“Begin somewhere; you cannot build a reputation on what you intend to do.” – Liz Smith

It happens to all of us, and often at the most inopportune times.

We know that we have work to do – a job to complete, a new project to launch, some loose ends to tie up – but we just feel stuck in place. As if everything that we try doesn’t work.

We take two steps forward and one or more steps back. Or we start something and simply stop.

Or, worse yet, we don’t even know where to start.

Why does this happen?

There are many answers. One is that we get distracted. Another is that we have a loose sense of what needs to happen, but can’t figure out the specific steps to get there. Sometimes, we lose confidence in our ability to get the job done. Or, we simply don’t want it bad enough. (Of course, there are many other reasons, but these will suffice for now.)

Whatever the reason, getting stuck is a hopeless feeling. If not properly addressed, it can start to compound over time, leading to us falling farther behind and lose the trust of those around us or, worse yet, the ones that we’re charged to lead.

So, what can we do when we feel stuck, yet want to push through and keep moving forward?

  1. Ignore, or, better yet, drive back your inner critic – Often, we can be our own worst enemies. We can do the work, but we talk ourselves into thinking that we can’t. When this happens, be willing to push back and engage in some positive self-talk. Examples include:
    1. “You CAN do this! That’s why they promoted you.”
    2. “You’ve been in situations like this before and have always come through.”
    3. “Just ask someone who was in a similar situation how they handled it.”
  2. Envision yourself breaking through – Ask yourself this: Suppose that overnight, while you are asleep, a miracle occurs and you are no longer stuck. Instead, you have achieved your goal and then some! When you wake up in the morning, everything is exactly how you want it. What do you notice is different? What is the first thing you see?
  3. Learn to think differently – Too often, getting stuck is simply the result of continuing to think the same way about a problem or task as we have always done. Albert Einstein is attributed as saying: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.” Brainstorm alternative approaches, ideally with others, and see what you can come up with.
  4. Set clear, actionable goals – For goals to be effective in moving us forward, they need to be expressed in actionable terms that will focus us on the steps that will be needed to meet our goals and help us more easily measure progress. Click here for more about goals and goal setting.
  5. Share them with others, including deadlines – Few things motivate us more than knowing that someone will be checking in on our progress, especially when we have made our goals public knowledge. Ensure accountability by setting deadlines and having others check in on your progress.
  6. Set decision limits – Avoid the paralyzing effect of “decision quicksand” or “paralysis by analysis.” Our brains are poorly equipped to consider dozens of data points while making up our minds. When we have too many options to consider, two things – neither of them optimal – tend to happen.  We either punt or become paralyzed. One way to handle this is to give yourself a time-limit in which to make a decision. Give yourself permission to make a decision without having every single piece of information or data. Focus on a few options that are truly significant.


Rabbi Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, is an executive coach and President of Impactful Coaching and Consulting. He can be reached at 212.470.6139 or at nhoff@impactfulcoaching.com. Order his new leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss”, on Amazon or at BecomingtheNewBoss.com/order.


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