How to get “unstuck” in the new year

New year, newly “unstuck.”
New year, newly “unstuck.”
Image: REUTERS/Pilar Olivares
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We all want to believe that the New Year will bring us the change we deserve. It’s the change that will get us “unstuck” – get us off this comfortable, familiar and unfulfilling path we find ourselves walking. But we nearly always use the same mindset that got us stuck in the mud to try and dig ourselves out.

In my work with students and adults who are trying to change career and life direction, I see the same obstacles come up again and again. We often carry the same outdated definitions of career, success, and meaning that we inherited from someone else (a parent, grandparent, school system, etc.). When we try to change, emotions of “stuckness”—judgment, fear, doubt, guilt—pop up and surprise us like a habanero pepper hiding in our sandwich. When those emotions come to the surface, we dismiss ideas that feel outside our comfort zone and contrary to our past experiences.

Here are five strategies to help beat that instinct and instead reimagine possibilities outside of your current reality:

Coffee with bizarro

If you’re the type of person who can’t function with an inbox greater than zero, find a friend whose inbox hovers around twenty thousand (I promise they exist). Go through your LinkedIn professional network and Facebook profiles. Identify the folks you know who are least like you, and take them out for a drink. You want to understand how someone with a like heart—but a very different mind—thinks about your challenge.

Get vulnerable

My dear friend, Al Bhatt, the co-founder of the Center for Leadership Studies, said it best: “If you want to create better results within the existing reality, you must develop your expertise. If you want to create a new reality, you must deepen your humanity.” We unlock real change when we sway our heart. You already know the experiences, the people, and topics that bring your emotions to the surface. Engage with them and see where those sentiments lead your mind by addressing your challenge immediately afterward. Traveling to a new place is a good example, because it takes you outside your routine and swells your emotions, but there are other ways to get vulnerable closer to home, such as talking to a stranger on the street or asking for a free coffee at a coffee shop.

Worst idea possible

Take whatever topic you are stuck on and spend five minutes brainstorming the absolute worst ideas to change that situation. Bonus points if you can get several friends to join you. This exercise actively blocks the barriers you have to new possibilities because we’re already framing them as crazy!

Crowdsource your fear list

Grab a sheet of paper and draw two columns. On the left, list all the fears that hold you back. Be more specific than your emotions of stuckness. Phrases like “I’m an imposter” or “I’m afraid of failure” should populate the left column. Then list out possible solutions to each of these challenges. Put it in a Google spreadsheet. Share it with several friends. Have them offer solutions. Soon you will have strategies to overcome all of your fears.

Mirror mirror on the wall

We need a new routine as well as a new perspective to help change how we think. By focusing on what experts like Richard Leider, defines as daily purpose work, we take actions to reorient ourselves. Put a note on your mirror in the bathroom with these words: Grow + Give. The note is a reminder to ask these questions in the morning and reflect on them in the evening: How am I going to develop myself today and who will I be of service to?

At the turn of a new year, give yourself the opportunity to shift your mindset. Take on any of these approaches and you can open the door to change outside your current landscape of possibilities.

Jeff Hittner is a co-founder of Project X.