Breaking Out Of A Rut

“The only difference between a rut and a grave is how deep it is.” ~ Charles Garfield

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” ~ Winston Churchill

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

“In my experience, nothing worthwhile has ever really been all that easy. But it certainly has been worthwhile regardless how difficult it seemed. ” ~ Robert Fanney


Even professional life coaches get stuck sometimes and this week I found myself in a rut.  I found myself obsessing about all of the things I haven’t done instead of celebrating my accomplishments; or better yet, getting up and doing something.  It happens to all of us from time to time.  The key is to recognize it and get back on track.  Success belongs to those who keep on going… no matter what.

So I’m taking a dose of my own medicine.  In honor of the April 12th issue on shame, I’m exposing my truth and re-committing to the process.  As a recovering perfectionist, I have to constantly resist the urge to think and judge (myself) too much.  We are our own worst critics.  When I get too deep in thought, I forget to act.  I fall into the trap of believing I need to know everything before I can do anything.  When I catch myself doing that I have to do something to get out of my head, and usually one (or a combination of) the techniques I share below will do the trick.

It’s not always easy; it’s not always fun, but taking a new action is a surefire cure for inaction.  The key here is a “new” action.  It takes traction to get out of a rut and you achieve traction by introducing something new to the equation.  It’s the only way to change what’s on the other side of the equals sign.

How to Break out of a Rut

We all have periods of inertia; it’s part of the cycle of life.  Projects and people have seasons just like nature.  But you don’t have to remain in perpetual winter.  Newton explained that an object at rest tends to stay at rest until acted upon by a force sufficient to move it.  If you’re in a rut, use the seven techniques below to create the momentum you need to break free.

The single biggest mistake you can make is to think that you’re supposed to know what you should do before you take action.  You can’t wait for inspiration to arrive before you change.  You change so that inspiration can arrive.  If you’re in a rut, use the seven techniques below to create the momentum you need to break free.

Be Honest about your feelings

As you work your way through your rut, don’t suppress your emotions.  Tell the truth about how you feel – to yourself and to others.  This doesn’t mean be a “Negative Nancy” and just complain.  But it does mean that you should own how you feel.  If a friend asks you how you are don’t default to, “I’m fine.”  It’s not true and you all know it.  It’s OK to say, “I’m really struggling right now.”  You just may get the support or insight you need.  If you feel the need to cry or yell out loud, do it.  It’s important to let the emotions out.  But after you’ve let it out, let it go.  Don’t stew in it forever.

Break the Routine

It’s time to do something different; even if it’s something small.  Take a different route to work.  Go to a movie.  Read a book.  Do something creative.  Order something from the menu that you’ve never tried.  When you’re in a rut, routine is the enemy.  Do something new today – and every day – until you get back on your feet again.

Be around people

When you feel blah you tend to isolate, but hibernation can make the rut that much deeper.  Even if you don’t feel like it, interact with others.  Get together with someone you care about and trust and talk.  At the very least, it will take your mind off of your own inertia and may result in some valuable insights and ideas.  You are not an island.  Trying to figure out your problems all by yourself sinks you deeper into the quicksand of thinking.  Call on your support system and take advantage of it.  That’s what it’s there for.

Take action

You’re in a rut because you’re not making progress and you’re not making progress because you’re in a rut.  So it’s time to do something.  It doesn’t have to be related to your blockage and it doesn’t have to be big.  Take a small step.  Each day increase the goal a small amount and build on the previous day’s success.  This is called incremental goal-setting.  Breaking a dream down into its smallest parts allows you to enjoy small wins and build on them.  It is literally one step at a time.  Plot it out on a calendar or write it on a piece of paper.  Don’t let yourself skip a step, and check off your daily successes.  Ask yourself what you would do if you felt great and do that.  Movement in any direction is better than standing still, and in the process of moving you may find yourself closer to your destination.

Engage in physical activity

When you’re in a rut you usually suffer from a lack of motivation.  You may even feel tired, like all of your energy is zapped – because it is.  But the best way to have energy is to make energy.  Get up and get moving.  Engage in some type of physical activity.  Walk around the block.  Play with the kids or the dogs.  Listen to some upbeat music and dance around the house.  Dig in the dirt.  Whatever it is, make yourself do something.  Moving your body will get your heart pumping and increase your energy level.

Forget about motivation

Are you waking up every day and praying that this will be the day your miraculous inspiration arrives but then you do the exact same thing you did yesterday?  Stop it… now.  That’s not the way it happens.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  Don’t wait for inspiration so you can change.  You must change so inspiration can have a chance to spark.    Remember Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Simply trying harder often makes the problem worse.  Instead you need some traction.  Traction is just another work for friction – the difference is in the intention.  Waiting for motivation is like waiting for money.  You have to go out and earn it.

Celebrate every success

It’s easy to get pessimistic when you’re in a rut.  Nothing feels good enough when you keep your focus on how far you have to go.  The antidote to this is to celebrate every success – however small.  You want to paint?  Get your supplies out.  You want to write?  Put your name on the page.  You want to exercise?  Put your tennis shoes on.  Then celebrate the accomplishment.  Give yourself credit for positive movement.  You’re one step closer to your goal than you were before.  Then keep up the work.  One more step and one more celebration.  Before you know it, you’ll be there.


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