We all have points in our lives where we feel “stuck” – we move in circles, trying hard, doing the same things over and getting results that keep us where we are. It doesn’t take a genius to understand what that means: our existing ways have become redundant and it’s time to change them to get new results! This could be upgrading our skill-set to get a promotion at work, losing weight to look and feel our best, or changing the way we communicate to enhance our influence and relationships.

However, the thought of getting started eludes us – we get caught up in our ruminations of ‘tried- it-in-the-past-didn’t-work’ or the obsession with ‘getting-it-right-the-first-time’ – holding us back from making the changes we KNOW are necessary.

Here are 5 ways that are research-based, have helped me and my clients to move from “stuck” to “started”.

1. Spot that bias

Human brains have a bias where negative experiences tend to have a greater impact and memory recall than positive ones. For example, when thinking about our past efforts of losing weight, it’s easier to recall what went wrong than right. Similarly, we tend to focus more on our weaknesses than strengths. This brain bias was important as a survival mechanism for our ancestors but in modern day, more often than not, limits our abilities and skews our judgement. To counter this bias, consciously look for positive experiences, things you did right, and that worked for you. So if extreme crash diets didn’t work the last time you tried but running did, why not tweak your fitness goal to include more running along with portion control? Look for the positive, tweak your strategy and get started!

2. Simplify

The perceived enormity of the end goal and the change it may accompany can freeze us with fear, overwhelm and discomfort and keep us stuck. Write down your goals. List relevant action steps that are manageable yet challenging enough to keep you motivated. Introduce key milestones and deadlines. Find an accountability partner to regularly check-in on your progress and help you in the process. Join a community of motivated people who are on a similar journey of change as you. Remind yourself of the vision behind your goal. Creating such a process gives us clear direction and confidence to take action.

3. Stay present; Start where you are

Living too much in the future of how our goal will pan out creates unnecessary anxiety and stress. Stay in the present moment – all creativity resides here; we are also better able to spot opportunities and respond to ever-changing dynamics of any situation. Start where you are with whatever resources you have. Once you’re clear on your goal, don’t wait to start till you get it all right. When you move in the direction of your goal, the right people and resources appear.

4. Focus on personal growth

The hallmark of a meaningful goal is personal growth. So in order to start and continue on this journey be ready to let go of habits, attitudes, people and things that don’t serve your ultimate goal. As you feel stuck, it is likely that one of these things is holding you back. Remember, to “have” new, you have to “be” and “do” new. If you are striving for a promotion at work you will need to learn new skills, work harder than usual, volunteer for projects beyond your domain, socialize with professionals at the level that you are striving for and disassociate with people who are detracting you from your future vision. It’s a hard fact, but true. Jim Rohn says “what you become is more important than what you get. What you get is influenced by what you become”. So focus on personal excellence as much as the end goal.

5. Cultivate Patience

It’s wise to start out on your goal with an attitude of patience. Any worthwhile vision or goal is not accomplished overnight. Stay open to tweaks to or a complete overhauling of your original plan of action; delays and dynamics that are out of your control; meeting people in the journey who don’t share or challenge your vision. Stay patient, and on-course. The right people and opportunities take time.

Bringing it all together

Understanding and using our biases wisely, breaking down our goal into manageable pieces and creating a structure around them, staying in the present moment and starting where we are with a focus on personal excellence and an attitude of patience sets the right tone and expectations freeing us up to move forward in the direction of our goals.