What to do when you're NOT stuck
Get from a good place to a great place
Art © Jael Bendt
When life is good, that’s when most opportunities are missed.
Thanks for reading The Art of Transformation! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Because if you have a life you like, opportunities start to look like risks.
The risks of losing the comfort you’ve worked hard to create.
That comfort is actually an obstacle to an even brighter future.
"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."
- Albert Einstein
PROBLEM : THE COMFORT LOOP
You don’t FEEL stuck.
With clients who are not feeling stuck, when we create a Vision for their future, something more deeply meaningful to them, this is a common conversation:
Me: Ok. We’ve created a NEW Vision and Purpose for your life/career/project. How might you get there? What is step one?
Coachee: Well I’m doing X, Y, and Z already.
Me: Ok, and you say you want more of _________, what could you do to get that that’s different?
Coachee: Well I started doing A, B, and C I that seems good so I'll keep doing that.
On paper, this person is in a good place, in action!
Here’s the problem:
Those actions that you’ve already been doing is how you got to where you are.
As Peter Shankman says in his book “Faster Than Normal,”
“If you want to live a life you haven’t lived you have to do things you haven’t done.”
- Peter Shankman, Faster Than Normal
Doing things you are already doing is comfortable.
And comfort is the nemesis of true growth.
Your working process might get you to a place, it won't get you past that place.
WHAT TO DO : FORGET EVERYTHING YOU KNOW
I share an in depth step-by-step below, but it comes down to this.
Put down familiar tools
Try new ones
If you feel like you're in a good place and slightly stagnated there, try something new, make it small, evaluate, and learn. Make your next action a creative one, make it a little out of your comfort zone, maybe even make it something you are sure won't work just to jump start your creativity.
Example: Jo the artist
I’ve been an art educator, mentor, and coach for well over a decade and have had many students break out of the comfort loop. Take Jo for example (not their real name).
Jo was trying to master their figure drawing skills. Jo had good basic skills, and their drawings looked like people. Still, there’s always room for growth.
So, every week I would suggest that Jo to try a different approach to the drawing, which would allow them to discover new processes for themselves. Jo did not do this.
Every week Jo would come in having started and completed the drawing in the same way. Same medium, starting the same way, even the same time every day (which was late when they were tired). Their results were fine, but not great.
They just weren’t getting past that place, from good to great.
“Fine” was comfortable, and trying a new way risked the comfort of a predictable result.
One week, I myself took a new approach, and moved from suggesting to assigning.
I assigned homework, and told Jo that for that week, they could not do ANY of the things they knew how to do. Put their usual materials in a locked cabinet and ignore it for one, or two weeks. I told them they couldn’t use the same tools, had to work at a different time, and if they started doing things the same way they had to stop and start over.
So Jo picked up watercolor, a notoriously difficult medium to control, and started working earlier in the day.
Within two weeks Jo had a breakthrough and was creating at a completely new level.
Here’s the fascinating thing: even when Jo went back to their more comfortable tools and schedule, they started to use them in new ways and began to create more refined work.
WHAT MIGHT GET IN YOUR WAY
Like with Jo, going off your beaten path can feel like giving up.
Successful people are quitters.
They know when to let go of things.
It's not a surrender, it's not quitting (despite my quote above).
What might happen if you use the tools below?
If you use the tools below, you will have one of three outcomes
The new action/method isn’t great for you and you'll have a new-found commitment to your old path with excitement and motivation.
You will find something new that you love or you want to keep and add to your tool kit.
You may find bits and pieces of each of these new methods you’re trying out to integrate and incorporate them into your current working processes.
In my art teaching I ask students to make thumbnails for ideas for their next painting, small sketches often incomprehensible to anyone but their creator. Often when we do this we fall in love with our first idea. I still ask my students to draw 50 MORE thumbnails after that moment. If they find something better near the end, great. If they STILL love their first idea, also great, because now they have the certainty of that decision and won't lose time second guessing later. Further, they have 49 things they don’t like and won’t let those sneak in later.
I have a client who organizes retreats and was feeling stuck about how they participate, their relationship to the people there, and overall felt like the experience was more predictable than inspiring. We worked on a new mindset, perspective, and approach. Rather than simply quietly hope for change, we formed a plan to fully stand in their power and share their vision. This was uncomfortable, and also doable, which is the perfect space to play if you're seeking growth.
This may seem like a small action, but it was a sea-change for their experience. They are now bringing this unapologetically authentic mindset to their life, career, and relationships with great results. Growth.
INTEGRATION AND LEARNING EXAMPLE
I run an online art gallery and we wanted to increase sales opportunities for our artists. Even though we have a custom-built fully functioning commerce site (comfortable), we decided to work with a third party portfolio and sales site (uncomfortable). We did that for maybe a year, doing all the things we were supposed to do to win the algorithm and reach new audiences. It didn't work. We were spending more and not increasing sales. We eventually decided to leave the service.
However, we learned that we could sell a new kind of work and saw if we did that on our site we would spend less and be able to support our artists more.
While the third party app didn't work for us, we kept our current working system open. So we were able to integrate pieces from the experiment to try again in a way that was a success.
TOOL : QUIT TO CONTINUE
Below are the steps to get unstuck when you're doing fine.
This tool is one I’ve used for well over a decade to stimulate creativity around any stuck place.
The Quick Version:
Write down what you want
Example: More income, more clients, more time
Pick two things you're doing to pause for two weeks
This might be a thing that is "good," like yoga or social media outreach, but it might also not be getting you where you want to go. This is one you have to feel into, and trust your gut if something isn’t 100% serving you.
And pick one or two things you will do instead
Continuing the example above, you might replace yoga with running or meditation, social media with journaling, reaching out to experts for coffee/zoom calls to share ideas and ask advice.
WANT A STEP BY STEP?
I created a simple form that goes more in depth on each of these steps.
IMPORTANT: HOW TO ASSESS RESULTS
Evaluate your current state.
How stuck do you feel right now around this focus area?
In two weeks, evaluate again and assess the change.
Are you happier, more fulfilled?
Do you have more time or energy?
What other insights have you had?
Make a choice:
Do you want to keep the current changes,
or keep parts and scrap others?
There is one other option for how this goes. If everything truly is well enough in hand, then you're not dreaming big enough. If you need Coaching support around dreaming bigger, he