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Not a week goes by when I don’t hear clients complain about feeling stuck in improving their eating habits or making other changes in their lives. The truth is, there is no such psychological state as stuckness. Rather, stuckness is the negative perception of a state between inaction and action or between an action taken and a potential action.

When you say you’re stuck, what are you really feeling? Here’s my guess: fear, risk-aversion, confusion, uncertainty, frustration, despair, doubt, maybe even emotional paralysis. Those are legitimate emotions and by acknowledging that you feel them, you’re doing yourself a service because then you can figure out the roots of your distress and how to overcome it. If you’re scared, what of? If you’re frustrated, what could generate new motivation? If you’re risk-aversive, what exactly will tip the balance to boost your courage? If you’re uncertain, what could you do to strengthen your conviction about moving in a positive, healthy direction?

A larger problem about repeatedly saying, “I’m stuck,” is that you’re reinforcing this perception. Anything and everything you say to yourself either strengthens or weakens behavior. Go back and reread that sentence, please, so that you thoroughly get the concept that in order to change, you must stop telling yourself that you can’t. Telling people you’re stuck and repeating it to yourself ad nauseam doesn’t merely contribute to your stuckness, but causes it. That is how our minds work, so never say you’re stuck.

Instead, identify the problem by saying, “I’m confused about what to do,” “I fear going forward because I’m scared of being emotionally uncomfortable,” “I don’t know what will happen if I do this differently,” “Part of me wants to change and part of me doesn’t,” “I’m working on getting the courage to act differently,” “I’m working on moving forward,” or “I will get out of my present emotional state with persistent effort.” I ask you, how much more hopeful and productive are these words than, “I’m stuck”?

Moreover, when you say you’re stuck, you’re labeling yourself a victim, some who has no power to change. And that’s not true. You have the power; you’re simply not using it. Better to state the truth—“I’m acting as if I’m helpless”—than insisting you’re stuck. If you don’t want to be a victim, then stop sounding and acting like one. You’re not a victim and you’re not stuck. What you are is unwilling (notice I didn’t say unable) to move out of your comfort zone and take up the challenge before you. Tell yourself you’re becoming unstuck and soon you’ll unstick yourself.