Getting Unstuck

By Brenda J. Thomas Ph.D.

On many occasions I have been stuck…not knowing what to do to get unstuck.  When I find myself in these situations an effective technique that works for me is to MOVE!  It appears that a shift in energy helps me to gain new insight, new ideas or a different approach to my problem.

I know some people who use meditation as a way to get unstuck.  The calm that they experience frees their mind of clutter and enables them to think more clearly.  Meditation has a way of shutting out all the background noise that prevents us from hearing our thoughts.  Meditation has been proven to be a very good method to use to solve problems, to reduce stress and to promote health and wellbeing.  I must admit though, it is very difficult for me to meditate.  I have tried many different techniques but find it a challenge to quiet my mind and just concentrate only on my breathing.

In my role as a marketing manager I often experienced phases in projects where I would not quite know what next step to take.  To resolve this dilemma I would physically shift to a different environment.  I would get up from my desk and make a trip to the vending machine or I would take a walk outside and enjoy the beauty of nature.  This would take my mind completely off what I had been thinking about and instead I would get absorbed in the sights and sounds of the outdoor world.  Occasionally I would run into colleagues and have a brief conversation on topics that had absolutely nothing to do with my project and this freed my mind of the stress associated with my unresolved task.

For me, an outside stimulus seems to work best in getting unstuck. While working on my dissertation I struggled with how to focus my research about women and work.  After exploring a number of approaches and not being able to decide what to do I took a break and called a friend who I hadn’t spoken to in months.  During our conversation she reflected on some experiences that we had shared that had nothing to do with my dissertation but brought back memories of successes we had achieved and challenges we had overcome.  This discussion shifted my thoughts and after the conversation ended I had a clear idea of the approach I would take in framing the content of the dissertation.

We all have our own approach to getting unstuck.  The key for each of us is to recognize what that approach is and to use it as quickly as possible to limit the time we spend in a paralyzed state of “stuckness”.