Have you ever been driving a vehicle that got stuck? If so, you know how frustrating it can be. However, spinning your wheels in a vehicle, buried in the mud, barely compares to a life that has lost traction.
A few years ago, I found myself wondering if I was still on the right career path. The malaise might as well have been mud. Many days, I felt hopeless as I struggled through the mundane monotony, with little hope of renewal at work. Admittedly, there were times that being stuck in my career also affected other areas of my life.
Looking back, I could have settled for the status quo and stayed stuck. Many people make that choice. How about you? Do you feel trapped in a dead-end job, dreading the drudgery of work? Are you merely going through the motions in your relationships with those who matter most? Are you mired in a habit you need to break?
If you answered yes to any of those, there is good news. You can become unstuck. A fulfilling and significant career is still possible. Your most important relationships can again be life-giving and bring you joy. And your life can experience transformation as you leave destructive habits behind and redirect yourself toward growth.
When we are bogged down, our inclination is to grind it out and try harder. But if you have ever had a vehicle that was stuck, you know that pushing the accelerator only buries you deeper in the muck. After discovering that trying harder doesn’t work, the temptation can shift to trying less and choosing to disengage. Trying less might feel easier, but it fails to create progress. The only thing that helps when you are stuck is to gain traction.
Fortunately, there is a formula you can apply to help you gain traction:
It begins with introspection—looking inside yourself. In today’s world of increased regulations, most of us are used to the concept of inspection. We constantly inspect our work systems and processes to ensure that our employees are safe and our customers are well served. But do you spend time inspecting what’s inside—inspecting your heart?
Deliberately inspecting your life has power. Through introspection, you examine what’s going on inside you and around you. You allow curiosity to become your friend. You step back and work through your sacred questions. You pay attention to how you feel and what you think about things. In essence, you develop the skill of listening to your life. It is there that you gain clarity concerning the person you want to be and the life you want to live. Introspection will tell you where your life needs to change.
After introspection comes redirection. Redirection is defined as assigning or directing something to a new or different place or purpose. As you recognize adjustments you need to make, you will need to redirect some areas of your life.
Imagine you are driving a car, and you realize you are heading in the wrong direction. You are driving east but should be heading west. It is not enough to recognize you are going in the wrong direction. It is not enough to just slow down. And it is not enough to stop the car. You must turn the car around and point it in a different direction. That’s the shift redirection calls for. It is unleashing your will on an area of life and creating a new compass setting.
Introspection + Redirection is only part of the formula. Once you’ve pointed the car in the right direction, you must put your foot on the gas pedal and move. That’s action. Action is the process of actually doing something. You have come to the realization that things aren’t right and decide on a new direction—now you need to take specific actions that will get you there.
Patiently working the Traction Formula will result in the needed traction to move you down the road toward renewal.
Working the formula and becoming unstuck is great, but staying unstuck is the goal. I took the following three concrete steps to regain traction in my life. I’m convinced they will help you stay engaged and unstuck, too:
Define. The first thing I had to do was define what I wanted. This was a process that started with paying attention to who I am. I asked myself defining questions like “Where is the energy?” “Where is the effectiveness?” “What is the need I can meet?” and “Where is the affirmation?” These questions all helped me identify my preferred future. These sacred questions can help you gain clarity about where you are and where you need to redirect.
Align. The next thing I did was line my life up with what I had defined. I remind myself often, “My direction always determines my destination.” And so does yours. Every time I took a baby step, I found myself closer to where I wanted to be.
Like me, you must align your actions with your target. If you’re not willing to do whatever it takes to walk toward your dream, you likely have a lack of passion, which probably means you are focusing on the wrong target. I knew I had discovered my dream because my defining questions were answered. I was effective, energized, and able to meet a need, and people kept encouraging (and even paying) me.
Refine. Step three is to keep refining. For me, this included narrowing my focus, and more importantly, working on myself. As the process unfolded, I kept making adjustments. The challenge was that it required massive amounts of time, energy, thinking, questioning, and failing.
A fully engaged life is yours for the taking. If you will inspect your inner life often, redirect as needed, and live with a bias for action, you will be on your way to traction.
It’s time for you to live unstuck!
“Vision without traction is merely hallucination.”
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Unstuck is written by Randy Gravitt