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Feeling Stuck? 8 Steps to Find Your Next Step

Steps Forward in Sand

We can only make educated guesses about outcomes. Despite copious amounts of research, planning and strategic analysis, the future has infinite possibilities. So how does one make a clear decision when outcomes are unknown?

The path to truth is intuition. We trust our gut, which speaks to us in physical sensations, metaphors and a sense of knowing to do. This sometimes runs contradictory to our logical mind’s analysis.

Trusting one’s intuition can be challenging. We second-guess urges and inklings with all the rules we try to follow in our mind. This can leave us in analysis-paralysis.

When my clients find themselves stuck and unable to move forward, it’s usually because their mind and gut are at odds. Sometimes the mind tells them there’s so much to get done, or that a goal is too big, that it blocks taking the one next step their intuition knows to take. Other times, their beliefs about what they should be doing is telling them the opposite of what their gut says to do.

During coaching sessions, we use tools to help separate their limiting beliefs from their intuition. When a client becomes still and tunes in to that part of them that knows, there is always an answer and a next step to take. The outcome doesn’t have to be clear to know what to do.

One of my friends is a clairvoyant astrologist. She has learned to quiet her mind and simply allow whatever comes up to come out of her mouth – no filter, no pausing, no challenging. What she sees is what you get. To the extent that she often forgets what she has said because it is so fluid and in flow. If she stops to think about it, she cuts the connection. Too many cut connections and she could completely block her gift. So she just goes with it, trusting it absolutely.

Our gut works the same way. The more frequently we tune in to it and follow it without question, the stronger that skill grows. The more we trust it, the more intuition we are given. We build it like a muscle until it becomes our natural response.

One way to bypass over-analysis stuck-ness and tune into our intuition is by connecting with the creative, visual part of our brain. We do this by using our challenge as a metaphor. I invite you to practice the following with a particular obstacle you’re stuck in a decision about. Keep your eyes closed throughout steps 1 through 5 of this process and observe this visualization play out.

  1. With your eyes closed, take three, slow, deep inhales and exhales.
  2. Ask yourself: If this particular challenge were a person, place, animal or object, what would it be? (Go with whatever first pops in your mind, even if it’s silly and especially if it doesn’t make sense. Just go with it.)
  3. Notice and describe this symbol with as much detail as possible and call upon all of your senses to do so. Explore it in depth…size, weight, location, where you are in relation to it, what you see, hear, taste, touch, smell. Go deep and be curious.
  4. Ask yourself: What do I want to happen in this situation I’m visualizing? How can that be acheived?
  5. Visualize that happening and notice the details of it playing out.
  6. Open your eyes.
  7. Look at this visualization metaphorically. What does your solution (what you wanted to happen) represent in regard to your original challenge?
  8. What next step do you want to take?

I’d love to hear about your experience with this visualization exercise. Please leave a comment and let me know! (And if you found it too challenging to do on yourself, I invite you to schedule a session with me and we can explore it together.)

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5 Lessons for Trusting Gut from a Recovering Rule Follower

Intuition Guiding Meerkat

Are you a rule follower that becomes frustrated when people break them? When things don’t go according to plan, does it cause anxiety? If reality doesn’t match expectations, do you get annoyed? If so, then read on!

I’m an organized planner by nature. I find comfort in structure and I love when there are rules and formalized processes so that I have a box to work within and a path to follow. It gives me a sense of stability. (Sound familiar?)

Spoiler alert: Life and people don’t operate this way.

When I get caught in the minutia of the plan, the way things are supposed to go – and more often they don’t – I have become frustrated and confused. I usually attempt to right the course and get back on track. And in my corporate career, I was paid very well for this skill. My motto was: “Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.”

I once heard a coworker say, “Disappointment is expectations minus reality.” His point was to set expectations reasonably. My desire was to elevate reality and fill the delta. That meant I pushed my employees hard and myself even harder because heaven forbid that my boss could ever be disappointed in the results.

Coaching has been an interesting experiment in allowing myself to follow intuition instead of a process. Yes, the tools we’re taught have a specific formula that we practice past the point of competency into habit. I’ve noticed something interesting happening now that I have engrained these tools.

I’ve started to play with them. I’ve given myself permission to veer outside of the process. I follow that little voice inside that says, “probe here…ask this…” Pre-coaching, I’d call that “winging it.” Something I would never have attempted for fear of failure.

You know what? It works. Even better than following the process.

Recently I was given an assignment to provide feedback to a coaching peer on a particular pre-recorded session (with permission from the client). In my mind, the rule was to identify where the coach was following the process and where she strayed. Then, we were both asked to assess that feedback with six of our peers listening in. (No pressure!)

She had accepted all of it as-is. My internal monologue reaction was, “Push back. Tell me where I’m wrong.” When I probed a bit as to why, she revealed a limiting belief that perked my ears. With her permission, our feedback exchange morphed into doing The Work ™.

In that moment, the formal series of questions fell away and I felt into what wanted to be asked next. I let my intuition guide each step as we took it. Was it exactly how we were taught? Partly. Was it messy? Sometimes. Did she find insights? Yes.

I broke the rules twice. First when I veered off expectations given by our instructor to discuss feedback about feedback. Second when I remixed The Work ™. And it was fine! More than fine. Not only did the sky not fall, but it also achieved the intention for which we set out to accomplish.

If I may impart any lessons from this experience to you, it would be this:

  1. Rules are intended to be a general guide and there are always exceptions.
  2. Processes help create habits, but if followed too rigidly, they can inhibit innovation and growth.
  3. Trust your intuition. You know what to do.
  4. Let your intention be the cornerstone for action.
  5. At the end of the task or project, did it work?