I chose this book for December because this time of year, people's hearts and minds tend to be more warmly open to incorporating God's spirit into the season and into their lives. However, come January, not everyone perseveres with it because they do not see that He's a four season, 24/7 God. Valorie and I are devoted Christians; in fact, I first time met her she was the keynote speaker at my church's quarterly women's gathering. Valorie's book, Brave Enough to Succeed: 40 Strategies for Getting Unstuck, uses relatable language and approachable, practical methods to see God in your daily life - to see that He's been there all along. To my friends of different faiths, fear not! This book is for you too just substitute into it the language of your faith as you read to make it resonate and more relatable.
The layout of this book is unlike the others we have explored so far. It is broken down into short, focused chapters that end with brief reflection exercises to guide your way forward out of your place of stuckness. One chapter a day can easily fit into any busy holiday schedule or a couple will fit nicely into a plane flight/car ride to your holiday destination. This time of year can be exciting, beautiful, joyous, stressful, daunting, overwhelming, and 1000 other adjectives depending on your circumstances. Places and situations in which you are stuck may feel even more binding as you journey home to see family or don't, go to parties with coworkers or stay home, reach out to everyone you know to send all the holiday emojis you can or put your phone on silent. We are all destined to have very different holiday experiences but some sort of stuck may be an undertone of them all so let's dive into Valorie's book and prepare ourselves with some great techniques to get unstuck and succeed!
First off, what does it mean to be stuck? "Stuck is a pattern of counterproductive thinking or behavior that results in your not moving toward that which you desire. It is typically a result of internalized fear, confusion, chaos, overwhelm, being lost, lack of clarity, or pessimism" page 6. Woof, that is a broad term. It affects everyone differently, at different times, and in different situations. You could think that someone has it totally together and is thriving but on the inside they are stuck on the comment someone in the breakroom made months ago about their nose. The first step to getting unstuck is simple but man will it take a whole bunch of courage: "Tell yourself the truth and behave based on the truth" page 22. I spent about three years lying to myself about how "things will be different in this marriage once we can be stationed together, once we have children, once one of us gets out.. blah, blah, blah." One of the happiest, and hardest, days of my life was to fess up and tell myself the truth that I was afraid of admitting: "No Sarah, this will never be happy because he will never compromise. It is time to part ways before there are children to involve." What big truth elephant are you hiding under a sheet in the corner of your internal living room? It does not have to be big like my example, it could be more like "the reason you can't find the cat in your bedroom is because there's stuff everywhere, not because he's sneaky, so the time has come to clean it up" or "that orange light is not really just for ambiance on the dashboard, the car needs an oil change so it's time to fit that into the schedule."
With that truth-filled triumphant, and courageous, step out of the way cry about it! Go on, let it all out ladies and gentlemen. "Choose to let [yourself] be human and feel what [you] feel" page 31. We tend to look down on tears as some sign of weakness but really "crying is honest" page 31 and is a release of emotional blockage which is playing a part in your current state of stuck. This step may not apply to the smaller things, like the cats and check engine lights of life, but it certainly should with the bigger ones like divorce, quitting a job, switching colleges, admitting to yourself you have some sort of issue/addiction. These are big life truths that carry big emotions which should not be bottled up.
One of my favorite analogies that Valorie uses in this book is the closed door on page 35. She is referring to the paths that become unavailable in your life once you choose to tell yourself the truth, move forward and stop being stuck. That door closes behind you after you tell yourself the truth but you may be drawn back to it; stop staring at it! That promotion, opportunity, relationship, chapter of your life is closed! It is time to pick yourself up and bounce back from that place of hurt and stagnation. Make five commitments to yourself so you can permanently turn away from that door: stop feeling sorry for yourself, do not look at that closed door anymore, dig deep to gather the courage required to move on, direct your thoughts do not let them direct you, and "choose to believe all things work together for good" page 35.
The next step is to make a choice. I have heard many people say they are waiting "until the 'right' circumstances arrive" page 58 before they choose to move forward but more often than not they have no control over those circumstances: waiting for such-and-such job to open up, waiting for a certain house to come on the market, waiting for the stock market to go on the rise, waiting for the right person to come along, so much waiting. "You have the power to choose a lifestyle that empowers you to be at your best" right now page 92! Now this is where you can get stuck again because there are so many options available to your future. Do not get overwhelmed, do not be afraid to get messy (see page 67), leave room for faith and grace, and do not be too hard on yourself because any step forward will keep the momentum going so you can keep moving without getting restuck. Perhaps most importantly, keep your expectations for yourself achievable in the early stages of being unstuck. This will help with keeping overwhelm at bay.
"Our expectations of what we should achieve and how we should achieve it can be unreasonably high" page 106. Where do those expectations come from? Are they yours? Society's? Family's? This is all too often a point of contention on the home front during the holidays. You did not meet Uncle Bill's expectations of you so he avoids eye contact, will not shake your hand, and ensures he sits at the furthest point away from you at the table. Go ahead, stick your tongue out at him then quote the infamous Luke 4:8, and dig on into an extra dessert! Reassess your expectations of yourself from a place of honesty and follow that internal, guiding voice down that path to being/remaining unstuck. Own your expectations, do not let others influence them.
"Getting unstuck is not just about your pushing past issues and challenges. It is about being a light in a dark world - living in such a way that your courage, love and boldness shine brightly to those who cross your path" page 88. Go on, read that a couple times - I know I did. Wow! Your new unstuck lease on life could, and should, be an inspiration to those in your sphere. Your determination to bounce back, be resilient, and turn towards unstoppable should not be kept secret. It is meant to share with others so they too can live their best lives. Maybe Uncle Bill will come around after seeing your new, inner light shine and he will confront his version of stuck. One can hope.
Now that we have looked at how to get unstuck, we will check out some common stumbling blocks/areas people get stuck in next time. Do not skip the exercises in the chapters! They were hugely eye opening for me and I am sure they will be the same for you. I would love to hear from you about your journey through this book, through your holiday season, and your version of Uncle Bill so please comment below, email me, sign up for a coaching session, or hit up my social media. The next post will be December 21st, until then happy reading.