A few months ago, I was stirred as I read this article, Feeling Stuck? Getting Past Impasse by Timothy Butler. Sometimes I like to try things out before I share my opinion. As I have applied the lessons, they rings true for me. It has changed my outlook and the way I approach life greatly. As I shared the lessons with my church group this morning, I realized it was time to share it with my blog community too.
The first step in getting unstuck is realizing that I am stuck. It comes to me as a frustration or irritation. It feels like I’ve been here before many times and I didn’t like it. Yet, at the same time, it feel inevitable. Maybe I am doing something for the millionth time that I know I shouldn’t… but I just cannot help myself. Or maybe I am avoiding or procrastinating something that needs to be done. Maybe it feels like outside forces are pressing in on me, forcing change that I didn’t ask for and I do not want! I feel powerless to change me or the circumstances.
I feel stuck, (like my son-in-law, Mark with his jeep in the mud, but it isn’t fun). Just spinning my wheels. Going around in circles and never getting any closer to what I want. The most important life lesson, I have learned from this is that, as uncomfortable as the feeling of impasse is, it is necessary in order for me to grow. If I don’t feel the discomfort, I will have no reason to make adjustments.
Climbing the mountain
Picture a narrow path around a mountain as an upward spiral of growth. As I move along the path, I am moving upwards towards a healthier life (physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally). Along the way, I encounter difficulties. I can ignore them for a time… but by choosing to ignore the impasse, I am also choosing to ignore the upward path. I may travel along happily around the mountain and be surprised to find myself back at the impasse. The impasse is unforgiving. It will not let you progress untill you deal with it. Like the person driving the car up the road in this photo. They are not getting up the mountain until they get past the bus that is sideways in the middle of the road
I can change plans, or I can just go around the mountain again, but when I return, there it will be. I can only go up the mountain (grow) by dealing with the impasse. How many people spend their whole lives running up against the same impasse over and over and over and… I don’t want to be like that.
Applying the principles
Dr. Butler has divided getting-past-impasse into six neat phases. While I don’t think life usually works out so elegantly as to fit the phases, it does give us a lens through which we can observe and learn… and grow. He starts with recognizing the impasse, moves to learning other ways to view and deal with it and ends with acting on what we have learned. I encourage you to read the article to understand all six phases and begin to give them a whirl.
There are two tools that Dr. Butler does not mention that, as a Christian, I feel are very important. The first “tool” is prayer: When I climb up on Daddy’s lap and tell him my troubles, He is faithful to listen and extend grace in my life. Grace in this sense is both forgiveness and help. That grace/help leads me to the second “tool”: My community of faith helps me to get through impasses in my life (I Pet 4:10). When I am vulnerable with Jeanie or one of my close friends and share my problems, they can listen, understand my situation and share their thoughts and advice. With their perspective, I can see things very differently, which helps me to rethink my approach. They also hold me accountable to do what I say I want to do. (“Accountability” sounds legalistic, but I don’t mean it that way. The difference between legalistic accountability and grace accountability is that with grace accountability, my community is merely encouraging me to do what I said I wanted to do. Legalistic accountability is telling me what I ought to do that I didn’t agree to).
So there you have it. To keep moving up the mountain is to get through the impasses that we face. It takes willingness, insight, faith, vulnerabilty and courage, but it is worth it. I encourage you to name an impasse in your life, imagine yourself on the other side of it, write it down, pray, seek counsel, courageously face the impasse and lastly, leave a comment to tell me what happens.