Feeling Stuck? Try Changing Just One Thing

Feeling stuck is something every human on the planet has experienced from time to time…and it’s no fun. That frustration you feel when something isn’t working as expected in your professional or personal life just downright sucks.  

Just today, before writing this post, I was doing my usual morning journaling. I like to journal for about 30 minutes before getting started on other tasks. It’s become a ritual for me to enjoy my first cup of coffee and some of my favorite music while I write.

99% of the time, words flow pretty easily for me when I journal. Today it felt like every word I tried to get down on paper got stuck in my pen. It just wasn’t easy. Instead of just plowing ahead and forcing myself to keep writing, I took a step back to listen to myself. What felt off today? 

The first thing I could think of was the music. I was listening to the soundtrack of one of my favorite Grindhouse movies, Death Proof. The music is a great bluesy soul blend that I love, but I’d never listened to it as I journaled before, so I decided to change to something more upbeat. 

I went back to my journal, and lo and behold, the words started flowing! 

woman sitting at a table writing in a notebook

Sometimes, just a minor tweak in your routine, environment, or habit can catalyze a significant shift in productivity and creativity and alter your entire perspective.

This experience made me think about the broader implications of this simple yet profound concept. How often do we overlook the power of one small change? How many times do we remain stuck, feeling overwhelmed by the idea that only grand gestures can lead us out of our downward spiral? The answer: more often than you think! 

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The Power of One Small Change

It’s amazing how just one simple change in your environment or routine, like the music you listen to or the space you occupy, can dramatically alter your mental state and your productivity. This isn’t just a fluke or a one-off occurrence; it’s a testament to the profound adaptability and sensitivity of the human brain. Small changes can have big impacts, often more than we realize.

When we feel stuck, whether in our professional lives, during a creative pursuit, or even in our personal routines, it’s like our brain hits a roadblock. The usual neural pathways aren’t providing the results we’re used to, leading to frustration and that stuck feeling.

Introducing a small change is like rerouting traffic in a congested city. Suddenly, there’s a new path, a new perspective, and the journey becomes smoother, often leading to unexpected and delightful destinations.

feet in black and white sneakers standing on blacktop at bottom center of the image. 5 white arrows pointing outward in different directions from the feet

But why does this work? It’s partly because breaking the status quo forces the brain to engage more actively. We’re no longer operating on autopilot. This heightened engagement stimulates creativity and problem-solving, leading to those “aha” moments or bursts of inspiration that help us overcome the feeling of being stuck. It’s a gentle yet powerful reminder that sometimes, the largest obstacles can be overcome by taking the smallest steps.

In essence, embracing the power of one small change encourages us to live an intentional life, in which we’re constantly aware of our actions and surroundings, and how they influence our biggest goals and everyday life. This awareness doesn’t just help us get unstuck; it propels us toward a life of being actively engaged in the pursuit of growth, happiness, and fulfillment.

Areas of Life to Apply the One Change Concept

The concept of making one small change is like a master key that can unlock potential in nearly every area of your life. This principle holds true from your desk at work to the deepest reaches of your personal life.

Here’s how you can apply the one change concept across different facets of your life.

Work Environment

Feeling stuck in your professional life can result from a stale routine or environment. When I worked as a business analyst manager for a mutual fund company, I would encourage my team members to take their laptops to the outdoor courtyard or the cafe to work whenever they were feeling stuck on a task or project. 

woman sitting on a bench writing in a notebook she's holding in her hands. she's looking down at an open laptop computer that is sitting on the bench.

Sometimes, the mere act of rearranging your workspace can shift your perspective and refresh your mindset. This could be as simple as introducing a plant to your desk, changing the direction your desk faces, or even alternating between sitting and standing if you have an adjustable desk.

Try a new app or tool to streamline a cumbersome process or change the time you check emails to prevent your inbox from dictating the flow of your day. Subtle shifts like these can help break the cycle of constant fatigue and reignite your drive and focus.

Creative Processes

If you’re an artist, musician, or any type of creator, stepping outside your usual genre or medium can ignite a spark that propels your work into exciting new territories. Creativity thrives on novelty and stimulation. When your muse seems elusive and you’re caught in a downward-spiraling creative block, changing tools or media can work wonders.

If you’re a writer, temporarily ditch your laptop in favor of pen and paper; artists whose usual media are paints or pencils might experiment with digital art. Altering your creative environment can also be profoundly impactful. Sometimes, the familiar walls of your studio or office might feel confining; simply moving to a café, a park, or a different room can breathe new life into your work.

young girl sitting on a balcony overlooking a lake and trees. girl is wearing overalls and is sitting in front of an easel painting an ocean scene

Seeking new sources of inspiration, like visiting a gallery, reading a genre you usually don’t, or even engaging in conversations outside your usual circle, can infuse your creativity with newfound energy and perspectives.

Personal Habits

Our personal routines and habits form the backbone of our daily life, and even minor adjustments here can ripple outwards with significant effects. Changing our exercise routine, experimenting with new recipes, or even altering our usual social settings can refresh our outlook and improve both mental and physical health. 

Feeling overwhelmed? Try adjusting your morning routine; perhaps wake up a bit earlier to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee in solitude or introduce a short meditation session to set a calm tone for the day.

If your workout has become more of a chore than a source of strength, switch it up. Try yoga if you usually lift weights, or go for a swim instead of your regular jog.

close-up of hands resting on knees in a meditation pose; blurred sunrise or sunset in the background

Experimenting with different relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, aromatherapy, or even a new hobby can transform your downtime into a rejuvenating experience, promoting better mental health and overall well-being.

Relationships and Social Interactions

Your relationships and social interactions are key to your sense of happiness and fulfillment, yet these areas can also become stagnant over time. Introducing small changes can revitalize these connections.

Maybe it’s changing your usual communication patterns, like sending a heartfelt note instead of a text or having a deep, uninterrupted conversation instead of a quick catch-up. Trying new activities together can introduce a sense of adventure and bonding, whether it’s a cooking class, a hiking trip, or volunteering. My wife, Larissa, and I like to go on “playing tourist” dates where we pretend we’re visiting our city as tourists and hit up a few travel hotspots in the area. 

Larissa Galenes and Vickie Velasquez taking a selfie in front of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas

Even altering your usual meeting spots by choosing different venues for get-togethers can shift the dynamics of your interactions, offering fresh perspectives and experiences.

In each of these areas, the one change concept serves as a gentle nudge, a way to disrupt the status quo and reawaken a sense of purpose and enthusiasm. It’s about giving ourselves permission to explore, experiment, and embrace the process of discovery in our journey toward a more fulfilling and intentional life.

The Importance of Mindfulness and Documentation

When you make changes, big or small, being mindful and keeping track of them can make a world of difference. Mindfulness involves paying close attention to what’s happening, how you’re feeling, and how the changes you make are affecting you. It’s like being a detective in your own life, noticing the clues that tell you what’s working and what’s not.

But why is it so important to be mindful and keep a record of the changes you make? Well, it helps you understand yourself better. When you jot down what you’ve changed and how it made you feel, you’re gathering valuable information about what helps you feel good and what doesn’t. This can be super handy when you’re feeling stuck again in the future.

Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Start a change log  This can be a simple notebook or a digital document where you record the changes you make. You can also use apps designed for journaling or tracking habits if you prefer something more tech-savvy.
  2. Note what you changed  Write down the specific thing you changed. Nothing is too simple. For example, “Switched morning coffee to green tea” or “Rearranged my desk.”
  3. Record your feelings before and after  How did you feel before you made the change? Stuck? Frustrated? And after? More relaxed? Energized? Writing this down can help you see the direct impact of the change you made.
  4. Observe over time  Sometimes, the effects of a change aren’t immediate. Keep an eye on how you’re feeling and performing over the next few days or even weeks.
  5. Review your change log  Every now and then, take some time to look back at the changes you’ve made and how they’ve helped you. This can give you insights into patterns that work best for you.
image of spreadsheet for keeping a log of changes to routines

By maintaining a change log, you’re not just making random changes; you’re creating a personalized guidebook that helps you navigate through difficult times. It’s a way to remind yourself that you have the power to make your days better, one small change at a time.

Remember, the goal isn’t to make huge leaps every day. It’s about making progress over time, learning about yourself, and enjoying the journey of personal growth. So, next time that stuck feeling starts creeping up, take a deep breath, make a small change, and don’t forget to jot it down. Your future self will thank you for it!

Feeling stuck from time to time is a universal experience, but it doesn’t have to define your life. By embracing the power of one small change, maintaining a sense of mindfulness, and keeping a record of your journey, you’re equipping yourself with the tools to break free from the shackles of routine and stagnation. You’re reminding yourself that you have the power to shape your life, one small, intentional step at a time.

I encourage you all to experiment with this concept. Start small, be patient with yourself, and observe how these changes ripple through your life.  

If you’d like some help getting started creating a change log, download my free template here

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