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We all get ‘stuck in the mud.’ The real issue is how do we get out

Three men were in a truck driving in the woods when they got stuck in the mud. The driver became angry and began to shout and curse. He pounded on the steering wheel and then sat fuming about their bad luck.

The second man climbed out of the truck and took refuge in the shade of a large tree. “I’m going to hang out here until someone comes along who can tow us out,” he said. He fumbled with his cellphone, getting more and more frustrated when he couldn’t get a signal to call for help.

The third man retrieved an ax and a saw and found a felled tree. He cut pieces to wedge under the tires so the truck could drive out of the mud.

We all get “stuck in the mud” at times as we travel down life’s road. Will you melt down, walk away and do nothing? Or will you embark on a course of action for getting unstuck?

Harvey Mackay

The key is how to get unstuck. I’m referring to the times you feel uninspired or overwhelmed, lack focus, feel anxiety or consider giving up. Do you wait for someone else to shake you out of your funk? Do you ignore the situation and hope it goes away? Or do you reach inside to discover what works for you and use it? Here are some ideas I’ve heard.

Ever heard of power posing? American psychologist Amy Cuddy did a study that found if you stand for 120 seconds like Superman or Wonder Woman, your body chemistry changes. Testosterone increases and cortisol – the stress hormone – decreases, which make our bodies and minds feel better and more powerful.

Life coach Tony Robbins also believes the best way to get unstuck is not with your mind, but with your body. He stresses movement, breathing and shifting your body.

Clinical psychologists suggest that before you can get unstuck, you must figure out what the problem is and then deal with it. Studies show that paying more attention to your experiences can help you to gain greater control and insight into your emotions. It can increase your tolerances and help increase awareness. Paying attention to your experiences is a skill, just like riding a bicycle. The better you get at this, the less likely you will get stuck.

From time to time, even the most creative minds get stuck. Like a baseball player who can’t get a hit or a salesperson who can’t close a sale, someone in the midst of a slump can’t imagine the possibility of overcoming it. But ballplayers and salespeople who don’t give up usually manage to work their way out, and so can you. Try some of these strategies:

▪ Take some time off. In other words, seek a change of scenery. Instead of increasing your frustration, back away for a while. Go to the movies, visit a museum or attend a sporting event. Taking your mind off the problem can give you a chance to recharge.

▪ Talk to people. Don’t isolate yourself. Go out and talk with friends, family members, co-workers, whoever. You don’t have to ask for suggestions or advice. Just open yourself to other conversations and ideas, and allow your mind to shift out of the rut.

▪ Change your routine. Shake up your day by taking on tasks in a different order or switching things around in your workplace. Delegate jobs you always do yourself and take on projects that you usually hand off, for example. Or start your day with long-term planning and end it by checking your email if you typically do the opposite.

▪ Engage all your senses. Approach the problem from a different angle. What would a solution feel like in your hands, sound like as a song, taste like if it were a beverage? Don’t limit yourself to what you can see. Extend your mind in different directions, and you may find a dimension you hadn’t considered before.

▪ Work out. Do something physical to get the blood flowing through your body and your brain. Hit the gym, lift some weights, go swimming or just take a long, brisk walk. Pay attention to your surroundings instead of thinking about the work you’re not doing. You may find a fresh idea right in front of you.

Mackay’s Moral: Don’t let getting stuck leave you out of luck.

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” He can be reached through his website,, by emailing or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.