Stuck? Get Unstuck With These Powerful Questions

Overcoming-Obstacles-Can-Direct-You-to-Success_1-600x330As a coach I know that one of the most persistent problem areas for clients is being Stuck.

It’s like having your car tires on a very muddy road and the harder you try to get out the deeper the car sinks. It happens to all of us, often when we have tough choices to make.

Sometimes it takes a third party to help you get out.

Two main causes of becoming Stuck are Overwhelm and Fear. Let’s look at these in more detail and the Powerful  Questions to help you clarify the situation.


Sometimes we’re stuck just because we have too many choices and too many options. In business we call this the paralysis of analysis. We have so many choices to review and no method to review them, so, it is easier to do nothing. But, by doing nothing we’re still stuck. So where to start? What will be our approach to making a choice? We don’t want to make the wrong choice but we also need to make some kind of choice. We need to take action. Sometimes it’s easier if you only have one or two choices it forces you to make a decision. Recognizing the fact that you are suffering from overwhelm is a key first step towards making a move. That’s what we’re looking for here to make a first step. Each step takes you closer towards making a choice. So let’s look at how you can start making that first step.

Powerful question: “How are you getting in your own way?”


One of the key things holding us back and preventing any kind of movement is often fear. It could be the fear of failure, the fear of looking stupid, the fear of the risk involved in making a mistake, or just plain fear of the unknown.

Powerful questions: “What are you afraid of?” and“ What is the true challenge here?”

Now let’s look at 3 approaches to getting unstuck.

Shift Perspective

We are who we are. We’ve developed our habits, our views, and our ways of doing things, over many years. So it’s not easy to see what we could change. Shifting your perspective allows you to look at your challenges and your problems from a different angle. It’s a little bit like you can’t see what you can’t see. So let’s look at an example.

Let’s say you were stuck on a particular issue at work with a co-worker. You’ve been wrestling with this problem for many months and you keep coming up with the same two solutions. Neither solution is a win-win. Shifting perspective allows you to take the same problem and move your self away from the current view. Shifting perspective lets you: look at the problem from your coworkers point of view; look at the problem from the team’s point of view; look at the problem as if it was not a problem, but an opportunity, and look at the problem as a positive scenario. Doing this allows you to come up with various approaches. It’s almost like creating a mind map with the problem in the center and all of the potential solutions around it.

Try it now with something that you’ve been wrestling with and keep a completely open mind. Don’t rule out any thoughts or solutions until you’ve written it all down. Now go back and review them again trying not to be judgmental. I think you’ll be amazed at the possible outcomes.

Powerful Question: “What do I want if there were no restrictions?”


The ability to visualize a solution or an outcome allows us to view the outcome like a YouTube video playing on our computer. Visualization is a technique that we commonly use, sometimes not even being aware that we are doing it. For example let’s say you’re getting prepared for speech or a big meeting. Often you will walk through whole process in your mind as a preparation. You look at the meeting and all the potential scenarios and visualize how you were going to respond.

So how does this help? Visualization allows you to feel more comfortable and to picture yourself in a different or changing situation. Sometimes it can be referred to as daydreaming and thinking back to all of those plans and visions you had when you were a kid. You could see yourself in many different roles and situations. So now as an adult you can positively harness the power of visualization to help you get you unstuck.

Powerful Questions: “Where do I limit myself?” and “What are other possibilities?”

The “What If” game

This is a fun game because you’re not committing to a particular outcome so it’s risk-free. You’re saying what if I did this then what could happen? You’re saying what if I tried that then what’s the worst-case scenario? What if I didn’t do that? What if I use a completely new approach? What if I didn’t shoot down my ideas? The what if game gives you complete freedom to try things “on” with no risk.

Powerful Question: “What If you knew you could not fail what would you do?”

It’s good to get these things down on paper: Overwhelm, Fear, Shift Perspective, Visualize and What If?

Mind mapping is a great technique because it allows your mind to run free without censoring your choices. But you can also use the same technique making a list, or using sticky notes.

  • Writing it down allows you to see the problems and the possible solutions in a more concrete way.
  • It allows you to manipulate the information into manageable chunks and choices.
  • It allows you to mark things you have completed and gives you more control over the outcomes.
  • It allows you to see that becoming Unstuck is a dynamic and ongoing process and is part of the fabric of life.


Alanea Kowalski
Alanea Kowalski
ALANEA Kowalski is an executive coach with over 25 years of international business experience who focuses on startup or high-change environments particularly with expatriates, women leaders and executives working toward developing global understanding and presence. Her areas of expertise include Financial Services, Pharma and High Tech. She coaches numerous C-suite clients and executives managing cross-cultural teams and working in multinational companies. Alanea has worked for Citibank, and as a consultant in Executive Search, Talent Management and Career Transition. She has worked with clients throughout North America, China, Hong Kong, Russia, the U.K and Europe. Alanea has lived in the UK, Canada and currently she resides in France. She holds multiple coaching certifications: The Coaches Training Institute, Lore International, The First 90 Days (Michael Watkins), The Team Intensive and Coaching Ourselves (Henry Mintzberg). Alanea is on the Advisory Board for ACEC, Association of Corporate and Executive Coaches. She is described by her clients as having the ability to interlace the strategic and creative with the practical. She pushes and challenges her clients to reach the next level using humour as well as her deep understanding of people and business. She takes her work seriously but, not herself. Often Alanea is described as a hybrid Coach and Consultant. One of her favourite phrases is “what if”.

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  1. Have you checked out TRIZ to get unstuck?

    It was invented by a bunch of Russian scientists when they were imprisoned because they were scientists. To keep themselves entertained they came up with some patterns that when applied could recreate innovations that were patented.

    Some cool stuff. Seeing this in 1997 convinced me that innovation can be taught as a series of habits. Habits, that prevent you from getting stuck.

  2. My question is: how do we get from A to Z? Then answer with one option, another, and another until all possibilities are exhausted. Then when we get stuck we look back at these answers. What we do is deceptively simple. Confirmation bias, assumptions, and comfort level limits us at the most fundamental levels.

    • Good points Chris. Sometimes these are very difficult to do for yourself. A good coach can provide great perspective here.

    • Agreed. We need someone that is unhindered by the stresses of politics and the day to day grind of reaching difficult objectives. An external consultant works very well.