “is that all you’ve got?” Things are different now.
Yeti still jumps up and runs around in circles when I ask her if she wants to take a walk. She’s still ready to go. The difference is that now she’s ready to turn around once we get about half a block from home. She’s done her business and she just wants to get back to her comfort zone.
Yeti Won’t Move Forward
At this point, Yeti simply refuses to move forward. Her body will get tense. She’ll turn her head towards our house and then look back at me with a stern look that says “we’re not going any further than this!”
The funny thing is that if I force her to keep moving forward for a block or two, the tension eases and the old Yeti comes back. She gets a different look in her eyes. She puffs up and starts prancing along proudly. She just needs to break out of the cocoon and build some forward momentum.
We Get Stuck Too
How well does this encapsulate our own mindset when we get too comfortable? Especially in work and business. We don’t want to get out of our comfort zone even if it is not serving us well.
We should be forcing ourselves to try to go an extra block or two outside of our own safe zone once and awhile. It can be uncomfortable but also very rewarding.
We’re not as different from dogs as we think. According to a Seattle PI article, humans and dogs share 84% of their DNA. Our minds get wedded to convenience and ease. Even when we know it’s hurting us, it’s hard to break free from comfort.
I can’t speak for my dog but I know when I’m getting complacent. It happens in my business when I find myself doing things in the same old way I have always done them.
It’s okay to ask why I’m doing things the way I am. If there aren’t good answers, I know that things need to change. I have learned that there are steps I can take to breach the walls of routine patterns.
The key is to start. How do you start? You can start by asking yourself questions.
Are you in a rut personally? Are you trying to get to the next level in your business? Are you looking for more meaning to guide your actions?
How Do We Get Started Again When We’re Stuck?
Here are 4 questions I use to stimulate the forward movement right now. I learned these from some of the experts who teach how to improve personal outcomes.
These ideas are designed to get things moving today. Not next month, next year.
Like Yeti, sometimes we’re stuck in the moment and need a push.
What kind of person do I want to be today in one word?
This question comes from Brendon Burchard, author of High-Performance Habits and a leading personal development trainer and coach.
I use this question to bring some clarity to my thinking. When I characterize, in one word, how I want to show up in the world, it helps me focus on actions. Actions I’m taking and actions I’m not taking.
For example, if I choose the word ‘resolute’, my mind can then categorize actions that align with showing up as a resolute person. I can also clearly identify what actions don’t align with being resolute. Clarity makes it easier to move forward in the right tasks and avoid the wrong ones.
What role is shame playing in feeling stuck at this moment?
In an article in Psychology Today, psychotherapist John Amadeo, writes “Many of us are quietly plagued by a nagging sense being flawed or defective.”
This can show up in relationships, work, and business. Sometimes it’s subtle. But if we can become aware of it, we can often move forward. I have learned to notice when I’m not asking a question or taking some business step out of embarrassment. It is my cue to do it anyway.
Learning to recognize this feeling also has the added benefit of helping others move forward.
I can serve clients in a more empathic way if I can recognize their reticence to move forward out of embarrassment. If I understand that they’re feeling shame, I can adjust the dialogue to make things easier for them to move forward. Again, awareness is the key.
How can I dip a toe in this decision without diving in headfirst?
This question comes from Chip & Dan Heath’s book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.
Maybe you can multitrack. Sometimes when we’re considering whether or not to go forward with an action or path, we feel like it forecloses other options. Not necessarily so. In business and work decisions, we can try multiple things at the same time.
In Decisive, the authors make the case that “when designers created ads simultaneously, they scored higher on creativity and effectiveness.” Egos are not invested in the decision yet and it can be the same with us.
I’ll often move forward and try something new in my business without being fully committed to it. At the worst, I’ll learn more about the problem and have insights about how best to tackle the challenge.
How can I connect with this person more effectively?
Many of the times we feel stuck have to do with other people. It can be a difficult boss, client, or employee. Years ago, I’d write these types of people off as just impossible to deal with. I was wrong. It’s true that there are some people that we are never going to get along with.
I’ve been astonished, though, by how many poor relationships can be turned around by making the effort to connect with people better. The biggest change I have made is refusing to answer rudeness with rudeness.
If someone is rude to me and I don’t need to interact with them, I let it go. If they’re rude and I do need to interact with them, I’ll make some effort to try and understand them better to see if a connection is possible.
In Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro’s book entitled Beyond Reason, they call this Building Affiliation. They provide four tactics that can help us move forward if we’re stuck in dealing with a person:
- Meet in person rather than via phone, computer, or e-mail. If we modify this a bit to the pandemic environment we are in, maybe it’s just turning the camera on for meetings. It’s tempting to leave it off but there’s value in seeing one another face to face.
- Discuss things you care about. Small talk can actually create emotional distance. Instead, think family, personal concerns, kids, non-business topics, sharing ambivalence, uncertainty, and even solicit their advice.
- Consider giving space to bring you closer. Allow others and yourself plenty of space. If efforts to build affiliation appear to bring you or others “too close for comfort,” consider backing off. This shows respect and poise.
- Keep in contact. Check-in occasionally with the other person, regardless of whether they are on “your side” or work for another organization.
I have turned hostile people into allies through persistent use of these principles. I had to keep my ego in check and push aside that inner voice that wants to answer unkindness with unkindness. But it was worth it.
Once You Get Things Moving Forward Again
There is a unique sense of contentment that comes from pulling yourself out of these temporary ruts. The day regains a sense of flow. Solutions come naturally and there seems to be an overflow of productivity. It is a joy when your business is operating at this level. Our body language improves.
We become like Yeti. A few blocks away from home and with a swagger that seems to cut through hindrances effortlessly.
Enjoy that feeling.
Because the only guarantee is that we’ll need to get unstuck again.
How do you get out of those temporary ruts? The ones that prevent you from going forward at one of those moments. I want to hear about your creative solutions to get moving forward again.
Brent Rupnow is a Certified Financial Planner and Certified Exit Planning Advisor in Southern California. Here is a link to his other articles.