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  • Cory McGowan

The Gift of Being Stuck

If there is one common theme I am hearing about from new clients or people I am just having coaching conversations with, it is about feeling stuck. This can take many forms: not knowing what the next career move is, not knowing how to make the jump from idea to action, not knowing what they actually want in life, etc.


There is a common sense of urgency in these discussions that getting unstuck is what needs to happen right away. And while I know that my coaching really impacts people, I’d be lying if I said I have some magic formula for helping people to get unstuck in a single conversation or session. I don’t actually see that as my role anyway.

This Japanese kamushika is definitely feeling stuck. Photo: Joe Mather

In fact, what I would like to take a stand for here is the gift of being stuck. Not that I am wishing it on people, but I am also not NOT wishing it on you, either. Because there is no reason that being stuck (or at least the results of it) can’t be as beneficial of a state as any other state we could be in. In any case, change being the constant that it is, the eventual outcome of being stuck, must be no longer being stuck, so what’s the harm in being in it and being as present to it as we can be?

There may be a perception out there that coaches, who often work in the service of helping people get out of their stuckness must have their shit together and don’t get stuck. That is definitely not my experience. Actually, feeling stuck in the ways that I often do - in how I run my coaching practice, in how to show up as a husband/father/community member, in sitting down to write content like this while wondering if it matters to anyone but me - is what allows me to meet my clients in that state in a genuine way.

Being stuck is uncomfortable. It’s confusing. And it’s opportunity to reflect. It’s an opportunity to pay attention, to not rush, and to see what wants to emerge.

Look, we are at a very special time in the world. What the pandemic has done to our previous realities is the same as what happens to a caterpillar in the cocoon - it gets dissolved into an unrecognizable and seemingly dying blob. There is nothing glamorous about that process. But imaginal cells (cells that imagine what can be! It’s a real thing!) emerge. However, the remaining caterpillar immune system kills them off at first. This is similar to our rush to get unstuck. The world (and our minds) try to kill off what might want to emerge - Don’t be stuck! Figure out what you want! There’s no time! Get back to normal!

Eventually, the imaginal cells increase in number and strength, too powerful for the old immune system, and a butterfly forms and emerges. The beauty of a life that was previously unimaginable requires being stuck to a certain extent. Discomfort. Confusion.

What then is the role of the coach if not the purveyor of change? If not the provider of the answers to ensure that you get unstuck as quickly as possible? If we stick (oops) with the metaphor, I see the work I do with clients as creating the cocoon. The container where change can happen. A place where dark is as welcome as light. An invitation to sit in the discomfort, supported, so your imaginal cells can flourish until that next stage of beauty is ready to emerge.


If you are feeling stuck - congratulations!

What are you present to in that and what gift might it hold for you?

If you want to feel more supported as your next stage of beauty emerges, what is stopping you from seeking that support?

I’d love to have a conversation with you.

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