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How to Move Forward, Even When You Think You Can't

Updated on October 10, 2016
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Sadie Holloway is a workshop facilitator who teaches interpersonal communication skills to help people strengthen their relationships.

Almost everyone will experience a setback in life that makes moving forward feel like an impossible feat. Learn about the little things you can do to start taking small step towards a joyful recovery.

"The only way out is through."
"The only way out is through."

The first step to getting out of a rut is to be honest with yourself and figure out what is holding you back.

  • Is it negative people in your life?
  • Are you unsure of what you want to do with your life?
  • Do you feel like you don't have the support you need from other people in order to get past your current challenges?

Whatever your obstacles are, remember that there are ways to move forward, even if that means going sideways for awhile, just to get around the obstacles. And if you can’t move forward, you can learn to accept the here and now, just as it is.

Here are some simple strategies to help you uncover what it is that is holding you back from reaching your goals.

Do an inventory of what is right in your life. Then figure out what you have that you want more of. Don’t spend time dwelling on what you don’t have, and spend your energy tending to the things that you do have. For example, if one of your goals is to have a more dynamic social life, start with the friends you do have. Find ways to make your social interactions with them more fun and engaging. Nurture your existing friendships and notice how rich and satisfying your social network already is.

Feeling lost? Not sure which direction you should be heading in? Focus on your goals and you will find your way.
Feeling lost? Not sure which direction you should be heading in? Focus on your goals and you will find your way.

Understand the difference between setting abstract and concrete goals. Abstract goals are things that are hard to measure precisely. For instance, if you say you want to be richer, you are stating a loose and wishy-washy goal. If you don’t know exactly what you mean when you say you want to be richer, it will take longer to map out a plan to get there. However, if you state your goal in more specific terms, your path will become clearer. “I want to earn $200.00 more per month in sales commissions than I am currently earning,” is an example of a concrete goal. It is much easier to break down your goal of earning $200.00 more per month into bite-sized, manageable tasks.

Take things one step at a time when you feel overwhelmed.
Take things one step at a time when you feel overwhelmed.

Be open to learning about yourself. Think of the things that are bothering you right now as lessons from the Universe, or the Creator, or God, or your Higher Power. Imagine that everything that is happening to you is nothing more than a lesson to be learned. If you find it difficult to deal with a certain person, ask yourself what lesson you are meant to be learning from this person. Are you meant to learn how to communicate more clearly? Should you learn to be more patient? Will learning how to listen first and speak second improve your relationships? (Hint: the answer is yes.) You never know, perhaps the challenges that you're facing right now—stress at work, marital tension, money worries— are moving you in a prosperous direction.

Surround yourself with happy, generous and successful people. Who do you admire? Which of your friends, co-workers or family members radiates the confidence and happiness that you want to have in your life? Make a list of these people and the qualities about them that you appreciate. Focus on how they are in the world, not who they are in the world. In other words, don’t focus on their social status or wealth or the string of letters and abbreviations tagging along behind their name. Instead, focus on how these people you admire interact with the world. Are they kind and generous? Do they laugh often? Do they eat well and honor their own bodies? In your eyes, why are they successful?

If you can’t find any successful people to hang out with, spend time imagining yourself having an intimate, one-to-one conversation with a famous or successful person you admire. If you aspire to be like a famous writer (living or deceased), imagine having tea with that person and talking to them on an equal basis. What would you ask them about their life? What would you imagine their answers about success would be? (By imagining their answers to your questions about success, you will be tapping into the answers you already have within you!)

Spending time with or thinking about people who embody the attitudes, values and habits you admire will attract positivity toward you and edge negativity and doubt out of your life. When you make room in your life for positive people and positive thoughts, you kick negativity and toxic people to the curb, without even trying. There simply is no room for them in your life anymore!

Acknowledge your privileges and personal advantages. Don’t take the blessings in your life for granted. Put them to work for you and don’t be afraid of calling on your resources and connections, even if it feels weird at first. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. You'll be pleasantly surprised by how many people want to see you succeed and be happy!

Be gentle with yourself when you are feeling stuck and unsure of where you want to go in life.
Be gentle with yourself when you are feeling stuck and unsure of where you want to go in life.

Don’t judge yourself. Just observe what is going on in your life right now without trying to fix it. Put aside your need to constantly identify, judge and then fix the so-called problems in your life. Instead, try to notice your thoughts and feelings with a sense of wonder and curiosity. “Hmm, I notice that when I drive to work each morning I tend to have imaginary conversations in my head about things I think are going to go wrong that day. That’s interesting. I never noticed how often I do that.” When you can listen to your thoughts without first judging them, you will have a clearer perspective on your life and how your own actions and attitudes are holding you back from moving forward.

© 2013 Sadie Holloway

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