One of the most common complaints I hear when I talk with potential clients is that they feel “stuck.” They may be in relationships that are no longer working, but they don’t know how to leave. They may have dreams of starting their own businesses, but they aren’t sure where to begin. They may want to incorporate more fun into their lives, but they aren’t sure how to make that happen.

The feeling of being stuck is very familiar for most of us. Even though our lives seem to be in constant motion, very little of that motion actually moves us forward. We are similar to a logjam in a river: the river is rushing all around us, but we aren’t going anywhere. Why is it so easy for us to lose life’s flow? What is it about the way we live our lives that leads us toward being stuck?

Many different answers to these questions could be offered, but here are five of the most common behaviors I have observed that hold us back from living the lives we really want to live.

Believing What You Think

The average mind has about 60,000 thoughts a day, and most of us believe about 99 percent of what we think. Some of our thoughts are products of how we were raised and the culture in which we live. Others are the products of our mind synthesizing our observations into our own brilliant deductions about the world. Our thoughts help us to make sense of our world and our lives, so it is only logical that we hold our thoughts to be the truth.

This, however, is where we can get into trouble: we cling to beliefs that may no longer serve us. How many of you know for certain that you are not good at art, sports, or math? Most of us left elementary school having gotten at least some negative feedback in one of these three areas.

What beliefs are you still hanging on to that may be keeping your life stuck? What things do you think you will never be able to do? What things shouldn’t be the way they are? Who would be very upset if you were to follow your heart? It might be time to examine your belief system and determine which thoughts are holding your life hostage.

Blaming Others for Our Circumstances

We all have things in our lives that are not going as well as we would like. Life is always presenting us with new challenges, and our job is to figure out the best way to deal with them. Some people defer to these challenges. They step back and wait for the challenge to go away or to work itself out; they ignore it. Meanwhile, life continues on, and after a while these people find themselves still standing in the corner feeling stalled.

Another approach would be to face that challenge head on. Realize that you are the only one who can truly take charge of the situation. What would it take for you to face that challenge? A good place to start would be putting together a game plan that includes intention, determination, and lots of practice. Your first few tries might not be successful, but eventually, you will perfect your approach, and you will begin knocking down those challenges. You will begin to see that the more you step into your life, the less stuck you will feel.

Taking Life (and Yourself) Too Seriously

Most of us were raised to believe that the key to success is hard work. Recently, that belief has been revised to include hard work and very long hours. I would like to challenge that belief with an old adage: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

To keep our lives flowing, we need to intersperse fun, laughter, and creativity with our work. We need to be able to take time to enjoy our lives and reenergize ourselves without feeling guilty or irresponsible. During these times of rest and fun, our minds are free to dream and imagine. This is when we very often come up with solutions to our problems and new strategies to enliven and enrich our lives.

Living Life from the Middle

One of the easiest ways to keep our lives stuck is to live them from the middle rather than closer to the edge. Living life from the middle means to remain safely in your comfort zone, to do things the same way, avoiding change at all costs and eliminating all spontaneity. As boring as this may sound, it is the way a majority of people live. As a result, the middle is an extremely crowded place, and it is very easy to feel stuck when you are there.

By encouraging yourself to take small, yet consistent steps toward the “edge,” you will find that life has much more room in which to move around. The edge is not as scary as you might think. As you begin to try new things, new perspectives will open up, and you will begin to see more possibilities and opportunities. You will meet people who are also stepping outside their comfort zones and who can offer you support in your journey. As your life begins to open and flow, you will wonder how you ever lived in the middle.

Falling Prey to the Fear of the Unknown

Fear is a powerful emotion. It protects us and keeps us from doing dangerous things, yet it can also keep us from doing new and wonderful things. Most of us get a little nervous when we are not sure about what is around the corner. Yet, sometimes getting our lives unstuck takes a leap of faith.

Have you always dreamed about starting your own business, becoming a sculptor, or sailing around the world? To give any chance to those dreams coming true, you must face the fears that are holding you back head on and put your trust in you and your dream. Will you be successful? Maybe yes, maybe no, but at least you will have opened the door to the possibility of your dream coming true.

Our lives, like rivers, will always experience a few logjams. The issue is not whether we get stuck, but rather, it is how we extricate ourselves from the flotsam and get our lives flowing again. Becoming more aware of those behavior patterns that are responsible for keeping us stuck is a great way to start that process.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit

Author's Bio: 

Mary Ann Bailey, MC, is a life coach who specializes in working with people going through midlife career transitions. She is also the author of the recently published book Changing Course, Changing Careers. Visit her Web site at to read more of her articles and to learn how coaching can help you make the changes you want to make in your life.