Getting Unstuck

Bill Abbate

What do you do when you find yourself in a situation where you feel stuck? You know there’s something more, something better “out there” somewhere, but you have no idea what it is or how to get it. There is one necessary step you must take to resolve such a dilemma.

The answer

If you want to find the answer to anything you will ever face, start by asking the right question. How do you do that, and where can you begin? Work on your questioning skills.

You can significantly improve your ability to ask better questions with a little effort. All it takes is practice, curiosity, and maintaining the proper disposition.

You have spent your entire life asking questions, but when you ask weak questions, you get weak results. Anyone can ask better, more powerful questions by learning some basics. The more powerful your questions, the more you benefit from them. Yet, you can only receive this benefit when you commit to finding the answer, whether you like the answer or not.

When you are stuck, a good question and the right answer with action will get you unstuck. Before exploring how to get unstuck, let’s look at two practical examples of asking the right questions in the right frame of mind.

Example — The right questions (curiosity)

Some years ago, I had the responsibility of turning a company around. Since the company was losing a great deal of money, my first questions came from genuine curiosity and need. They were simple yet powerful. By the way, you will find that the most powerful questions are usually short and open-ended.

I asked, “What do I need to know?” followed with, “What actions do we need to take ASAP?”They led us on a search to understand where the company was, how it got there, what was currently happening, and how we could create an effective path toward change. Change, in this case, meant stopping the loss of $1.5 million per month!

Those initial queries spawned many other questions during my investigation, which led to a deeper and more thorough understanding of the root issues. As we asked and answered many powerful questions, we made better decisions, leading to better and faster results.

We quickly mapped out the actions needed to turn the company around, although it was not overnight. The team put forth tremendous effort and did a fantastic job, as evidenced by the results we received.

While the two questions we started with may sound simple, they were just what we needed.

You would be amazed how often a leader will dive in when turning a company around, creating more havoc than progress. It’s one thing to focus on stopping the bleeding, yet quite another to change direction while eliminating losses and producing better results.

Example — The right natural disposition (attitude)

Think about anything you are interested in, such as a hobby. I love photography, and I’ve learned a great deal about cameras, lenses, and light because of my passion for taking pictures.

There is much to learn with so many new technologies and all that is happening in photography. It is a lifelong learning experience for many of us, which I enjoy immensely. There’s always some innovation in equipment or technique to spur interest. The point here is it’s hard to get stuck for long if you yearn to continue learning.

What captures your interest can keep you asking questions, and enjoy doing so. All it takes is the right attitude. The same thing applies to your job.

You can only grow when you develop enough curiosity to ask more questions and learn more about what you do, the industry, how to improve your skills, etc. Curiosity can help you develop and maintain a positive attitude, changing your life and the lives of those around you.

The question

“You are not stuck where you are unless youdecideto be.” Wayne Dyer (1940–2015)

You may have noticed one question leads to another, which leads to more questions. A good question does that, especially if it’s about something that intrigues you. A powerful question will open you to new thoughts and understanding, unearthing more to explore.

Your new thoughts and greater understanding will lead to even more queries, continuing the cycle. Notice the see-think cycle in the middle of the following graphic. Questions form within this see-think cycle. Your curiosity and disposition (attitude) will determine the strength of your questions, leading you to get unstuck and create what you want.
Photo byBy Author

Powerful questions are crucial to expanding your knowledge. As you enhance your internal knowledge, you See opportunities you might have otherwise missed. You can then Think thoughtfully to make better choices, Act on them, and Reap results that would not have happened otherwise.

This is the foundation of the S.T.A.R. Approach to life in my book, Uncommon Sense. In a nutshell, it is Seeing in new ways, Thinking new thoughts, taking new Actions, and Reaping new results.

Let’s apply the simple technique of the S.T.A.R. Approach to getting unstuck.

Name It (See)

Define where you’re stuck using as few words as possible. If you can do it with one word, fantastic.

Some examples could be your — work, job, school, relationship, finances, spiritual growth, personal growth, finishing your book, etc.

Now, let’s get specific. Name the exact sticking point. It could be your position, pay, location, company, performance, too much stress, boredom, travel, the boss being downright mean/bad/nasty, or anything else. Write the answer on a clean sheet of paper in as few words as possible.

Frame It (Think)

Once named, you must become seriously curious about why you’re stuck. Now write short, concise answers (bullet points work well) for each of the following questions:

  • What is currently happening to make me feel stuck?
  • How did I get here?
  • What responsibility do I have for being here?
  • What is my attitude?
  • What am I missing?
  • What else?

Claim It (Act)

With answers to the above questions, you can move what is happening internally to take external action, starting the creation process (see S.T.A.R. drawing.) Internally, your disposition or attitude is critical, as it will propel you externally into action.

Now answer the following questions:

  • What do I want? (list as many answers as possible to this and each of the following questions.)
  • What MUST I have?
  • What does the opposite of being stuck look like?
  • What CAN I do?
  • What are my next steps?
  • What is one thing I can do right now?
  • What is one thing I can do tomorrow?
  • What is one thing I can do this week, next week, this month, next month, this quarter, next quarter, this year, next year? (exhaust this question as fully as you can.)
  • How can I hold myself accountable for making this happen?

Receive It (Reap)

As you take each action, results will undoubtedly follow. If you are thoughtful and diligent, you can make it happen and not just get unstuck but create something far better! Don’t forget to celebrate each success. Remember, what you appreciate appreciates!

Final thoughts

“If you don’t like who you are and where you are, don’t worry about it because you’re not stuck [with] either…

You can grow. You can change. You can be more… ”Zig Ziglar (1926–2012)

Following the simple process outlined above, you can get unstuck from practically anything. More importantly, imagine what will happen on the other side!

Don’t forget the two essentials to asking good questions — curiosity and attitude. Without these as the driving force, even the best questions may fall short of getting you unstuck and creating something new and better for your life.

I challenge you to do the work. Get unstuck. Begin creating what you want in your life! You deserve it!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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