"If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there."
Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Are you stuck in your role as a leader? Stuck means an inability to move. You're not moving forward and you're not moving backward. You have a dilemma and both options to solve it are equally viable. So you end up with this tug of war in your head going back and forth between those two options and it takes a lot of energy.
You may find yourself over-analyzing and going around in circles about your choices, eventually feeling stuck and nowhere near a resolution. You’re afraid of making the wrong decision and end up unable to move forward, depleted, worried, and drained.
You consult everyone and listen to no one.
According to Psychology Today, it is estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day. Each decision, of course, carries certain consequences with it that are both good and bad.
"Buridan's ass" refers precisely to being unable to choose between two things.
The ass in question is a donkey that is equally thirsty and hungry, finds itself midway between a stack of hay and a pail of water, and, unable to make its mind up, dies of hunger and thirst.
Often in this situation, we settle, or compromise and just give in to one option simply so the decision is made and we can stop fretting over it. This compromise is the lowest common denominator of the two choices. I’ll go with the easy choice or the pleasing choice, which does not mean it is necessarily the one I should choose.
Choices are hard to make
I have been invited to a networking event that might be valuable for my business. I'm not certain, but it could be. On the other hand, it's cold outside and I really don't want to go. I am wrapped in a blanket on my sofa and I think: I should go to this networking thing because maybe I'll meet somebody and just get myself out there. BUT, then I have to go do my hair and put my makeup on and it’s cold out and I’m so comfortable here. Both going out and staying home feel like good choices. I could be very happy sitting on the sofa and I could be very glad that I went to the networking thing. Whatever I choose, I may regret the un-chosen option.
So then, still sitting on the sofa I think, Oh, I should, I should go. Just get up and get dressed. I’m being lazy. Just go. But on the other hand, I really don't want to go there. I've gone to these events a million times, talked to a bunch of strangers, and there's rarely an outcome. I just want the world to leave me alone.
Then comes the guilt about not doing what I need to do for my business. What about my goals? It becomes a game between should and want. The moment when I really feel stuck is about what I feel I should do. What do I really want to focus on here? What is really important? Do I want to shove myself through five networking meetings a week, or do I allow myself to rest? They could both be good options for me, but sometimes it's really difficult to figure out what I actually want and to separate the shoulds from the wants without guilt. The stigma of what I should do is really where the stuckness comes from.
Sometimes you don’t even know why you feel stuck. It can sometimes seem like there is just nothing exciting happening or you are frustrated because you can’t seem to step forward to change things for yourself. You are trapped in the mud, caged up. You don’t know how to move forward, but there’s no way to go back. So you sit on the couch and do absolutely nothing because you don’t know where to start and you feel guilty.
Guilt is inextricably connected to feeling like we should be doing something else, bigger, better, smarter, and sooner. It robs us of any joy we may take from choosing what we want instead. The really big issue with should is that it can easily gain momentum, completely throwing you off of your real desires and your ability to focus on what you need.
To shift myself out of stuckness I ask myself, Why am I going? What purpose does this fulfill for my business? Then my choice comes easier.