Moss growing on a stone.

For Life & Leadership: If You’re Stuck, Get Moving

This is Part 2 of a four-part series. (Read Part 1 here.) All four parts were originally delivered as one talk at HYPE in Steamboat Springs and Winter Park, CO, on March 6 and 7, 2019. HYPE is an annual event, TED-talk-style, that “brings inspirational thought leaders” to the area. (I hope I lived up to the “inspirational” billing!) For reasons that will become clear if you read all four parts in the series, my talk was entitled The Way Forward: Rolling Stones and Sailboats.

The theme for HYPE 2019 was growth. My aim was to give the attendees four navigational aids to find “the way forward” through four difficult growth points in life. These navigational aids have helped me find the way forward, and I hope they help you, too.

Have you ever felt stuck in life? Genuinely stuck–genuinely felt at a loss as to how to get unstuck? I felt really stuck about eight years ago. My wife saw it before I did, and she began to gently point it out to me. (It’s not the main point of this post, but it’s a point worth making, nonetheless: When someone close to you, who you trust and who means you well, begins to point out something in your life, PAY ATTENTION. Even if you don’t see it yet, even if it seems far-fetched, PAY ATTENTION. There’s probably something important for you to know in what they’re pointing out. Today, if my wife points something out, I listen!) “You’re not happy at work,” she pointed out, “and you’re not happy in a lot of other ways, too.” At first, I dismissed her observations and minimized my stuckness. “I need to hang in there. It’ll get better. I don’t want to quit or give up.”

Eventually, though, the stuckness was too painful to ignore. For me, “pain” was an accurate description of what the stuckness felt like psychologically. I didn’t know how to get unstuck, but I did know that staying where I was was no longer acceptable or tolerable. So, I did the only thing that came to mind to do. I called a consultant who had administered a career-guidance assessment for me a number of years earlier to get a refresher on the results.* That phone call led to me receiving coaching from her husband–my first experience with the transformational power of a coaching partnership. Over the next couple of years, that coaching partnership not only significantly amplified my contribution at work; it also provided the structure within which my wife and I made the decision to move to Colorado and I decided to transition professionally. I couldn’t have foreseen all of the events that would unfold from that first small step of picking up the phone. Part of my hangup, actually, had been wanting to be able to see how everything would unfold before I took the first step. I was demanding something of life that life simply doesn’t provide us: certainty.

The momentum generated by that first step led my wife and I to embrace the old proverb, “A rolling stone gathers no moss,” as a principle for life. Until I took that first step, I was the proverbial moss-encrusted, grass-entombed stone in the middle of a proverbial field–hoping that somehow the scenery around me would magically be transformed and I would find myself in a new, more satisfying field. In hindsight, I see the irrationality of that demand, that expectation; back then, though, I was in the grips of it and miserable.

The one small nudge that the phone call provided was sufficient to get my stone rolling just a little bit, though–just enough. As it rolled, I began to think new thoughts, have new conversations, see new possibilities, meet new people. The moss fell off, I rolled free of the entangling grass, and I rolled out of that field and into new ones.

So, if you’re stuck, get moving! Movement is the antidote to stuckness. Not more thinking. Not more analyzing. Not more list-making. Not more “future-tripping” (a client turned me on to this concept–it’s a thing, check it out on “the Google.”) At first, moving can be almost anything that’s not simply staying stuck in the same physical spot. If you’re sitting on the couch feeling stuck, get up, go to the kitchen and get some water. Go for a walk. Go for a drive. But whatever you do, don’t do nothing. And, ideally, invite someone along. Call a friend. Get a coach. Their support, partnership, and perspective are invaluable fuel to keep the stone rolling.

Getting moving when we’re stuck isn’t the whole story, of course. There’s much that comes after that. But it is the FIRST step. As another old proverb goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”

Get rolling!

*The assessment is called the Natural Ability Battery. It’s a unique tool that sheds light on the abilities that we were born with. It has been a huge help to me and countless others in their personal and professional journeys. Contact me to learn more.