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  • Michael M. Lewis

Wiggle Work to Get Unstuck

Explore 5 practices you can start now to get unstuck and loosen up the resistance when big changes are on your horizon.

When there are changes I want to make in my life, the immediate reaction that comes up is resistance. Resistance sucks, and there are times I just can't seem to get to the Nike tagline, "Just Do It". This is especially true if the change is something that is going to take some skill or is a habit I have had for a very long time. It is important to recognize any change we want to make in our lives involves doing something new or different and our brains on the other hand are wired to efficiently do things the same way over and over again with patterns and routines.

“There is no way to make people like change. You can only make them feel less threatened by it.” - Frederick Hayes

Wiggle Work


Wiggle work is a pretty easy concept that I believe makes change less intimidating. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines wiggle as “to move or cause to move up and down or from side to side with small rapid movements”.


In this instance, wiggle work is creating small rapid movements in our thoughts, feelings and behaviors that eventually allow for larger bolder movements that get us the results we desire. Because smaller movements take less effort, we can implement these changes more rapidly than larger ones. These changes are taking an ACTION, and even if small, they get the momentum going to keep moving.


This concept started coming together for me when I was playing with my nephew. In our bantering, the topic of quicksand came up and I noticed he had no notion of it. My interest was piqued as I recalled all the "real" dangers of quicksand from the TV shows of my youth. I remember several episodes of Gilligan's Island where someone sunk under the surface and all that was left was a hat on the top of the sand alerting the others of a need for a rescue.


In reality, quicksand is just regular sand that gets saturated with enough water that it becomes similar in consistency to mud. If you were to stand on it, the vertical weight you exert would cause you to sink. If you keep moving, most of the time you just sink a little and keep on walking, but for the really saturated stuff you sink faster and slowing down will only sap your strength and make it even harder to keep moving. If you stop all together, it is just a matter of time before the sand is up to your waist (people are buoyant and generally will not sink lower) and it begins to compress the blood out of your legs (the true cause for concern). There are many videos on people getting out of quicksand, but if you stand still too long (approximately eight minutes) you will need professional rescue help.


So, the trick to getting out of quicksand once stuck is quite simple. Wiggle your legs back and forth. Start with small movements (actions) until you can make bigger motions and then lift your legs up out of the sand.


We Get Stuck


So many times in life we can become stuck. Some common examples include:

  • Making a mistake and not forgiving ourselves,

  • Holding a belief someone told us was true even though it doesn’t match OUR real life experience,

  • Doing a harmful habit for so long, it's hard to let go,

  • Reliving a trauma from the past,

  • Having made a life choice in the past that no longer fits, but it's hard to see any other possibilities because of the investment of time, money and effort and the expectations of others to continue.

There are multitudes of reasons we get stuck and the beginning of a solution is the same. Start to wiggle if you want to get free.


Ways We can Wiggle

“Start to wiggle if you want to get free.”
  1. Become the compassionate observer in your life - Start to watch or listen to your thoughts, feelings, actions, beliefs and habits as if you were an outside non-judgmental person looking in. It’s extremely important and difficult at first that when you do this, you lend yourself the same leeway you would a perfect stranger whom you wish well and see trying their best. In this way, you become a compassionate observer. Take notes (i.e. write in a journal) on your observations. This touches on what Socrates meant when he said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Just becoming the observer will motivate you to want to make changes (little known to most people), but your job at the beginning is only to observe and record.

  2. Be willing to become willing - It may seem circular, but this small little shift in your mind is the kind of wiggle that needs to happen before actual willingness takes hold. This may take the form of asking for willingness with your Higher Power or talking face to face or on the phone with a supportive friend, sponsor or coach about wanting a particular change. If you are trying on an affirmation or doing thought creation and don't quite believe, you can make a bridge thought that is in between where you are now and what you want to believe. Example: You want to believe, "I am open and love trying new things", but you are not there yet. A bridge affirmation might sound like, "I'm willing to consider trying new things." The more you practice this and express your desire for willingness, the more likely actual willingness will take hold.

  3. Small wins - Get a clear vision of what you want to accomplish (write it out) and then set a small very easily attainable goal. The goal can seem even ridiculously easy at first, but I assure you it is not. The trick to goals working is they must be attainable, measurable, give feedback on progress along the way and provide a reward. Once you have accomplished the goal stop a moment and acknowledge your achievement. This is where a reward or small celebration can help solidify your milestone. If you really want to cement the accomplishment, make sure you share your success with your supportive others or add it to your gratitude list for the day. Sometimes the goal doesn't even have to relate to an apparent larger goal to have the wiggle effect (ex: just making your bed every day will start to make small shifts in how you order your life).

  4. Find inspiration from others – You can find something that touches you and then experience it often. I have found if I search long enough, someone has wanted the same things I do and has expressed it in their chosen media. If you want more friends but are shy, find music that speaks about the benefits of having friends. If you want to exercise or be less sedentary, find photos that inspire you to feel like getting up and moving. If your mind is anxious, find a guided meditation that calms your mind and causes you to feel peace. One of my personal favorites is the song “A Thousand Beautiful Things” by Annie Lennox because it reminds me how I want to be grateful every day of my life.

  5. Acting "as if" and creating space. Sometimes we have to act as if the change that we want has already occurred and then physically or behaviorally order things to reflect that future state. In recovery circles, there is the slogan, "Fake it Until You Make It." In therapy, there is role play. The idea is that action and feeling are closely tied. By doing some action as if it were real, the motivation to create that new possibility is opened up. As a practical example, you may be convinced of the benefits of daily meditation, but the actual practice eludes you. Designating a quiet space in your home, buying a small table and a comfortable pillow to sit on, getting some incense or a candle, setting your alarm clock to 10 minutes earlier than your usual wake up time and downloading the free Insight Timer app would all be examples of creating the space. In other words, you are doing the things that a person who meditates does in preparation to meditate, and more importantly you are creating structures to support a new practice. Then pick a simple, short meditation exercise and try it out.

Summing Up


When we make changes, we are demanding our brains physically create new neural pathways (akin to rewiring a home to function better). You may have heard, "what you resist, persists". Wiggle work loosens the resistance and gives room for willingness, which then allows for intent, leads to a decision, motivates through feelings for action and finally produces results.

In the end, we are the ones in control of creating our lives. Change can be intimidating but small movements that wiggle our minds are easier to accept and apply. To do this, we become the compassionate observers in our lives so we can understand our patterns. We decide that we will become more willing over time and seek support. We get some small wins under our belts by accomplishing easy goals that produce rewards. We regularly find and experience expressions of others that inspire us. Finally, we can try on new ways of acting and change our physical space to open new possibilities for us. It takes effort to make change, and wiggle work gives us hope for better results.


This is the kind of work I do in my own life and can help you to start doing in yours. Contact me to set up a time we can explore how my services can help you achieve a more satisfying life.

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