I work with lots of people who feel stuck. As a coach, my goal is to move them forward. But as a trained counselor, I know sometimes we have to look into the past to figure out how they got where they are.
After doing this for quite a few years, I’ve seen there are three consistent themes that appear as the source of most people feeling stuck. If you’ll recognize these themes and take the proper steps, you can overcome these obstacles and move forward into all God has for you.
1. Be Willing to Take a Risk.
There are very few things of any value in this world that happen without someone taking a risk. Life is full of risk. Getting married is a risk. Having kids is a risk. Stepping into a new career is a risk. Going back to college is a risk. The possibility that you could fail or lose what you already have creates fear and consequently causes many people to not act.
When I’m counseling people who feel like they are circling the same track over and over, it can often be traced back to a moment when God placed a risk in front of them. They got scared and played it safe. Of course, God didn’t reject or condemn them in that moment. There’s no condemnation in Christ. (Romans 8:1) He still loves us no matter what and has a plan. Many more chances will come along to move to the next level. God is relentless in giving us chances. But they will all require risk.
The fullness of who God wants you to be will only come when you are willing to take a risk and act in spite of fear.
2. Choose to Forgive Those Who Have Hurt You.
When you refuse to forgive and hold onto bitterness, it’s like drinking poison and expecting the person who hurt you to die. It’s not gonna happen.
Failure to forgive only holds the person who was hurt captive. The perpetrator has moved on and either doesn’t care or may not even know they did anything wrong. You must choose to forgive even if the person who wronged you never asks for forgiveness.
I’ve worked with many people who have suffered horrific acts of violence and abuse. I can’t imagine the pain that many of them live with. When people are reeling in pain, you can’t just tell them to get well. It takes time and healing for a person to come to a place where they choose to forgive.
But they must forgive. I’m talking about the kind of forgiveness that can only come from God’s grace. There’s no way to drum up that much strength on your own, but God can give the grace and power to forgive. Some serious, intensive counseling may be the first step to getting to a place of forgiveness. Whatever it takes, you must forgive if you want to move into all God has for you.
Failure to forgive can hijack your future. So make sure you are constantly guarding your heart from bitterness. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
3. Take Time to Evaluate Past Experiences.
If you are constantly asking, “Why is this happening to me again?” It might be time to stop and evaluate your past experiences. Experience is not the best teacher. Evaluated experience is the best teacher. Failure to properly evaluate past experiences means you’ll probably make the same mistake again, because most of what we do is based on habit. If you don’t evaluate, you’ll find yourself stuck in the same patterns that bring the same results.
I regularly work with people who have experienced a financial, relational or career failure. The reason they are meeting with me is because they are on the verge of failure—again. In the same area.
I see lots of people who are in the middle of a divorce and are already dating someone new. Rather than take time to heal, process and evaluate, they dive right into another relationship, certain they won’t make the same mistakes again. They tell me, “I was over this marriage a long time ago. It’s just an issue of waiting on paperwork now.” That is simply not true. Evaluating takes time (sometimes years) and brutal commitment to truth. You can’t do this overnight.
To properly evaluate what went wrong it takes outside input and humility. We all have blind spots and can’t see problems that are too close to us. We need to open ourselves up to scrutiny and allow others to help us process what went wrong. With the right input and evaluation, you can put yourself on a path that will ensure you won’t make the same mistakes again.
Abundant life is what Jesus promises. (John 10:10) But life is hard and sometimes we have to fight for the fullness of life He promises by getting past these failures that hold us back. Do the hard work of acting in spite of fear, forgiving and evaluating and you’ll find yourself surging forward once again.
Joel Malm is the founder of Summit Leaders Coaching and is the author of Fully You: Unlocking the Power of All You Really Are He has an M.S. in Counseling.