The Pain of Being Stuck: Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Figure Out What To Do With Your Life

The pain of being stuck is real. Yet, some suggest you deny it. Perhaps even you?

woman on bed covering her face because of the pain of being stuck
Photo by Anthony Tran

Pain is too strong a word.”

This is the feedback I received on a very early draft of the introduction of what is now my e-booklet, The Lighthouse Method: How Busy, Overloaded Moms Can Get Unstuck and Figure Out What To Do With Their Lives*

In this writing workshop, we took turns reviewing one another’s work.

Just moments before receiving this feedback, I was on cloud nine, glowing because several classmates said they had actually benefited from reading my draft. They said The Lighthouse Method had motivated them to write that week.

But that glow dimmed when a few of my classmates said my description of the pain busy women feel when stuck seemed exaggerated.

“What you’re describing here is not pain but discomfort,” one classmate stated.

They argued that the pain my clients felt couldn’t compare to physical pain people experience from, say, an amputation of a limb or a serious illness, or to the sort of emotional trauma caused by an abusive parent or the loss of a loved one.

These classmates had a valid point.

They were also all men.

Don’t let others invalidate your pain

Yes, the causes and degrees of pain vary widely. But, each woman’s pain is the only pain that she experiences.

You are the only one who feels your pain.

So, comparisons of pain are useless.

What happens when you are stuck

Whatever is bothering or hurting you is where your attention will turn. The longer it remains your focus, the more it can disorient you and erode your confidence.

In the end, here is how I decided to describe the pain, or what I called “decision paralysis”:

This sort of “decision paralysis,” or being immobile for an extended time because you don’t know where you want to go, can be painful. Sometimes the pain is sharp, like when a stay-at-home mom is asked the dreaded question, “And what do you do?” Sometimes it’s the pangs of guilt felt by an employed mom who works long hours or whose work includes lots of travel.

Most of the time, however, being stuck causes a nagging, chronic ache that doesn’t go away. The pain or ache comes from longing to make a change but not knowing how to start, and the frustration of not being able to figure out how to get unstuck.

The Lighthouse Method*

The real problem of being stuck

But, decision paralysis has a greater cost. In addition to hurting you, the rest of us–your loved ones, along with the many people you don’t realize you impact–are not able to get the best out of you. You’re withholding your gifts and talents to the world.

Deep down inside you, you know you have so much to offer if you…

  • Had more time
  • Didn’t feel so depleted
  • Could figure out what it is or where to start

I’m not saying this to make you feel more guilty than I suspect you already are.

I hope to encourage you and to help you understand that getting unstuck isn’t as hard as you think it is.

How to overcome the pain of being stuck

As a coach, I’ve met too many women who feel this kind of discomfort or pain of being stuck. Working with them, however, has taught me invaluable lessons on how to alleviate it.

I got to witness their (often rapid) transformation and that’s what has inspired my little booklet*.

The Lighthouse Method is essentially a set of counterintuitive steps:

  • Lose the map. Stop analyzing, planning, and setting goals
  • Drop the “no pain, no gain” mentality
  • Take your eyes off the prize
  • Give up the notion that bigger is better
  • Embrace quitting

And I share real-life client stories to explain and illustrate these suggestions.

When you alleviate the pain by just starting to shift how you think and do small things, you can start feeling more confident. And, as you note your progress, you feel energized to do more.

You free up your talents and potential. And, it’s not an exaggeration for me to say that you can make the world a better place.

Please don’t delay.

How I can help

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An earlier version of this article first appeared in January 2015.

*Some of the links on this page are “affiliate links” where I receive a small commission from any purchases at no cost to you. A portion of these funds will be donated to organizations that support women and girls.