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The Joy of Learning When You Feel Stuck

Most people hate getting stuck. Whether it’s a problem at work, home or school, or being physically stuck in bad weather or traffic, immobility is irritating. We don’t like being stymied and held down, so a natural reaction is to buck against whatever seems to be constraining us.

Which often makes matters worse. Remember the first rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging.

When we stop digging, we gain time to reflect. This is precious time! Imagine a tangled fishing line or a knotted necklace. The fastest way to straighten it out is to lay it flat and inspect it. When you locate the tangle, you can usually tease it out by paying attention to which way the strands should go.

Problems. They’re great catalysts for learning.

Think back to your last discovery. When you figured something out or got something to work again or accomplished something you had previously been unable to do, how did you feel? Did you get a little rush of adrenaline? Did your mind feel just a little sharper? Maybe you smiled? Or chuckled and shook your head? One of my favorite reactions is the often-laughter-laced, “Who knew?!”

Learning is fun! It proves to us that we have the capability to seek, discover, and master things. Learning to read, write, speak, dance, run, compete in athletic events, date, date again, understand the opposite sex on occasion, figure out a boss, access email at a Wi-Fi hot spot, send photos and order stuff online, use chopsticks, speak a foreign language, drive a hybrid car, remove spots from a tie… just imagine all the things you’ve learned in the course of your life. How is it possible to get and stay stuck?

Here’s how. The faster we move, the narrower our vision gets. Racecar drivers have a very narrow view of the world—it consists of the track and the control panel. When you compete with that kind of intensity, micro-focus is essential not only to competitiveness but sometimes to survival.

We celebrate focus in business. It helps us move fast and get more done. It also gets us digging holes every now and then. The irony in getting stuck is that the best solution is to stop. Stop and think. How did you get here? What options do you have for getting out? How will you proceed? Making even a simple plan is a smarter way to move forward than keeping your head down and digging faster.

Feeling stuck? Stop and learn. You’ll feel better.

Categories: General Advice