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The Art of Getting Unstuck

It’s all too easy for your personal or professional life to slowly turn into something you feel stuck in. But no matter your circumstances, there’s always a way to break out of those mental and physical routines and start moving in the right direction.

Here are a few small changes you can make to your everyday mindset and habits to find the meaningful change you’ve been looking for.

Set small goals

Making any kind of significant change in your life can feel hard, but that’s especially the case when your goal is far too large to tackle in one step. Instead of saying “I want to write a novel” or “I’d like to get into gardening,” break those big, indefinite objectives into a series of smaller, more achievable tasks. “Write for 30 minutes after breakfast” or “Weed the back corner of the garden” are clear and actionable, and checking them off your list will feel satisfying and create just enough forward momentum to keep going.

Get moving

It’s easy to get stuck in your head with your dreams, worries, and other thoughts swirling around together. Physical activity is a good way to break through any psychological rut and clear out those mental cobwebs with some fresh air. Exercise of any kind—walking, running, cycling, weightlifting, even housework—will boost your mood and energy levels while also getting your mind off whatever was weighing on you. Try a new sport or fitness class to make it more interesting and get the added benefits of socializing.

Try something new

Keith Goode, Academic Advisor at Harper College, is a Harper alum who didn’t have a major in mind when he started school. But as he started taking general education classes, he discovered some things he liked that gave him better direction. “Sometimes it’s good to just decide to make the move and try something new even if you don’t have it all figured out yet,” says Goode. “Whatever it is, can I try to commit to something? Even if it’s once a week for a class, maybe exercise, a painting course, whatever it may be.” How that looks in your life will depend on several factors, but what’s most important is trying things that might be out of your comfort zone.

Read widely

Reading is one area where trying something new is relatively easy. Reading different kinds of books, graphic novels, articles, or blogs on topics outside your usual interests or academic assignments can spark your creativity, broaden your worldview, and be just plain fun. Whether it’s on paper, an ebook, or audiobook, reading can transport you anywhere. One quick (and free) tip: stop by your local library and browse the New Books shelf to see what catches your eye.

Be comfortable asking for help

It’s hard to ask for help, especially when you’re feeling stuck or hopeless about your current situation. For students specifically, there are people ready and willing to assist you. “I recommend to students that they use the variety of resources available to them, from peer counseling to your academic advisor to the faculty that you’ll work with,” says Goode. “Those are all opportunities to get inspired and to learn more about the job market you might be interested in.” Whether for optimizing your resume, how to interview well, or where to find jobs, don’t be afraid to use the tools and people available to you.

Start writing

Keeping a journal to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and goals is a low-cost but high-impact routine you can establish within your daily life. Writing about whatever is going on in your life and mind can help clarify your thoughts and identify areas for change. It will also serve as a powerful reminder of what you’ve been able to work through in your life and work over time.

Last Updated: 4/18/24