Imagine you set new goals to run three miles three times a week, get an extra hour of sleep each night, and meditate for 30 minutes in the morning and before bed. All amazing health and wellbeing goals right? Yes, these goals can lead to positive lifestyle changes. But what happens when you are trying to make these changes and things don’t go as planned? Even running a mile hurts your body and causes pain in your knees. You are unable to get in extra sleep because you have so much work to do at night. On top of that you have no time, energy, or patience to meditate twice a day.
You’ve hit a roadblock and that familiar feeling of being stuck creeps up. You feel unmotivated, overwhelmed, and stressed. You may even think you failed since this is not the first time you tried to make these changes.
Time for a reality check.
What causes us to feel stuck in the process of change? Especially when the goals we set seem to be “good” and even common. Maybe your friend has successfully accomplished all of them, and others may be posting about similar accomplishments on social media. What I have experienced personally is that being stuck comes from obstacles in our lives that can interfere with positive change. It is normal and we all experience them. It’s how we deal with the obstacles that influences the outcome. Sometimes we freeze and feel stuck and sometimes we may find the answers within ourselves to move forward. We all have this innate ability to do the latter.
Mindfulness and self-compassion practices can help us move through the state of being stuck. Exploring what being stuck means to you is key. You may “feel” stuck by noticing physical sensations in your body such as a clenched jaw or tightness in your chest. You may have thoughts such as “I can’t do this!” or “I will never feel better.” These thoughts will make you think you are stuck - but are you? Tara Brach, PhD, mindfulness teacher and author often says that we do not have to believe our negative thoughts as much as we do since they are not always based in fact.
When we recognize that we are stuck and allow it to be so, it gives us the space and freedom to investigate what is really going on at a deeper level. If we resist or run from obstacles and think being stuck is bad, we may remain stuck. When we pursue goals because we think we should (like running three miles with a sore knee) instead of setting goals based on what we want or need, it can feel like self-sabotage. Tara Brach's RAIN practice (Recognize-Allow-Investigate-Nurture) is my go-to mindfulness approach to help people move through obstacles. One of Tara's self-compassion meditations can be found here.
The N of RAIN emphasizes the importance of self-compassion and behavioral changes. If you are dealing with a lack of family support, then the opportunity could be to seek more help so you can carve out time to meet your meditation goal. If you have a strong inner critic that fuels negative self-talk, then you may begin to work on reframing your beliefs. If you are working until 11pm at night, then you may consider setting a boundary around your work at home schedule.
Mindfulness and self-compassion can give you new insights on how to create attainable goals in support of positive change. Being stuck will come and go since obstacles are a part of life. My hope is that as you move through obstacles mindfully and with self-compassion, you will experience more joy, peace, and balance in your life.
Debbie Zuckerman is a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach with a MA in Integrative Health and Well-Being Coaching from the University of Minnesota. She has an MBA and worked in patient and physician marketing in the medical device industry before making a career change to become a health and wellness coach.
Debbie works with people who seek coaching for a variety of reasons, such as to modify lifestyle habits, manage a chronic condition, strengthen stress management tools, find work-life balance, improve relationships, and challenge obstacles like negative self talk, burnout, and lack of motivation.
Debbie provides clients with a confidential, compassionate, and non-judgmental space to embrace opportunities for improved health and wellbeing, while addressing the obstacles that can get in the way. She uses evidence-based coaching tools, coupled with mindfulness and self-compassion practices, to help people align their values, strengths, and passions with empowering goals so they can find more balance and peace in their lives.
Debbie’s coaching philosophy is informed by numerous trainings, certifications, and education in coaching, yoga, mindfulness, and meditation, as well as by her personal practice with integrative therapies, former marketing career, and being a mom of three young adults.
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