Stuck Between a Rock & A Hard Place: Taking A Different Perspective When Problem Solving

By Alex Fullgraf, Life Coach

Do your problems sometimes feel so large that you feel stuck between a rock and a hard place?

Very often, we use this common metaphor to describe our frustration when we feel stuck. Surprisingly, it can actually help to take those words literally and role-play. Play shifts your mind into a different gear and allows you to tap into your inner resourcefulness;
allowing your resilient and creative self to emerge.

While other forms of our day-to-day lives can demand deep concentration, improvisation is a process of letting go. Charles Limb, a surgeon and creativity researcher at John Hopkins University, has conducted research on improvisation and the brain. Limb looked at the brains of musicians while playing a memorized piece of music and compared it to their brain while improvising off the same music. He discovered that improvising activated the self-expression portion of the brain while simultaneously deactivating the self-censoring part of the brain. When we are stuck in a problem, it’s my belief that it’s often our “inner critic” or the anxiety keeping us there. Limb has found that as we allow the self-censoring part of the brain to rest and the self-expressive part of the brain to come alive through improvisation, we open the door to the creative mind.

Getting Yourself into Problem Solving Mode:
Start by asking yourself, “how does one get away if they were sandwiched in between a rock and a hard place?” This can be silly, fun, engaging and, most importantly, this process automatically puts you into problem solving mode.

Have fun brainstorming all the possibilities of trying to set yourself free from the rock and the hard place! You may even be able to laugh at some of your answers. Laughter is a powerful medicine; it actually decreases stress hormones and improves our immune systems!

Here are some fun ideas to get you started with the rock and a hard place metaphor:

I can conjure up my superhuman strength and push my way out of the rock and hard place.

Translation: You have courage and strength inside of you to get through this problem. What courageous step are you willing to take to solve it?

I can use my spare jet pack to shoot up into the sky. Adios, rock and hard place!

Translation: Perhaps this can be an opportunity to launch into a new place. What is the direction you want to go into? How can you make this happen?

I can walk carefully around the rock and hard place and not get stuck in the middle.

Translation: Maybe you aren’t actually even stuck in a hard place and it is merely your perception of the situation. Is there a way you can just walk away?

I’m going to sit where I am and enjoy being between a rock and hard place. Maybe I can eat a cookie while I wait….

Translation: Maybe just being in that place for some time is what you need. How are you learning and growing by being in that place? Perhaps there is something sweet about it.

Can you see how this has already lightened your load? Try this approach next time you are struggling with something and you will be amazed how your creativity can help you be more resourceful.

I know that tapping into our inner resourcefulness can help us to become more resilient to life’s challenges. As George Bernard Shaw famously said, “we don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”

Ready to enhance your creative problem solving skills? Don’t worry, I’m not going to take you back to your grade 7 drama class to act it out; all I ask is that you are open to speak about your story with your playful problem-solving hat on!

*Book a free consultation to find out more about the limiting story you most commonly use and how to break free from that story.

We'll Help You Feel Better Inside and Out

Scroll to Top