Remember how it feels to be stuck in a rut? Self-doubt, confusion, and frustration rule your thoughts and emotions.

How do you move forward when you get stuck writing, creating, leading a team on a new project, solving a problem amidst so many unknowns, managing conflict, learning, or developing a new skill? 

Moving Forward When Stuck

Next time you find yourself feeling stuck or confused in general, ask yourself some empowering questions intended to yield empowering actions. 

Empowering Questions that Assess Now

  • What do I know now? 
  • What do I need to know?
  • What search terms would I initially try to summon Google’s collective wisdom?
  • What resources do I already have? 
  • Which resource is most simple to consult or access now?

Asking simple and practical questions hones your attention on assessing the most immediate challenge. The answers are empowering because they keep you seeking practical action steps. Plus, they restore a feeling of control, which can ease a fearful mind. Remember, the purpose of these empowering questions is getting you started not about identifying every step before you start. 

Empowering Questions that Yield a Fresh Perspective

  • Who could I have a quick conversation with about this? 
  • Who would offer a very different perspective? 
  • Where might I find someone who’s already navigated challenges like these? What did they do? 
  • If I knew the situation would be resolved without any negative fallout, what might I consider doing that feels too scary now?
  • If money could solve the problem, what would I purchase? 

These empowering questions offer new avenues of exploration. When you’re stuck you need a little distance—a view of the situation that’s less entangled with your identity, reputation, and future. With these questions you might spark some creative ideas. Maybe someone else’s perspective will shift your thinking just enough that offers you a glimpse at new possibilities. 

Empowering Questions that Envision the Outcome

  • When I get unstuck and create momentum, how will I be different because I worked through this challenge?
  • Who else will benefit from me not giving up and keeping calm in the midst of this chaos?
  • What positive thing may come from this (eventually)?
  • How could this situation make me a valuable resource for others in the future?
  • What am I willing to do to make this better?

When you ask yourself empowering questions, which are designed to envision the future when the challenge has been overcome, engages your imagination and desire. Considering outcomes that will enhance your skillset, create something new, and help others in the process perks you up. These questions get you out of the details of the problem and the frustration of not knowing the solution. They shift your focus to possibilities, which helps you generate energy and motivation. 

Characteristics of Empowering Questions

You, of course, can create your own set of empowering questions. Those will likely work best. Remember these core characteristics of a set of empowering questions. Create some questions that: 

  • Seek practical, next action steps—steps that get you started
  • Assess the current logistics and resources 
  • Envision the benefits of the outcome that will emerge. 
  • Link your actions with others’ well-being.
  • Focus on positive, if unknown, outcomes
  • Generate possibilities!!!

Questions Not to Ask When You’re Stuck

Once you’re stuck, you’ve already analyzed the situation thoroughly. You’ve already explored the why and how-to of the challenge without uncovering steps to move forward. After all, you wouldn’t be stuck if you knew what to do next. 

When you’re stuck, questions such as these won’t help. 

  • Why did this project take such an unexpected turn? 
  • Why can’t I figure it out? 
  • Why didn’t so-in-so support me as I expected? 
  • How will I ever recover from this setback and catch-up? 

At this point stop asking why and how questions. They don’t empower you but rather send you in the direction of shame and blame. Assessing responsibility, identifying missed opportunities, and seeking insights for future actions are appropriate, but not when you’re stuck. Hold off on these until after you’ve established momentum in a new direction. 

Wrap Up!

When you’re stuck in a rut trying to move forward, it’s important to ease up on “finding the lesson” and analyzing how you got there. Equally important to stop blaming yourself or others. Instead, ask yourself empowering questions that assess the situation, generate creative thinking, and spur you to envision a transformative outcome for you and others. Empowering questions return control to you and ease the burden that’s kept you stuck in a rut

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash