secret sauce on burger bun

The Secret Sauce to Getting Your Career Unstuck

Getting unstuck is about understanding what you want and why you want it, and you are willing to put in the effort to make it happen. When you understand these things, you make better decisions for your future self.

What is life without the freedom to make decisions?

What would you do if your doctor said you would die in 6 months? The only way to survive is if you would receive a very expensive treatment. This new treatment costs a billion dollars. Would you give up or try to earn a billion dollars to pay for this treatment? 

What if you weren’t allowed the opportunity to earn a billion dollars?

Many of us don’t see all our billion-dollar opportunities because of the past stories we repeat ourselves. We see the world through the lens we’ve developed over many years. Many of us have been burned in a past relationship, boss, idea, etc., which stops us from pursuing new opportunities. 

You would do everything possible to earn a billion dollars and pay for the treatment. 

Some of you may think it’s impossible and not try at all. Most of you will try and fail. And a few of you would try and succeed.

I would rather try and fail and know that I tried my best.

Have you ever heard the phrase:

Necessity is the mother of invention?


Every choice is an opportunity. When we are stuck, we stop seeing the value of the choices that we do have. Instead, we become afraid. We don’t want to rush or wait too long to make a decision. We must have a process so we have a balanced approach. One that checks in with our head (facts), heart (passions), and gut (larger purpose).

“On an important decision one rarely has 100% of the information needed for a good decision no matter how much one spends or how long one waits. And, if one waits too long, he has a different problem and has to start all over. This is the terrible dilemma of the hesitant decision maker.” Robert K. Greenleaf, The Servant as Leader

You have a great opportunity to learn more about what you want if you make time to dig into the truth. It’s an opportunity to slow down and course correct, so you can make sure your head, heart, and gut are aligned with your next set of actions. 

This phrase was spun from Plato, the Greek philosopher, who said, “Our need will be the real creator”.

Being stuck is a regular part of life. It means you care about the situation and want it to turn out well. You should start by checking with yourself before you can get unstuck. You have to get clear on the issue that makes you feel stuck. It starts with understanding the lens through which you are viewing the situation. We can get stuck on which sauce to order with our food.

When we get to choose from options, we see opportunities. This can cause mental gridlock if we aren’t sure about our options. If we order at a restaurant and get to choose between four different sauces, we look for the flavor we chose. This focus helps us enjoy the good just a bit more. We can choose what to dip our secret sauce, ketchup, mustard, or BBQ sauce. Let’s say we choose the secret sauce. We try to enjoy the flavor we chose because we chose it.

The secret sauce that most restaurants use is mayo based. A lot of restaurants use mayo and ketchup mixed together. They call it secret sauce, but it’s really simple ingredients that most people like. It’s just how we perceive the upcoming meal that matters. When we look forward to tasting the sauce that we picked, we enjoy it just a little more. Simple sauces are the most popular because they work. When faced with a difficult decision, we have to simplify things so we stay focused on what matters.


We often want to move past a complex decision quickly, but this is where we make a mistake. We feel uncomfortable and just want a clear path without branches, rocks, or rainy weather. We know this isn’t possible, but we thrash against our expectations. This is when we need to dig a little deeper to understand how our past patterns influence our perspective of the situation.

I had a client who was recently stuck in his career. I loved his business, but he had been doing it for 14 years. He wasn’t sure if he should start something new or continue growing his company. He helped small business owners improve their sales. What had worked well in the past wasn’t working as well today. He was seeing his website numbers drop. He needed to put more time into reaching people on other platforms. He was also beating himself up because he had a couple of failed projects. A book that didn’t hit the New York Times Best Seller list. An app that wasn’t growing as he had hoped. 

He realized that he was stuck because of his unrealistic expectations for himself. We talked through his options. While he had many good career options, he realized he needed to dig into himself. We created a daily routine for him to explore his negative inner dialogue to help him get unstuck.


There are no perfect choices. It’s why we must practice embracing failure. Every choice creates a new opportunity. When one path is blocked by a fallen tree…We can go around, go over it, or if it’s too big, then we can ask for help.

Developing an opportunity mindset took me a long time to cultivate, and I still catch myself getting caught up in my ego and not wanting to make a mistake. It recently became more clear after a business trip.

Do you ever worry about talking to strangers in an elevator?

I know I did. A few years ago, I went on a business trip. When riding the elevator with other people, I used to lean against the wall, not say anything, look at my phone, and count the seconds down until we could exit.

“If you care about what people think about you, you will end up being their slave. Reject and pull your own rope.” Auliq Ice

During this trip, I looked up and saw my reflection of myself holding my phone. I was afraid of the other person’s judgments. I had enough! I said, “Screw it!”. Which is me pulling my own rope. I told myself, “Let go of your fear and make the most of this moment.” 

I was tired of making decisions out of fear. No wonder I felt stuck so much. I wasn’t making decisions on what I wanted. I made decisions not to get hurt. That’s no way to live. Of course, I was getting stuck again and again. I needed to implement a process to help myself live more freely.

Great Questions

We can all practice finding small opportunities to grow. These small practices compound and help us get unstuck a little quicker when we are stuck on something bigger.

I asked myself, “What can I do to make this more fun?”

So now I ask people questions like:

  • How is your trip going? 
  • Those are awesome sneakers. Where did you get them?
  • What are you in town for?

These interactions only last 10-20 seconds, but it’s much more fun than hiding in the corner and burying myself in my phone. I choose to have fun with the situation instead of avoiding it.

We face micro-moments daily that can shed some light on who we are and why we feel stuck. I’ve said stupid things to embarrassing strangers, but 99% of the time, I have a delightful time talking with strangers. I’m curious about who they are. They love the attention. I’ve learned to let go of my ego and my need for them to like me. I just give what I can and let the situation unfold as it does.

I don’t force the issue when I see someone not feeling talkative. I leave them alone. I pick my spots. I let the situation unfold as it should.

When we learn from a bad decision, this is the start of forgiving ourselves. This helps us return to our true selves and support our future happiness. This is one of the core aspects of getting unstuck. We see our expectations and work with them instead of thrashing against them. We get a deeper understanding of how to take one small positive action. Even just taking a minute to dig into your thought processes daily is helpful. Thinking about what you learned from a past mistake is a smart, positive action. This is a billion-dollar habit.

Core Values

We should start with how values affect your decisions. Let’s use a simple example… 

If you choose to drink a glass of sparkling water instead of Coke, this affects your life’s next few hours. You might have more energy from the sugar and caffeine, but there will be an energy crash at some point. You know this, but the immediate gratification of a Coke is very alluring. 

“Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being free.” Paul Tillich

We rationalize this as a good idea if we drink a Coke on a Thursday afternoon. Our past can shackle us to bad choices. It’s hard to break these patterns. When we choose to drink a Coke, we deepen this behavior. If we drink a glass of sparkling water and go for a 10-minute walk, we value our long-term health over short-term energy gain. It’s appreciating these micro-moments that give us an opportunity to make better decisions for our future selves. 

We are making these micro-decisions every single day. It’s these hidden opportunities that we often don’t appreciate. When we are grateful for these options, we are more aware of how we can make decisions to make our future happier instead of choosing the deeply ingrained and less healthy path. Our decisions stem from our values. When we make a good choice, it’s usually aligned with a core value. 

We often see a situation because of what we value. If we value an energy boost to get something done, we’ll choose a Coke over sparkling water. If health is one of our core values, we might choose sparkling water over Coke. We get stuck when we go on autopilot and stop making conscious decisions. We make similar mistakes day in and day out instead of adjusting our decision-making process.

We aren’t hardwired to support our future selves. We are wired for instant gratification. We want joy now, not in four hours. Let alone four months from now. We need to practice supporting our future selves to make healthier, happier, and more productive choices instead of going on autopilot.

That’s why understanding how our values dictate our choices is important. We must see how our values support or hinder our decisions and adjust appropriately. 

Future You

Getting unstuck is about understanding what you want and why you want it, and you are willing to put in the effort to make it happen. When you understand these things, you make better decisions for your future self.

“When you don’t know what to do in a situation, ask yourself, ‘What would the person I want to be done in this situation?’ Then do that.” – Drew Dudley

This is not easy work. Habit change is hard, but I do it because I know who I want to become. I want to become a better person to have better relationships with my loved ones and colleagues. 

That means I work on being more patient, compassionate, empathetic, and curious. Empathy is hard for me. I was raised by a tough German father who would swat bees with his bare hands even though he was allergic. His hand would balloon up like a cartoon character. He often struggled to say thank you when you helped him.


I see how these memories still play a role in my relationships. Only when I became more grateful toward others did I begin to dig deep, decide what I wanted my life to be, and not live out past stories because it felt comfortable.

This is a game of getting a little uncomfortable. When we feel chaotic, it’s because we expect the difficult situation to be different than it is.

When we see our expectations clearly, we can understand them, accept the present moment for what it is,  let them go, and decide based on our core values.

I’m working on digging into these patterns and creating habits that support my ability to appreciate others more. I don’t want to expect them to do the things that I ask or expect them to do them a certain way. I just want to help guide them if they need my help. This is true for our career relationships as well as our personal ones. People don’t like to be told what to do. They like to be asked, and when they deliver, you make sure you appreciate their efforts.

Only when I put a process into place did I begin to change. Just wanting to change is important, but practicing a new habit is the most important part of going from stuck to unstuck. 

I decided to keep a gratitude journal about other people. I wrote down why I was grateful for my colleagues and family at the end of every day for 30 days. It helps to develop neural networks to help turn this into a regular habit.

This is why every decision matters. Every decision eventually adds and helps you see more clearly because you aren’t caught in the matrix of your emotions. You see clearly how your actions support or hold your future self back.

If you like articles like this one you can join the Dig to Fly weekly updates. You’ll get 5 Points newsletter filled with ideas to help you make Better Decisions Faster. You’ll also get the Dig to Fly Mini-guide and Better Decisions checklist.

Let’s Review

The secret sauce to getting unstuck is asking yourself great questions. It helps you reframe the situation so that you can see your hidden opportunities.

Getting unstuck requires having a process in place that fits your personality. You won’t see the results unless you have a system that helps you see the common patterns that get you stuck. History repeats itself if we aren’t aware. 

I suggest to many of my clients that they keep a journal. When you log your wins and losses and find a way to learn from them, you expand your self-awareness. This lets you be more honest about the situation without getting caught up in your ego. You want to ask yourself questions that help you dig deeper and notice your patterns.

Questions that work well when you are stuck:

  1. How did you deal with a similar situation in the past? What went well, and what could you have improved?
  2. What are some of the most common reasons you have felt stuck? Why do you think this is?
  3. Who do I think would handle this situation well? What advice do I think they would give me?
  4. What opportunities am I not seeing because I’m getting hooked by my emotions?

Great questions lead to great answers. You have to dig into your stuckness to be able to fly again. It’s why a daily dig question is so powerful. You make time to understand your lens of the situation. It’s this lens that dictates how stuck you will stay. When you shift that lens from one that is frustrated to one that is curious, new doors open. 

You get creative by being willing to see the situation from new angles. This takes practice. You will get knocked down and want to throw in the white towel, but once you give yourself some time to sulk, then you can dig in and find a creative solution to your problem that you just couldn’t see before.

Image courtesy of: Photo by Airam Dato-on on Unsplash,