It’s Time To Get Unstuck

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“I knew a girl so gloomy
She’d never laugh or sing
She wouldn’t listen to me
Now she’s a mean old thing.”

 – “Put on a Happy Face” (Bye Bye Birdie)

All the way back in 1963, it was Dick Van Dyke (still acting and going strong at 95) who sang “Put on a Happy Face.” I have always loved the song and the catchy lyrics. It says a lot to me about life and where getting stuck can lead.

“Emotional Agility” has become a pretty big deal these days; some call it resilience. We must answer for ourselves if we are emotionally agile and resilient to change in our lives, or if our minds have closed themselves to possibility. More precisely, have we closed ourselves to the possibility we could be wrong or too inflexible about a situation? Is it possible we are considering there is only one point of view, and it’s our point of view?

Tractor Pulls

The lack of Emotional Agility reminds me of a large and powerful tractor getting stuck in the mud. Even the most powerful and robust of us get stuck from time to time. It’s no sin to get stuck, but staying in life’s mud is indeed a sad state of affairs. Getting stuck doesn’t get better. The more we spin our wheels, the deeper we get. The deeper we get, the more inflexible we become until we break axles, springs and such. It will make anyone irritated.

The particular lyric Dick Van Dyke sings reminds me of so many people I have met professionally and even personally. We are becoming way too gloomy; we don’t laugh enough, sing enough, enjoy each other enough or take the time to love each other enough. I see a lot of wheel spinning and fist-shaking, but not enough holding and hugging.

Are you feeling a bit too stuck these days? Here are seven ways to get unstuck.

1. Stop and get out of the car (situation). Metaphorically speaking, turn off your engine, open the door and step away. Take the time to evaluate the situation. If you’re feeling angry, sad, baffled, afraid, alone or any or all of that, spend some time thinking about how you got here. It’s an important step to becoming more emotionally agile and more resilient.

2. Stay away from the mud when it’s raining. By “rain,” I am referring to the torrents of bad advice and floods of negativity that can surround us. It is easy to get stuck in life and to become less resilient when we’re up to our necks in negativity. Emotional agility requires us to get rid of the baggage that others have piled on us. We don’t have to carry their burden on our backs.

3. Be careful what you feed your mind. If you are stuck in opinions, outlook or pessimism, you might want to ask yourself who has been giving you the advice that causes you to stay there. There are all kinds of people more than willing to tell you what you should – or shouldn’t – be doing, but are they actually helping you? I know of people who will spend their entire day listening to one cable news station or one radio station, and browse social media entertaining one point of view. That, my friend, is guaranteed to get you more stuck than unstuck.

4. Take action and get moving. It is also easy to listen to advice from those who are in a constant state of hand-wringing about how awful things are in the world. My experience is that most hand-wringers, though well-meaning, do nothing more than, well, wring their hands. I find that the negative people we inadvertently allow in our lives who love to see us stuck will quickly leave our lives when we are moved to action.

5. Get the traction you need. If you feel you are seriously, hopelessly stuck, please consider seeking the counsel of a professional. It does not make you weak; it makes you smart. There is a whole area on YouTube where teams of those sweet, lovable draft horses are seen pulling tractors, trucks and even semis from the ice and mud. We may all need a little help sometimes.

6. Look around; you’re not alone. Everyone I know has gotten stuck. Some have worked very hard to get unstuck; some (like the woman Dick Van Dyke was singing to) do their best to stay stuck. Talk to the most optimistic and happiest people you know. Ask them if they have ever gone through hard times. What did they do? It is quite empowering to ask the question. It compliments them, but more than that, it shows that you want to do something about your situation.

7. Resolve to be happier. Laugh more and have a brighter outlook. It is not impossible. It is a choice. Even if you can’t bring yourself to smile at first or even joke, all I am suggesting is to try. Happiness begets happiness. And always remember, happiness attracts other happy people.

Dick Van Dyke, still smiling, recently said in an interview that he refuses to quit. He has gone through some terribly muddy times (read his biography), but he endures. And so can you. Getting unstuck is a decision only you can make. You are not stuck where you are unless you decide to be. It’s time to get unstuck!


For more information about Hall of Fame speaker and bestselling author Steve Gilliland and the Gilliland Foundation, please contact steve@stevegilliland.com / 724-540-5019 / www.stevegilliland.com.