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4 Simple Steps to Get Unstuck


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Adam Alter is a professor of marketing and the Robert Stansky Teaching Excellence Faculty Fellow at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He also holds an affiliated professorship in social psychology in NYU’s psychology department.

He’s a New York Times bestselling author of two books: “Drunk Tank Pink” and “Irresistible.” His newest book, “Anatomy of a Breakthrough,” will be available in May 2023.

In this episode of Motivational Mondays, Alter shares four steps to get unstuck and experience the breakthrough you need.

Acceptance Is the First Step

People don’t know how to deal with the feeling of being stuck. Alter discovered that there are cultural differences in how people grapple with this dilemma. In Western countries, people anticipate that things will go on as normal. In Eastern countries, people tend to expect change, which makes them better prepared for it.

There are certain ways people get stuck. With one, there’s nothing you can do and you have to accept the situation. But the majority of the time, there IS something you can do. Once you accept what you can’t change and cope with it, you can figure out strategies to get unstuck.

Perspective Is Key

Everyone has a particular way of thinking about things. Alter believes you have to draw on diverse values, ideas, attitudes, and backgrounds. When people ask for advice, they turn to people like them, but you also need perspective from those who see things differently.

If the way you normally do things was the path to getting unstuck, you’d already be unstuck. We’re often the most negative voice in our lives; however, people who embrace an outside perspective are kinder and gentler to themselves.

Alter's 4-H Friction Audits

When you’re first confronted with being stuck, you need to understand that it’s a universal problem. People don’t always show their progress and as a result, we always see the finished product and not the obstacles. The “Help” section is written to help you feel that you aren’t alone.

The “Heart” section refers to the heart as a symbol of emotion and how our bodies respond to stress. This section attempts to help you learn how to grapple with your emotions, manage anxiety, and redirect resources in the right direction.

The “Head” section is about learning how to think in helpful, strategic, and valuable ways. There are mental strategies you can use to get unstuck and the best thing you can do is strip away what’s unnecessary. By simplifying things, we make them manageable.

The “Habit” section is about how to act. Great artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs all talk about how doing anything is better than doing nothing. You have to release the bad stuff from your head to get the good stuff.

Listen to this episode to learn about...

[0:51] The inspiration behind Alter’s new book.
[3:06] Why acceptance is the first step toward change.
[7:24] Why changing your perspective is key.
[12:46] Why being stuck is universal.
[15:47] How to grapple with your emotions.
[17:06] The concept of pausing before you act.
[19:53] How to change the way you think.
[21:38] Why you should focus on what you’re good at.
[25:34] How to change the actions you’re taking.

Listen to the bonus episode to learn why emotional flailing is common during hard times and the importance of understanding how you got stuck.