Stuck in a rut? Here’s how to get out of it

Photo by Aubrey Rose Odom on Unsplash

Stuck in a rut? Maybe your routine is boring and you don’t know how to get out of it. Your rut could be a job that you’ve been in too long. You’re scared to make a change or have had trouble finding something new. Maybe you can’t even identify it for sure but you just have that feeling of “blah”.

You do not need to stay stuck in your rut but you need to make an effort to get yourself out of it. Unfortunately, it will not just happen. When we wait for things to just happen, we stay stuck. And if “it” does just happen, you won’t even know if you want it until you can define your “it”. Stick with me and let’s look at steps to get unstuck.

What’s Your Ideal Life?

This is hard to do without thinking about where you are now. But brainstorm your ideal and leave off the constraints for this step. For example, let’s say I decide that I want to be a dermatologist. It means returning to school which is not off the table, but the next step is to ask why that’s my ideal. Maybe it’s because I love skincare and beauty products. If that’s my true interest, I don’t need to go back to school because I don’t necessarily need a degree to sell or promote beauty products. Once I’ve identified my true ideal, I might look into an e-commerce opportunity for me to sell products. And maybe consider an online marketplace for selling rather developing an ecommerce website.

But if I immediately said “I can’t afford to go back to school” or “I don’t have time to study for a degree”, I wouldn’t have gotten to the next step which is discovering what I am really interested in doing and a better fit for my place in life. I didn’t stay stuck by looking at constraints, instead I dug into my why to explore my interests which is when I was able to cascade out to other opportunities.

But… Is It Your Ideal Life?

This exercise may also help you realize that your want is actually a should which is a problem. Several years back, when I made a career change, I was encouraged to enter a field because I had a knack for it. People complimented me on my ability to do something well so when making a change, I considered it. I eventually realized that being good at something and being skilled at it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. It was something someone else thought I should do which didn’t make sense for where I wanted to be.

Control Your Input

Advice for breaking out of a rut – and into a not so great career –  does just not come from our well-meaning friends. We get messages and advice from multiple outlets every single day. Whether we choose it by idly surfing through Facebook status updates or subscribing to every email newsletter under the sun, we are constantly bombarded with ideas and images of what we should be doing.

It may seem that it’s a good thing because it offers ideas for getting out of a rut but the problem is all of that noise drowns out our own voices. If we do not stop to reflect and listen to what’s going on inside of us, then we don’t know the best way for to get out of our ruts. That’s not a “woo-woo”, New Age, kind of out-there-concept. How many of us really stop and think about what we want rather than passively absorbing whatever is thrown our way?  

Stop and Reflect

Both in your work as well as outside of it. Do you even notice how you feel about what you do? I’m guilty of going-going-going at times and not stopping to ask if I’m doing things that I enjoy. Driven people do what needs to be done and often without being reflective about it.

Set time aside regularly, even 15 minutes at the end of the day, to jot down what worked and what didn’t. Are the things that didn’t work something you can get rid of, delegate, or change?  For example, if your shopping cart experience is a nightmare, should you continue fighting with it each day or consider a new vendor?

A Holding Place for Ideas

Keep a notebook (yes, an actual pad and paper) with you to jot down ideas that came to mind. We live in a distracted culture where anything that comes to mind is something we can jump on the internet and explore immediately. Don’t do that. That behavior teaches your brain to be distracted rather than to engage in deep thought. Instead have a holding place for ideas, passions, and interests, writing them down to review at the end of the week and month.  Which are recurring themes versus passing thoughts?

And Remember……

Success and happiness are individual concepts.  Had I ventured into the career mentioned above, I may have been done well and been viewed as successful. But happy? No. Doing something that I hate is not how I define success. My success comes from aligning my strengths and skills with things that interest me and getting rid of the things that don’t. So yeah, turn off all those external signals and get in touch with your inner self (maybe a little “woo-woo”) and you will find the way out of your rut.