Do One Thing

Wouldn't it be great if this were our list?


Last week, I talked about one of my favorite “go-to” coping tools–remembering to breathe. This week, I thought that I would explore another basic tool that can make a huge difference when you are feeling stuck.

Feeling Stuck

So many of our life situations can create that feeling of “being stuck.” Here are just a few of the reasons that we can end up feeling that way:

  • Dealing with the death of a loved one.
  • Facing a new medical diagnosis
  • Ongoing depression
  • Significant anxiety
  • Loss of a job
  • Chronic health conditions

The central issue when you’re feeling stuck is the inability to take an action, to move forward.  That inability may be due to feeling overwhelmed, or hopeless, or afraid, or exhausted.

Changing the Situation

When I sit with folks who feel stuck, one of the things that I often see and hear is that they are setting expectations for themselves that are too high.  If you’re struggling to get out of a slump, it’s not helpful to give yourself a huge “to do” list. So, I ask my clients to identify one single action that they can take toward forward progress.  If that single action creates further actions, that’s fantastic.  However, the goal is to just do one thing.  If you get that one thing done, you have succeeded.

Here are a few examples:

  • If you are feeling isolated, send one email or make one phone call.
  • If you want to exercise more, spend five minutes moving.
  • If you want to start meditating, try 30 seconds of meditation.

Try very hard not to criticize the size of your action.  Remember that any action you take is moving you toward the growth you want to see in your life.  And even changes that look very small can move you from stuck to active, if you continue to take those actions.

So, what will you do today?  What one thing will help you move from stuck to active?


Image Credit: Photo by Carissa GoodNCrazy via Flickr

12 thoughts on “Do One Thing

  1. I am a Chimp Observer at Lion Country Safari. We do Chimp enrichment projects, and then observe the chimps enjoying them. Today, is the chimp enrichment activity where we make the enrichments. The theme is GREEN! My husband is dropping me off to a meet spot, and I am going to attend. Looking forward to it. (: that is my one thing, and it will get me out talking to people, who have a same love for conservation. kim

    1. Arlene,

      Thank you! I’m realizing that I’m drawn to the simple stuff right now. Maybe that’s a reflection of complexity in my life. 😉


  2. Hi Ann-

    What an adorable image–so heart-breakingly innocent and simple :).

    This post reminded me of a supervision session with a social work intern. Said “rookie” was hesitant to meet with the parent of a client b/c there’s so many psychosocial issues, it’s hard to narrow the focus and know where to begin…

    “Ask mom what is the one behavior that she would like to see different in her child, and reinforce the PIC model (Parent in Control/Back in Control). You just need to focus on one area of improvement. No need to ‘fix’ the family system, but just take a bite out of it.”

    I agree that we get stuck b/c we see the mountain of problems and judge ourselves as not having a big enough action. One step at a time, is better than no step at all.

    Thanks for the reminder :).

    1. Linda,

      The conversation you described with your supervisee is such an important one for us all to have. We need permission, from ourselves or others, to choose somewhere to focus and begin acting there. That’s a hard thing to remember when we’re feeling overwhelmed and stuck.


  3. Dear Ann,
    Thanks so much for this simple reminder. You give a clear explanation of a very important strategy. I find that parents often need to be reminded of this as well. For all of us, we can only do one thing at a time.

    1. Carolyn,

      I’ve been really drawn to the basics lately for my blog posts. This is the stuff that I go over with nearly every patient I see–the things I I need to remind myself of so very often. It’s a lot of fun to write these posts!


  4. Love this advice. Sometimes I think we all definitely do set our goals too high or make our lists too long. Well, actually, not me on the list thing, I don’t make lists very often. I’ve been feeling a bit stuck myself after returning from vacation. Hard to get motivated again to write. I’ve also been feeling stuck in grief somewhat after losing my friend Rachel. And now my mom’s passing away anniversary date is next week… lots on my mind.

    1. Nancy,

      When there are multiple losses, it can be easy to begin to feel stuck. Thank you for your thoughtful words–I hope that there is lots of room for self-care and nurturing in the next week.


    1. Kathy,

      When you’re facing depression, the smallest things often feel very hard. That’s why I work with my clients to make the small activities “count”as progress.


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