Do you get stuck in loops?

Here's what I mean:

Ugh, I'm so sick of my job. I want to quit and finally start my business. But I can't quit yet because I need the money. Maybe I could work on stuff after work and on weekends. But I'm always so tired after work I never feel like doing anything. If I'm really serious about the business, I should just quit cold turkey and go for it. But if it doesn't work out I'll have wasted all that time. And it might be hard to get a job again because of the gap in my resume. I mean, my job isn't that bad. It's boring, but it's comfortable. Plus everyone is so nice and I would miss seeing them. I don't know. I'm tired *opens Netflix*. Zzzz..

Oops, you ended up right back where you started.

Loops like this can play dozens, even hundreds of times per day in our minds. They happen idly when we're driving, eating, about to fall asleep. They happen in our dreams, too.

They confuse us. Exhaust us. Drive us insane. We can never seem to completely resolve them.

Loops keep us stuck.

Here's another really common one:

Ugh, I'm so tired of being in this relationship. If we're not going to get married I don't know what we're doing together. We should break up. But we have two trips coming up plus a friend's wedding to go to. I don't want to be the only single person among my friends. Dating sounds exhausting. Plus I might not meet someone better. I might never meet anyone again. Maybe things aren't so bad. We get along fine. True love is sorta bullshit anyway. Plenty of worse couples stay together. This is probably the best it's gonna get. I don't know. I'm tired *opens Netflix*. Zzzz..

Let's dissect loops.

Loops are usually a conflict between certainty and uncertainty.

You want something to change, but you aren't sure how it will turn out. So you imagine the worse case scenario. Compared to that, your current situation doesn't look so bad, so you stay put.

The mistake you're making is in oversimplifying uncertainty into the worse case scenario. It's extreme.

The best case scenario is also extreme.

The reality will likely be somewhere in between.

Often, your loop doesn't take You into account. You forget that you have agency in where you end up.

Once you start down a new path, you naturally devote your energy, creativity and resourcefulness to preventing the worse case scenario from happening.

You stack the deck in your favor, and you learn how to do it better as you go.

Because you're a human being, and that's what we do.

Loops often contain only two options.

It's stay or go. This or that. Black or white.

It's another oversimplification of reality. Nothing in life is black and white.

When you're stuck in black and white thinking, it's usually because of an arbitrary judgement or belief you picked up from other people or a past experience.

"I have to get married by 30." Really?

"I need to make six figures." Or else what?

"This didn't go well last time." So?

Sit down and brainstorm a list of 10 other options in front of you.

Really go wild—20. 30.

You'll soon realize that you have infinite choices in front of you when you eliminate all the dead ends (aka silly, outdated rules).

Loops almost always draw from a ridiculously narrow and absolute data set.

This is related to the last point.

When you created your loop, you cherry-picked the exact information you needed to keep you stuck.

They usually come after "Yeah but..."

80% of businesses fail in the first 6 months.

Employers don't like seeing gaps in your resume.

It'll be a lot harder to get pregnant later.

Your friends have heard you say these facts so many times, they can mouth them as you're saying them.

Thing is, your life won't track to the averages.

You're living a 1 in 100 billion existence just by being born. Facts and figures and averages say nothing about your individual life.

There are tons of exceptions to every "rule". Go look for them and learn about the nuances.

Do you know why 80% of businesses fail? Maybe most of those reasons don't even apply to you.

Do you know what employers really think when they see a gap in a resume? Maybe it's not what you expect.

Do you know any women over your age who had babies? Go talk to them.

Bust your own myths.

Here's the bottom line about loops: You cannot think your way out of them.

Action is the only antidote.

Because you can’t see shit from where you’re sitting. Walking forward is the only way to see what’s around the first bend.

Loops are self-sustaining echo chambers. A sick homeostasis.

Many people stay looping and looping until they die or something catastrophic happens to them that forces them off of it (i.e. getting laid off).

Taking action brings in new data, perspective, ideas and insights that disrupt and break loops apart.

If you let it.

So stop thinking. And start doing.


Eddie Shieh, PCC, MFA