Getting Unstuck: Living with Purpose

By: Jen McWaters, Psy.D. | June 9, 2017

Are you stuck in a place you do not want to be?  Are you disheartened to find a great distance between who you are and the person you would like to be?  Are you stuck in old patterns, habits, or autopilot behaviors?  Do you experience thoughts that discourage change or feelings that make it seem impossible to get there?  Are you waiting for your circumstances to change to get unstuck and become that ideal person?

Consider what kind of life you would live if you acted in a way that was consistent with what was important to you (your values), instead of acting on what your thoughts, feelings, or urges tell you to do. If this sounds difficult to do, it is, but not impossible.

Think of a time when you accomplished something that was really hard for you to do.  How did you cope with the discomfort you experienced as you worked toward that goal? Likely, there was a moment where you considered bailing out, but you persevered because it was something important to you.

Creating a life filled with meaning is about choosing to move toward what is important to you.  Examples include such things as establishing close relationships, spirituality, being creative, generosity, seeking knowledge.  A meaningful life is one that is consistent with your values. People who do this often describe experiencing a sense of purpose, peace, and contentment. If you are in a place of “stuckness,” here are some ideas for moving out of that mire:

Steps toward getting unstuck:

  • Identify your values in various domains such as career, relationships, spirituality, health, well-being, personal growth, community, parenting. Ask yourself: What do I want to stand for or be about in each of these areas?
  • Pick one domain to start. Identify to what degree are you being the person you want to be in that area. For example, if you value health and well-being, are you engaging in behaviors that are consistent with those values such as exercise and balanced nutrition?
  • If there is a domain in which you identify that your behaviors are at odds with your values, list what feelings, thoughts, urges, sensations, or memories are getting in the way. For example, when you consider exercising do feelings of embarrassment or urges to avoid pop up?
  • List the reasons why each value is important to you. For example, if taking care of your health is important so that you can be there for your loved ones, consider what is at stake if you do not attend to this value.
  • Develop an action plan to begin engaging in behaviors that are consistent with your values. Break it down into small, manageable goals. Make them S.M.A.R.T. goals, i.e., Specific, Manageable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.
  • While living your values with the appropriate behaviors, you may be deterred from moving forward by difficult thoughts, feelings, and urges. When this happens, remind yourself about why this value matters to you. Recognize that you are still capable of doing what is important to you, even while having these difficulties.
  • Consider finding a therapist, life coach, or mentor for additional support and guidance through this process. Trained professionals can provide tools for overcoming barriers that get in the way.

Image: happy on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

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