Finding Yourself in a Rut
So, you’ve found yourself in a rut. It could be your painful work routine, or perhaps your tedious relationship. It might even be going out and doing the same things every day, things that used to be fun that you now find simply boring. You may not know why it happened to you, or even when you slipped into it. Instinctively though, you know that you’re in a place that you don’t really want to be – the rut.
Assuming you’re not suicidal, in which case you really should stop reading this now and speak to someone about it, you’ve come to the right place. Below are 10 things you can do to help you get out of the rut and head to where you’d like to be:
- Make a list of at least 8 things you think you might enjoy doing. If you can’t come up with 8, think back to what you used to enjoy doing when you were younger, and think about what you liked about those activities. Do any additional list items spring to mind? If you need more help, try thinking less practically – you don’t have to be able to do these things right this second – they are just things that you imagine would be fun to do.
Look at your list, pick the activity that appeals to you the most, and do it. If it’s something big, think about a couple of small steps you might commit to in the coming week that would get the ball rolling.
- Consider an area of your life that you’re feeling particularly stuck with. Write down in one sentence what you think about that area. E.g. if you find yourself constantly procrastinating about an admin task you may write something like: I think filing my paperwork is a boring, mindless task.
Suppose you were to think about the same task differently. In the example above, you could reframe the same task as follows: I think if I found a clever system to organise my paperwork, I could probably free up a week of my life each year. If you think about it differently, you might be able to approach it differently, and with greater motivation.
- Similar to the point above, instead of noticing how you’re thinking about something, observe how you act in an aspect of your life that you’re feeling particularly stuck with. E.g. if it’s your job, what do you notice about your actions at work?
How might you change your actions to make things better for you? Don’t expect to repeat the same actions and get different results – do something different.
- Is there an uncomfortable truth about some aspect of your life that you are having difficulty facing? Would making a change mean you would have to come to terms with something you’d rather not come to terms with? Very often, we find ourselves in ruts when we are afraid to make an important change.
Suppose you were able to make this change. What would be important about that for you? What could you do that might give you a bit more courage to start the process towards making that change? Perhaps you should do it.
- Find another person or a group that seems unstuck in the area that you’re stuck with. Talk to them and find out what they do to be in that unstuck state. Their solutions might not necessarily work for you, but they may give you ideas about what you need to start doing more of.
When you’re learning something new, or getting out of a rut, it’s often easier to copy someone who’s already where you want to be. Once you start the copying process, trust yourself to adapt ideas to what works best for you.
- Say yes. Seriously, just say yes to the next non-life-threatening opportunity that comes up – whatever it might be. Be smart about it, but do it. So, for example, if someone asks you to join them on a visit to an art exhibition you’d never go to in a million years – say yes. Or, if a beggar on the street asks you for a doughnut, give him one. If you don’t have one, go and buy him one.
Break your patterns by doing things you wouldn’t ordinarily do. You might not enjoy the experience, but it sets in play a process that gets you out of the rut and back on track. Make the most of your new experience, whatever it might be.
- If you can’t do anything to help yourself, make an effort to help someone else. Someone, anyone – it really doesn’t matter whom.
Contribution is a need that is often closely tied to your sense of purpose. A sense of being appreciated or doing something of value often has a dramatic effect on your outlook to life.
- Accept that the area of your life you’re stuck with is just stuck for the moment. It may be because of circumstances that you can’t really do anything about at present – not even a baby step. If that’s the case, then appreciate the other areas of your life that are not stuck and make an effort to make the most of those.
You can be happy without every area of your life being perfect. In fact, most people are in this boat. Don’t dwell on what you’re unhappy with and can’t change – focus on what you are happy with.
- Do something that scares you – something you wouldn’t normally do. Perhaps you could ask that cute waiter or waitress out the next time they bring soup to your table. Or try taking that free salsa lesson on Tuesday night even though you can’t dance to save your life.
Curiosity is something often left behind in our childhood. It’s difficult to learn that you like new things, or perhaps even that you’re good at them, if you don’t do new things.
- Shake things up by changing your routine. If, for example, you’re used to waking up late and rushing to work, try waking up an hour earlier. Spend that extra time doing something you feel like you’ve been neglecting – perhaps some form of exercise, or reading, or even daydreaming. The adjustment may be difficult initially but commit to your new routine for a short while – say 2 weeks, at least. You might be surprised with the different interactions your new routine brings.
Routines are consistent processes we create and rely on to be efficient through our day. However, we change over time, as do our needs, and often these same routines become increasingly ineffective for us. Small changes can yield big results, so shake up your routine.
The above are simply tools to help change your perspective on various aspects of life and get things kick-started. You need not do them all, but pick a couple you think would be practical for you to try and commit to doing them.
If you’re having difficulty motivating yourself to make the changes required, and you really do want to get out of the rut, then signing up for coaching would be a helpful way forward.