Courtesy of Joy Mangano
March 18, 2016 7:00 AM EDT

I grew up with an Italian family in an era when a woman’s path was laid out for her: You got married and had children. Simple, right? Then I got to a point around the age of 30 when I had three little children and was a single mom, and I realized life was not so simple. I was doing a multitude of things to make ends meet and couldn’t stop thinking, “I can’t keep going on like this.”

I think many women can relate to that feeling of being stuck in their lives and knowing that something isn’t right. There’s no step-by-step process for how to get unstuck—that’s one of the tough things, that there is no clear path—but here’s what helped me turn my life around.

1. Think about what really fulfills you
If you experience that feeling of being in a rut in your life, then something’s not right. A lot of people who feel that way don’t take the time to say, “O.K., well what am I doing? Is that what I want to be doing? What is it making me feel this way?” You have to identify what specifically is making you feel stuck.

As part of that soul searching, I asked myself, “What is it that makes me feel complete? What is it that makes me happy so I can be a happier person to those around me? What is it that gives me joy?” (No pun intended.)

Since I was a little girl, I had always designed products. It’s what I was meant to do, and I had countless ideas for products that would make people’s lives a little easier, but I had never pursued that path. So finally I just had to commit myself to it. People thought I was crazy because my idea was a mop, but I committed myself to it wholeheartedly. Believe me, it wasn’t easy, but this was a crucial first step.

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2. Tune out the negativity
There are always going to be naysayers, but I like to surround myself with glass-half-full people instead of the glass-half-empty ones. Obviously you have to find the confidence within yourself to pursue your ideas, but there’s nothing wrong with having people around you who are going to say, “I think that’s a great idea,” or, “I think you’re doing the right thing.”

3. Take it one step at a time
It’s important to be realistic with your goals. Of course the end result you have in mind may seem completely unattainable at first, but setting smaller, attainable goals is the best way to set out on your path with purpose. Focus on one task, then the next task, then the next. You have to take each stage one at a time because you absolutely don’t know what you’re going to face next, and you have to know that your route will be altered along the way.

And even as your route changes, you must keep going. I like to say, “Pretend you’re having a baby and you’re in labor. You can’t say, ‘I’m not going to do this.’ That’s just not an option.”

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There’s no right or wrong method to getting unstuck, but the attitude you have will certainly dictate how far you are able to go. You have to be brave, you have to stay positive and you have to be agile. Your destination might not end up being exactly what you envisioned to start with, but if you stick it out and work through the challenges, what you end up with will be far better than you could have ever imagined.

Joy Mangano is an inventor, entrepreneur and president of Ingenious Designs, LLC, and she is the inspiration behind the 20th Century Fox film Joy, which premiered in theaters nationwide in December 2015.

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