“I’m in a rut and I just can’t seem to get out of it”.
How many times have you heard someone say it? How many times have YOU said it?
I’m not a psychologist, and there are many who prescribe solutions to this problem.
I’m a business guy, writer, and grandparent who, like all of you, have fallen victim to “the rut” from time, and have had to figure out how to escape. I hope what worked for me will be useful to you.
In my experience, it’s not unusual to get stuck.
Your work can sometimes fall into a mechanical routine and your personal life can fall victim to lackluster days of same-old-same-old.
And the rut isn’t so bad; it’s comfortable settling into a routine. When you’re stuck, you’re not particularly challenged because repetition dictates your activities; it’s low risk and you just float along.
But after a while, the comfortable turns into the frustrating and annoying; what was once a peaceful place to suddenly become somewhere you anxiously want to exit.
When you find yourself trapped by the momentum you no longer find gratifying, it’s time for a self-intervention.
These steps helped me manage my rut experience(s) and achieve productive outcomes.
1) Reflect: how BAD is it really?
So you’re caught in a vortex and you can’t see any way out.
The problem is that your emotions take over and dictate the severity of the entrapment you feel, but emotions aren’t always the best judge of how really bad it is.
It might FEEL like you’re suffocating but in reality, you may be catching your breath now and then.
So before you hit your OMG! button, take a time out and do a reality check on your situation. Make sure it’s really a rut you’re in before you start trying to climb out.
2) Maybe it’s time
The experience you’re having could be a blessing in disguise.
It’s possible that up until now you’ve been unaware that you’ve been stuck. When the current has you, it’s difficult to think of anything but going with it.
So rejoice over the fact that at least you now realize it’s time to shake off the dust from the past and move on.
Discomfort is an amazing motivator and guides if you listen to it.
3) Examine what has changed
Something changed that made you dissatisfied with the direction you were on.
Before you can take any remedial action, you must understand the dynamics at play. There’s a reason you now feel you’re in a rut that you don’t like and you need to understand it.
You can’t fix or change it if you don’t know what likely caused it.
Look at any recent life event — family, financial, career, health — because they can dramatically shift your thinking and cause you to rethink how you’ve been living your life.
4) Talk to friends
Get the views of your closest allies on what’s going on with you. They may have valuable insights on what’s causing your discontent, and they may be able to offer potential solutions.
Third-party engagement is quite often extremely effective because we simply are unable to spot what’s wrong in us; we’re embedded in ourselves and often too close to be objective to see our problem.
5) Do some research
You’re not likely the only person who has been in your situation; the rut you’re in has probably been occupied by someone else at some point.
So do some research and find out what’s out there on your dilemma.
Social media is a good source to explore what others have gone through; Google your situation as well and you will get plenty of information to ponder.
6) Get enough sleep
You need your sleep to figure out what needs changing; you can’t solve any problem when your body is sleep-deprived.
This may seem like a small issue but it’s not. Changing momentum requires intense emotional energy which cannot be produced from a tired body.
Take care of yourself and be able to do the tough work required.
Getting unstuck requires innovative thinking which means you need to do things that get your creative juices flowing.
Sitting in your chair won’t create the kind of possibilities you need; perhaps taking early morning walks — in any weather — might.
The point is to find an activity you like and one that stimulates your thought process and starts doing it regularly.
See what new thinking you can create to check out of rutsville.
8) Check your bucket list
Everyone has an inventory of things they would like to do “if only they could”; so now its time to turn some of your dreams into reality.
Use your bucket lists as a source of ideas to get un-stuck, but choose wisely.
Resist the temptation to go for the big idea necessarily right away; perhaps a series of short term changes will produce the behavior necessary for you to get un-stuck and STAY un-stuck.
9) Have a plan
Take the time to document the choices you feel you have to escape your rut. “Write” them down because they have more serious intent than idle thoughts about what you COULD do.
If they’re “on paper” they have more permanence.
The discipline of recording your thoughts and potential choices is very productive in terms of clarifying your options and the intent of each.
And quite often new ideas are borne as you go through the diarizing process.
Your plan should include the pros and cons of each choice you’re facing so you have a good basis to compare them with one another before you decide on which one to take.
And once you’ve made your decision, develop an implementation plan to monitor your progress — including elements such as WHAT to do and WHEN to have it done.
And define what success looks like when you have done your work; it’s important to know when you’ve arrived at your out-of-rut destination.
10) Take baby steps
Don’t be too aggressive with your change goals; baby steps are needed. You didn’t get into your rut overnight and you can’t expect to get out of it overnight.
I always had success by “chunking” any change process into small discrete steps. I would achieve one; pat myself on the back then achieve another until a complete change was made.
You might be stuck or you might not be. But if you are, these steps hopefully will start you with the tools necessary to get out until the next time.