Hansel and Gretel tried to retrace their steps. But try as they might, they could not find the breadcrumbs that Hansel scattered on the ground.
“Aw, bollocks! Birds must have eaten the breadcrumbs!” muttered Hansel. And he was right.

So they stumbled blindly through the forest, trying to find their way back home. Then noon came, and then afternoon. They were getting hungry, but they had used up all their bread for marking their way. The sun steadily advanced towards the horizon, and soon they would be stuck in the forest at night.
“Stumbling around blindly will lead us nowhere,” said Gretel. “Why don’t you try climbing a tall tree and see if you can see something from the top?”
Hansel agreed, picked a tree, and quickly started climbing, before it got too dark to see. The sun was just starting to set as he got to the top.
“No, I don’t see anything, just forest everywhere… oh, hang on! I see a light in the distance!”

The above is a (parahrased) excerpt from the famous story about Hansel and Gretel.

Notice how they solved their problem of being stuck in a forest. At first, they simply stumbled around blindly. But they didn’t get unstuck by stumbling around better, like marking trees they had already visited, or trying to go in as straight a line as possible. No, they got unstuck when Gretel got the idea to transcend their situation. Instead of stumbling around, she suggested they get a high vantage point to see into the distance.

This is the core idea that I’d like to talk about today. Whenever you feel stuck in any part of your life (be it your job, a relationship, or anything else), you have probably exhausted the various possibilities that lay within the framework you consider. And the quick way to get unstuck is to transcend the framework, to find a new approach to your situation!

A few more examples of transcending a situation:

Let’s pick another example you’re probably familiar with. Driving a car. And specifically, let’s talk about a car with a manual transmission.
You start driving in the lowest gear. And depending on how much you press the gas pedal, your car will go faster or slower. But all the same, you will only be able to drive within a narrow range of speeds unless you change gears. Pressing the pedal means you stay within the same framework. Changing gears shifts you to a different framework. Ahhhhhhhh!

Or let’s say you have a nightmare. No matter what you do in the nightmare, be it run, jump, hide, or do handstands while singing the Ode to Joy backwards, you will likely stay in the nightmare. The only way to stop the nightmare is waking up. Again, a change to a whole new framework.

How to get unstuck???????????

Ok…..So let’s say you feel stuck in some situation.
Maybe your job makes you feel less than inspired. Maybe you’re not entirely happy with a relationship you’re in. Maybe you feel like you’re not tapping your full potential. Maybe you can’t even figure out what the next step is to even take ! YIKES!
In those cases it’s possible that you might need to transcend your current assumptions about the situation. Consider a different framework than you’ve been doing until now.
Maybe the whole 9-5 job thing isn’t for you, and you’d be better off self-employed. Or maybe you just want to work in a different field (despite having high qualifications in your current field). Or maybe it’s just the idea of working for 40 years with occasional two-week holidays and saving up your retirement until you’re old and frail that doesn’t appeal to you. In that case, you might want to consider the idea of mini-retirements. Mini-retirements simply mean taking 6 months off work every couple of years to do whatever, thus spreading your “retirement” throughout your life. OR maybe it means literally unplugging from e-mail, phone etc and just get in the car and go away—SHIFT your perception! You wil be amazed what will reveal itself to yo once you shift your vantage point and STOP trying to figure it out!

Or when it comes to a relationship that you’ve tried working on heavily, but it still isn’t working. Maybe the person isn’t quite right for you. Maybe you are trying to fit –or make them fit —and no matter what you do you are NOT happy!  Maybe a wee little pause or time apart–??

 Now, I don’t mean that you should always jump to transcending a situation as your first line of defense. You don’t want to break up a relationship the first time you have an argument. With the car example, when you want to go faster or slower, your first approach is to simply apply more pressure on the gas pedal, or less. You only shift gears when the gas pedal method isn’t sufficient.
But when you’ve tried staying within the framework, and try as you might, you still feel stuck in your situation, it’s time to lean back, and think about the big picture. Forget thinking about the situation, and think about how you think about the situation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Not thinking, but meta-thinking!!

In step by step terms, you can approach it like this:
1. What problem are you trying to solve?
This can be as specific or as general as you want. You might simply feel “stuck in your job”.
Or, as a very specific example that I’ll use to explain this 4-question approach, let’s say you’re a parent and you’re trying to get your child to clean their room.
2. What are you doing to solve it?
Let’s say your solution is to keep nagging the child to clean their room. This makes sense, because (YOU think) if you keep reminding them, it will be on their mind, and they will go ahead and clean up, right? ( smile…..)
3. Is this approach working for you?
Be careful with this step. It’s really easy to fall in the trap of thinking that your approach should work. But that’s not what this question is about at all. In fact, getting stuck in a loop of behaviour that should work in theory, but doesn’t in practice, is one of the most common ways of getting stuck!!
Forget shoulds. Think of the last few times you tried your approach to the situation. Has it worked to your satisfaction? Yes or no? That’s all the answer you need.
4. What assumptions are you making about the framework? Are they justified?
And if you find that your current approach isn’t working, it’s time to examine your assumptions.
In the example of getting your child to clean their room, the assumption behind nagging is that they need pushing and constant reminders to get the work done. But is that really the most effective approach?
For example, many years back, when I was a kid, I distinctly remember that constant reminders to clean my room actually drained my willingness and motivation to do so. Being asked once was fine, but any more reminders only made me less likely to go ahead and do the work…(my poor mother!!)
Or, in this particular example, maybe the whole assumption that this is a problem is flawed. Maybe it’s perfectly fine for a child to clean their room less often?
In any case, whenever you find yourself stuck with an approach that doesn’t work, it’s time to examine your assumptions about the situation. The chances are, not all of them are as obviously true as you think!!

Have you got any stories about times you made unwarranted assumptions about a situation? I would love to hear them! Please leave a comment below.

Here’s to your BIG pictures!!

Gail