There are many things in my life that I am indecisive about, those which I deliberately avoid, procrastinate on and dread facing. But they all have one thing in common: they create a sense of being in limbo and feelings of being ‘stuck’.

This stuckness can last for days, weeks, months or even years. For me it’s decluttering the hobby room, moving to a paperless practice, entering a marathon and registering for the course I have been interested in for a very long time.

You might find yourself wanting to lose weight and although you know exactly what you should do to eat healthier or the type of exercise that suits you best, or know that you need to change careers or leave that unhealthy relationship, you find yourself unable to go into action. Trapped within the inability to act.


READ: Stop setting yourself up for failure!


Frozen in time in your head?

A mental block is a psychological obstacle, a barrier that stands in the way of your creativity, motivation, and productivity. It prevents you from completing important tasks and achieving success.

Let’s explore this state of stuckness and the most common reasons:

Uncertainty. Both personally and tasks.  

The lack of confidence in our abilities holds us back. One previous failure primes us to get trapped in negative thought processes and a fixed mindset where we catastrophise and generalise, and believe that we will never succeed at the task.

We see life as a series of wins or losses, instead of a journey of learning and development. This personal uncertainty also includes the impostor syndrome, where we doubt our abilities, no matter how well we are qualified or prepared. We are always scared to be “caught out” for not being as good or competent as we would like people to think we are.

Task uncertainty refers to the what and how of execution. For example, if I choose to transform to a paperless practice, I might be uncertain as to the best technology for the transition, and the idea of scanning more than 15 years of patient files is rather daunting.  It’s similar for creative and exercise endeavours such as being bogged down by the myriad of options and information overload when browsing online, not knowing which drawing course to enroll in for or which of the endless exercise programmes is best for your needs.

Fear of the unknown or failure  

Fear is strongly linked to having a fixed mindset and thinking in black and white. We see everything either as a win (success) or loss (failure) with nothing in between.  We would much rather stay uncomfortably comfortable with “the devil we know” than the unknown which naturally at first brings uncomfortable newness and uncertainty but in the long run the positive energy of change, exhilaration, and accomplishment.

Mental health disorders can also aggravate the sense of fear such as generalised anxiety disorder with its hallmark excessive worrying or depression often associated with pessimism and feelings of being worthless, useless and hopeless, leading to a sense of failure.

Project management issues

The inability and difficulty to organise and plan, the tendency to procrastinate, setting unreasonable targets and expectations associated with perfectionism, or vague goals, and lack of knowledge and experience, are all culprits contributing to our stuckness.

ADHD can also have a severe impact on your ability to plan. Read more about the condition here.

Practical obstacles

When your environment is cluttered, highly charged emotionally, or stressful, you will not be able to focus on your goals and execute them. When you are tired, multi-tasking and overstretched, and have a lack of support, you will also have great difficulty overcoming a block and either starting or completing tasks.


We often become frustrated when we try and figure out new or complex problems. The reason is simple: this new way of thinking is triggering your working memory (similar to your short-term memory) and is not able to hold information for very long.

When completing tasks and considering your options on something familiar, your brain is not using your working memory but rather the information stored in your long-term memory allowing you to complete the task automatically without thinking about it too much.

Our working memory is overworked and overloaded by many distractions, balancing and juggling many responsibilities, being faced daily with several new things we need to figure out, and an increase in emotional turmoil and stress. This leads to our frustration and inability to act, and rather opt to continue with the status quo because for now, it’s less hard and easier to cope with.

WATCH: The mindset of motivation

Overcome your mental block

Reduce uncertainty.

Research what you need to either online or by approaching someone with experience. Knowledge is power. The more you know and understand, the more informed your decisions will be, and the less your uncertainty.

Examine your thought processes.

Be aware of the constant inner monologue you have with yourself. Is it negative? Where did this voice originate from? You may want to write a journal to identify certain unhelpful patterns of thinking. Another trick is to use the “5 Why’s”: after each statement continue to ask “why” and answer honestly. You may identify the real (unexpected) root of the problem!

Seek outside perspective, guidance, and support.

This is different from reducing uncertainty in terms of what to do, but more in terms of how to approach it and how other people experienced the process. Consider talking to mentors, friends, colleagues, or even identifying an accountability partner who can keep you on track.

Up your skills.

Enroll for an online or in-person course, or read books on time management, project management and cultivating a growth mindset.  Remember to break daunting tasks into small goals, and to celebrate small successes. This will keep you motivated.

Declutter your physical space and your mental space.

Neaten your desk and office. Do not multitask. Make lists of things you need to do instead of trying to keep everything in your mind!

Mental health check

Seek professional advice for mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and ADHD which can be a good start to tackling the root of your stuckness.

Work on your energy balance.

Practice self-care to fill your tank. Remove the energy-sapping objects, activities and people who drain your energy. If it is not useful, joyful, or beautiful get rid of it!

READ: How to practice self-care

Becoming unstuck is not as difficult as you might think. It’s always a matter of state of mind, perspective, and the choices we make. If you narrow down the root of your stuckness you will soon find yourself on a more focused path to embracing change, holding yourself accountable and ultimately looking back and celebrating your success.