Breaking free when you’re stuck and not getting to where you want to be

We have all been there. You feel like you’re just standing still, not making the progress you thought you would. You are not experiencing the growth you hoped for personally or in your business. It feels like no matter what you do, you are stuck.

This stagnation is the biggest obstacle faced by most of the expat partners I have worked with, and I’ve been there too!

In this blog, I am going to share the insights and lessons I’ve learned from my journey, including tools to help you work out why you are stuck and practical steps to break free and move on!

This blog article is a summary of the related podcast episode.

Click here to listen to the tips mentioned in this article.

This feeling of stagnating and not moving forward can be really hard to deal with. I feel passionate about helping you get unstuck because I know that 90% of success in your personal or business journey is about figuring out what to do when you need to move forward.

In fact, here are always going to be setbacks and challenges that slow your progress – life is complicated! There are so many things that might come up when you are trying to build the life that you want. I am writing this in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and we are facing more uncertainty than ever before. It is hard right now to figure out what to do next and to make plans for the future. 

But here is the first thing I need you to know. The biggest lesson I have had in my own journey as an entrepreneur is that growing a successful, portable business, or even finding the right business idea for you, is not about marketing. I know – that’s something coming from a business and marketing coach who teaches marketing strategies!

There’s no business or marketing strategy that will work for you if you do not have the tools to work on your mindset.

Developing the right mindset is the key to dealing pragmatically and successfully with challenges and obstacles that come up. It is essential to find the energy, motivation and determination to turn these situations into opportunities rather than barriers to growth. If you are feeling stuck, that your business is stagnating, it might not be for business or marketing reasons. It may be that you need to flip the mental switch on how you handle and respond to the challenges in your life.

So let’s get started on figuring out what you need to understand to make that shift!

Assessing what is happening

The first thing I want you to know is that if you’re struggling, if you feel like you’re not getting anywhere in your business or even with your business idea, and you’ve been feeling that way for a while, you are not alone. This is completely normal. I don’t know a single person who has not been through this! I think everyone goes through this at some point. However, if this is a repetitive pattern in your life, and has maybe been going on for years, then it is time for you to make a big change, and really dig deep into your mindset.

One of the first big things I need you to understand is that even when you can’t control anything around you, you can change your response to it.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude – Maya Angelou

I love this quotation and I believe strongly that this approach makes a big difference between those who get where they want to be and those who don’t. Our attitude and mindset are so crucial to our success but I also know that it is often not easy to get rid of negative thoughts and beliefs. To help you identify how those thoughts and beliefs might be affecting you, I am going to give you some questions to reflect on which might help you understand what is going on in your situation. These questions are based on those used by Brooke Castillo, who creating this self-coaching model, but I have modified them for your use here.

Please take the time to really think about your answers. Don’t skip this part and go straight to working out what to do. Knowing the answers to these questions is a huge part of developing your mindset.

1. If you had a magic wand, what would you want to happen for you right now?

Don’t put any limits on your answer! What would make you feel fulfilled in your life right now? It could be having something meaningful in your life that you are fired up to work on every day. It might be having regular money coming into your bank account, freeing you from worries about financial independence or security. Maybe it is about being recognized for your talents and skills, your value to your community. Think about what you really want and if you had no limitations, what would your life look like?.

2. What is stopping you from getting there?

This is so important. Here you might have practical challenges like your immigration status, visa or work permit, or perhaps you can’t find a job. But I want you to go deeper than these practical obstacles and think about yourself. What are you doing that is stopping you from having what you really want? Maybe you keep trying different things but nothing is working. Maybe you just don’t know where to start or what the path is from where you are now to where you want to be. So what are all the things that are stopping you from achieving your dream?

3. What are all the thoughts that you catch yourself having that lead you to stagnate and feel stuck?

This might take some soul searching and being really honest with yourself. This is much more of a barrier to you getting where you want to be than anything else. So make a list of all the things that go through your mind when you think about what you really want. Here are some examples that I am sure you will identify with:

  • I’m not good enough
  • I don’t have the energy
  • I don’t have time
  • Who would want to buy from me?
  • I have not achieved anything in my professional life
  • It’s been too long
  • I’m outdated
  • I’m too old

Please be very honest with yourself and write your own list of the thoughts that go through your mind. These are real thoughts that are in your mind and if you don’t identify them and analyze them, you’re not going to be able to flip the mental switch that you need to.

4. How does this make you feel? What are the emotions that these thoughts are triggering?

Sometimes it is hard to work out the relationship between the thoughts you have and the emotions you feel. So take a moment to listen to how you feel physically. How does your body ‘feel’ when you have these negative thoughts. Doing that will help you analyze where these feelings are coming from.

Some of the emotions that people who are in stagnation typically talk about are insecurity, lack of confidence and not feeling motivated. Perhaps you are constantly tired and you don’t know why – your body is trying to tell you something. You might find it easier to answer this question and then go back to question 3 and answer it again but generally, the thoughts lead to the emotions. 

5. What actions are you taking and even more importantly, what actions are you not taking, because of these thoughts and feelings?

This can be a tough question to answer so let me give you a really common example – procrastination. Usually when you keep pushing away what you need to do it is because there’s something that you are thinking or feeling that is stopping you. And it is almost always your own thoughts and emotions. Also, I’ve seen many expat partners hide in being busy with projects, volunteering, remodelling, starting and stopping new things so you’re doing a lot of things but none of them is actually taking you in the direction you want to go. If you’re doing that intentionally, that’s great but if you’re using it to avoid dealing with big questions about your life and your purpose, it is something you need to deal with if you want to make any progress.

Once you’ve worked honestly through these questions, it is time for the next step.

Assessing what you can do to change things

1. Work on your thoughts

The reason I asked you to analyze your thoughts and the emotions they are triggering is that very often you are feeling stuck because your brain is trying to tell you that certain things are wrong. It’s not really your brain’s fault. A big part of your brain’s job is to keep you safe but it often confuses safety with comfort. It doesn’t encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and that can lead to stagnation! Knowing that can help you start to think again about the thoughts that are holding you back.

Make another list of the thoughts that you are going to start practising believing. Look back at the thoughts that are holding you back as you will be trying to overcome them! You need to choose thoughts that are going to help you build the right attitude and mindset to get unstuck.

So even if you don’t feel confident right now, I want you to list all your skills, experience and achievements, no matter how long ago. Ask your friends and family what they think you are good at – write down their answers. If you already have a business, ask your clients for feedback and use their testimonials. 

Start repeating these things to yourself, every day and you will start to rewire your brain. 

I do this every night so that I am rewiring my brain so that when I wake up, I’m already having those positive thoughts and self-affirmations to get me through the day. This is such a powerful exercise but it is not the only thing you need to do.

2. Work on your actions

Design a plan for what you’re going to do

The problem with this is that sometimes you don’t know where to start! Don’t give up though, you know more than you think and most importantly, you don’t have to do this alone. Reach out to others and if it helps, consider working with a coach, or a mentor, to help you work out what your plan is to get you to where you want to be.

However, for a plan to work, there are two things that you need to do that I have learned are often overlooked by women and especially expat partners.

Make yourself a priority

There is no point in having a plan if you don’t execute it and to execute it, you are going to need time and energy. You have to commit to making your dreams happen and they won’t if you spend all of your time taking care of everyone else’s priorities. It is time to build a schedule that includes time to work on your needs and a support system. I have seen so many women put their dreams aside.

I have an episode that can help you start making time and space for your needs and goals. These have lots of practical tips on how you can get support from your family, creating time for you in your busy day and setting priorities that work for everyone.

Five steps to making yourself a priority

I also highly recommend reading The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. You can learn more about this book and get resources here:

The Miracle Morning

Invest in yourself

This is in some ways another example of thought patterns that stop us from making the progress we want. It is very easy to think that because you’re not earning money right now, you can’t spend money on getting the help we need. Or the guilt you feel about potentially spending money on yourself and not your family stops you from investing. In fact, the number one difference between those who get results and those who don’t is investing in yourself. 

The help you need will depend on your unique situation. It might be childcare or household help with practical tasks. It might be a coach who can help you get to where you want to be faster. While spending money on these things can be daunting, by not doing it you will end up wasting more time, energy and money and you’ll still probably feel stuck. If you’ve been trying to figure out what you really want in life and haven’t made any progress, there’s a good chance that you need some professional help to get the breakthrough you need. The process that I have outlined here of assessing your current situation and starting to make a plan should enable you to work out what kind of help you need. 

However, if you know that getting this help would make a big difference and you’re still not willing to spend the money, then you need to ask yourself how important it is to you that you get to where you want to be. 

Think back to your magic wand earlier and be honest about whether achieving that ideal life is really that important to you. How important is it to you be fulfilled and happy? 

Think about this on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is that it is absolutely vital to you. If you’re scoring about a 6, its time for you to invest and commit to making it happen. You cannot just keep waiting.

Getting really honest about investing in yourself is a huge mindset shift on its own. But realistically, you are losing money not saving it if you choose not to invest when you clearly need to. Sit down and look at the opportunities that your investment could create for you. 

I know from personal experience that if I hadn’t continued to invest in my own training and development, I would not have been able to grow Tandem Nomads as successfully. Take a moment to think of the potential that investing in yourself now could unlock, including a future where you don’t have to think about or feel guilty about spending money on yourself because your business will be generating revenue to pay for it!

Getting your partner on board

There is another thing that expat partners often tell me holds them back from investing in themselves and that’s their concern about what their partner will think. There are a couple of things we need to address here. 

Firstly, you won’t be able to convince your partner that this is a great investment if you don’t believe it yourself. 

Secondly, while these conversations can be hard, maybe you are using your partner’s possible reaction as an excuse to stay in that comfort zone for a bit longer! 

This is not always an easy conversation but it is vital that you explain to your partner why this is important to you, the practical support you need and the value of the investment to you and your family. But it needs to start with you having flipped the switch to believing that you deserve to be a priority and to focus on achieving your dreams. 

You also need to be able to have this conversation calmly and constructively. The key to this is to be clear about the reasons this investment is worthwhile and valuable and to not make this a confrontation. You might find this resource on a technique called ‘nonviolent communication’ helpful in raising these issues as productively as possible.

The Four-Part Nonviolent Communication Process

And once you’ve had the conversation to continue to involve your partner in what you are learning. Make them part of the journey with you.

Also, if you are in a tough financial situation right now, investing in yourself can be more complicated. You may need to hustle a little bit more. Perhaps you can identify areas where you could reduce spending in the short term to allow you to invest a little. If you really want to make this happen, don’t let your financial situation hold you back. You can find a way to do this.

Ultimately, if you really want to make a big change in your life, if you want to have your own business, then it is time to take yourself seriously and commit to making it happen – and investment is the key to that.

So are you ready to change your attitude? I really believe that when you flip the switch, there is no limit on what you can achieve!