The other day, I found myself in a conversation at a social event with a smart, funny woman who I’ve known for several months. She was talking about how she has been unsatisfied in her job for years, but couldn’t figure out how to change careers. In the course of our conversation, she also mentioned that she was having difficulty in some of her personal relationships. The conversation, which included several other women, wound its way around to other topics, including a couple of bestselling personal development books, therapy and meditation.
It was at this point in the conversation that the first woman I mentioned rolled her eyes and said a polite version of something I’ve heard time and again: “I’d love it if that would work for me, but I can't help feeling like it's bullshit."
It got me to thinking: How often do we dismiss things - ideas, suggestions, solutions, even people - without really thinking about it? How many times have you found yourself thinking: "That won't work for me."
The woman who made the comment was obviously feeling less than happy with her lot in life and had been for a while. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard her talk about how miserable she’d been feeling. Yet, she was letting her doubt about whether something would be effective keep her from trying anything at all - and that, my friends is the definition of being STUCK (i.e. Stagnant, Tired, Unhappy, Claustrophobic and Kicking your own ass).
I completely understand her questioning of whether or not the suggestions were “bullshit”. I tend toward skepticism myself, and this kept me stuck in my life for years. I wasn’t going to try anything unless I had proof that it would work. I’m a researcher, I wanted hard evidence.
But I was missing the point entirely. The point was: What did I have to lose by trying some bullshit? I was already fairly miserable and I couldn’t figure out why. Eventually, I was able to get over myself enough to just try some things.
For example, when I first started trying to incorporate mindfulness meditation into my life, I did it with one eye on the clock, wondering when I could be finished and doubting that it was going to have any effect whatsoever. I found it almost unbearable to just sit there; it brought up all of the shit I was trying not to think about - and on top of that, according to the instructions, I wasn’t supposed to be thinking! But I did it a few times a week for a while and I did start to notice a difference in how I felt: I was calmer, I started sleeping better and I felt like my thinking was more clear. Did meditation get easier? Yes….sometimes. Other times, I still feel like I’m trapped in a cage that’s been lit on fire, but now that I've seen the effects, I do it anyway. If I'm having an off day, I stop and try again tomorrow.
The fact is that the only way to get unstuck in your life is to do something. Anything. Whatever it is you decide to try, whether it’s reading a book you’d normally roll your eyes at, finding a therapist or taking up yoga, chances are pretty damn good you’ll learn something - even if it’s only that whatever you’ve embarked on isn’t for you. Even in these cases, you're likely to take away something positive. Maybe it's a new friend or a recommendation for something else. Once you start moving forward, the universe has a way of putting what you need within your reach.
All you have to do is take the first step in some direction or other, without worrying so much about the next step. And the one after that. Forward, backward, sideways - either way, it beats the hell out of staying stuck at the same tired crossroads.