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Are you stuck? The way out is scientific.

I just got off a call with someone who recently moved to a new town and felt stuck exploring career options in the new community. She had a gorgeous list of wants and desires – to work on a team of inspiring, interesting people where she could use her problem solving skills and have opportunities for growth and learning – but was stuck. There was just one little college in the new little town. She “didn’t know anyone” (we’ll come back to that). Where else could there possibly be to look? She was stuck on a small set of OLD ideas and OLD data. Every time she tried to make sense of the job market, she kept coming back to the same OLD ideas. She's in a stuck cycle.

Sometimes, she's spy a squirrel and run off in a totally random direction. Should I go back to school? Look for remote work?

The way out of a stuck cycle is to get curious and start talking to people. Talk to your new neighbor. Talk to your daughter's friend's mom. Talk to the nice person at the local small business association or Rotary Club. Talk to me -- really, PM me I'd love to help if I can.

Or take my teenage son. He’s working on an essay for English class and can’t figure out how to get started. He’s read the novel. He’s been given a theme to explore. But he’s just completely stuck on how to develop a thesis and begin. After beating his head against a wall for hours, a 10 minute conversation with me and his dad got him rolling again.

Talking to new people helps generate NEW ideas which generates small scale experiments to try and NEW data to make sense of. Suddenly, the tiny, insular town that feels so hard to break into becomes more spacious. There's a list of four people to call. (She had people to call after all!) The essay writes itself. Possibilities blossom.

I call it the inquiry cycle.

Essentially, it’s the process of scientific inquiry. I’m going to quote from my own book, Composing Science, written with the incredible Leslie Atkins and Kim Jaxon, because I’m probably the only person ever to quote it. (WAIT, no… Google Scholar says it’s been cited 17 times. Am I famous yet?)

“When most people imagine what it means to be a scientist or what it means to be a writer, the conjure a vision of the genius (often describing Einstein or Whitman) laboring away in isolation over a theory or typewriter. But those of us who are scientists or are writers know that the idea of the lone thinker could not be further from our lived experiences. Scientists share work – in pairs, in teams, in lab groups, in conferences, in poster sessions. We share work because we need the ideas of others to push our own ideas, to offer competing theories, or add insights we had not thought of.”

Today, as I’m writing my book on the science of why we love to travel (really good things are bubbling in that arena by the way!) I regularly talk to my book writing group about my work. I don’t write alone, not by any stretch of the imagination. Crappy writing comes from staying in the stuck cycle with old ideas and old data. My best writing requires curiosity and talking to people to generate new ideas and experiments.

Honestly, I think the inquiry cycle offers a scientific explanation for manifestation -- bringing something you want into existence through thinking it into being. I’m not one to believe that just the power of your inner thoughts will make a Porsche materialize. However, back in my middle school teacher days, my husband and I wanted a tent trailer to go on a long road trip, but didn’t have the money to buy one. We started talking to everyone we knew about our dream of taking our little tent trailer all over the West Coast. We told our families, our work colleagues, our friends, the random people at the table next to us at the local café. After only two months of sharing our dreams, my sister-in-law’s secretary’s boyfriend was about to take a tent trailer to the dump. Did we want it? Absolutely YES! We replaced the axle, rebuilt the countertop, hand stitched new screens, and replaced the foam mattresses. Then off we went on many many wild and wonderful adventures.

Some people might say we manifested a tent trailer. I say we got curious and started talking to people. That helped us generate new ideas, becoming more and more clear on our intention vision. We aligned our thoughts, emotions, energy, and actions with that intention. And “poof” through the power of inquiry, a new-to-us tent trailer came into our lives.

So… if you’re stuck, the solution is to get curious and start talking to people.

Read More

For more on manifestation and whether it works or not, check out this article in SELF magazine by Mara Santilli.

If you’re interested in helping people learn to use writing like scientists do, then check out Composing Science and maybe someday I’ll have 18 citations!

Going Further

If you loved this article, please subscribe or pass it on to someone else who is stuck right now.

I have never felt more excited and aligned with what I do. What do I do? I use science to help leaders thrive, not just survive. To begin, apply for a powerful conversation today. No obligation. No high pressure sales. Just pure service until we can tell if we’re the right fit for one another. If not, I’ll make sure to get you the help you need.

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