how to get unstuck

How To Get Unstuck

Have you ever felt hopelessly stuck when you’re trying to move forward in life or accomplish something you care about? This is often the reason our clients reach out to us, and it’s one of the main problems we set out to solve when we created ADHD Collective.

We all get stuck at one time or another, and especially when we make an effort go after something really important to us. The more meaningful a solution is, often the more frustrating it is when there is a hang-up. In a backward way, getting frustrated about being stuck highlights the things we really care about.

Last week I happened upon the Accidental Creative Podcast by Todd Henry and had to grab a pen and paper to capture the gold he was dishing out. In it he points out the 3 sources of stuckness, and the practical things you can do to shake things up enough to get unstuck. To listen to the podcast episode in full, click here. Here is the play-by-play breakdown (straight from the transcript of the podcast).

Areas To Look For the Source of Your Stuckness

When we get stuck in life, it’s tempting to think we just need to try harder. But it may not be the best strategy. Todd highlights that “creative paralysis” or “fuzzy wandering” is a result of inattention in a few key areas. It is by exploring (and re-exploring) these areas that we can often find the source(s) of our stuckness. He defines the first area as:


Here’s Todd Henry on definition:

“It’s hard to solve a problem you haven’t defined, yet we try to do it all the time. We jump into the work, but don’t make the effort to ensure that we understand the problem we’re really trying to solve. As a result, we eventually hit a wall when we’ve done all we know to do, but have lost touch with the end goal.”

Possible Sources:

If you have a Definition problem, he goes on to the possible sources of your stuckness:
1. Lack of empathy: You don’t understand who you’re really serving and what a potential solution to their problem requires.
2. Lack of focus: You haven’t pruned your objectives enough to make them actionable. You’re attempting to solve concepts, not problems.
3. Self-deception: You’ve convinced yourself a problem exists that really doesn’t in order to justify your activity.


Make certain that you are working on well-defined problems, and re-visit those problems as often as necessary to re-ground yourself in them.


Possible Sources of Stuckness:

Here’s Todd on motivation:

“…[do] you care only because your paycheck (or reputation) is on the line[?] …this isn’t always sufficient to keep you bringing your best to the work. You have to have a well-established through-line that provides baked-in motivation to keep working when things get tough.”

If you have a motivation problem, Todd Henry lists the possible sources:
1. Misplaced ego: You’ve made the work all about yourself, so when there’s little acclaim on the line you can’t quite gear up for it.
2. Old problems, new you: You’ve personally moved on from the problems that used to intrigue you, but you’re still plugging away at them.
3. Black Box Phenomenon: You’re plugging away at the work, but have absolutely no clue why any of your required tasks are relevant to the larger mission of the organization. You’re all “what” with no “why”, which creates dissonance.


You have to be brutally honest with yourself about issues of motivation, and do your best to tie your work back to a deeper through-line that motivates you. Sure, you may not always care about the specific tasks, but how you work says a lot about who you are as a person, which I assume you do care a lot about.


Here’s what Todd says about systems:

“Finally, your progress may simply be limited by your existing system or workflow. Things like standing meetings and organizational hierarchies tend to stick around for years after they’ve served their original purpose, but so do personal productivity habits. Where are you due for a shake-up of your systems to help you gain a little creative traction?”

Possible Sources of Stuckness:

1. Stale systems OR too much pool-jumping: Are you (a) due for a system refresh or (b) in need of some stability to enable you to focus more effectively? (Systems are just conduits for your work, not the work itself.)
2. Wrong mix: Do you need to expand your relational network, or involve new people in the project to help you jump-start your work?
3. Bad assumptions: Are you making assumptions that are limiting your scope of exploration? Sometimes systems can limit your vision in an unhealthy way, and questioning your operating assumptions can give you new direction for your energy.


Do an audit of your systems, and see if you can identify energy drains. Where could you use fresh focus, relationships, or stimuli to help you gain traction? Where have things grown stale?

ADHD Coaching and Getting Unstuck

I hope these strategies start the unsticking process in your life. This is what we help people do with our ADHD coaching here at ADHD Collective. We dig seeing people break free of what’s holding them back from reaching their potential. If this is something that would help you in your life right now, reach out to us, we’d love to be a part of your process for getting unstuck.


Special note: all of the content referenced and used for this post comes from the transcript of “Getting Unstuck” episode from The Accidental Creative Podcast. We highly recommend spending time reading more articles by Todd Henry on his blog, or at The Accidental Creative website. We’ve found that the quality of content on these sites, makes any time spent on them, time well spent.

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