Who hasn’t been in a rut? It’s one of the most common things in life. You get into a groove in your life and then that groove gets deeper, and you’re in a rut. It kind of seems unfair. But, as I tell my children, life isn’t always fair.
Are you going to stay in there forever?
What steps can you take to get out it? Where do you start?
In the olden days, your covered wagon would follow worn paths. Your wagon wheel would often drop into a rut worn into the path, and you’d be forced to follow the rut until it became shallow enough to roll out of it. Otherwise, you were stuck.
First, let’s define what a rut is. According to Lindsay Tulchin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in life stressors, a rut is “a negative spiral of thoughts about yourself and your future that lead to avoidance of either actions that you know will help you feel better or actions that will help steer you in the right direction.” Basically, it’s when you start feeling cynical about your life and what you’re doing, and you can’t get it out of your head. And because you can’t get it out of your head, you get stuck. Sometimes, this pressure becomes so weighty you can’t get out on your own.
Read On For Tips on How to Break Out of a Rut
- Work on the small stuff. Sometimes all you need to break out of a rut is to do something, even if it’s something small. Have you been meaning to get your office in order? Check. Do it. Reply to your backlog of [non-order] emails. Generate some positive momentum in your life, and it often spreads into other areas. Plus, you’ll see things start to change, and that can shake things up enough to get you going. And, how long have those papers been sitting on your desk, anyway?
- Take time to learn something new. Go to that CE class and talk to other people. Pick up some new computer skills. Take up cooking. Improvements you make in your life will act as steps to get you out of your rut and onto something else. Need some ideas? Here are 42 things you can do to improve yourself.
- Talk to your friends. This one’s all about perspective. Do you have someone you can be honest with about being in a rut? Your friends have probably been through some valleys before. Let them tell you what they did to get out of it. Because you’ve been thinking about it for a while, you’re probably in your head. Your friends can see your problems objectively and give you some ideas.
- Read a book. Most of us have a favorite book or author. Pick up a well-worn copy (or your tablet) and start reading. You’ll be shocked at the insights you get while you read. You could also peruse a blog or listen to a podcast. There’s no shortage of content out there. Choose something that catches your interest.
- Remind yourself why you work so hard. You’re probably not appraising just for the heck of it. What are some of the factors that make your work important? Once you can identify p recisely the things that are important to you, you’ll be able to lift yourself out of it. List names, items, hobbies, etc. in a notebook or a card and put it where you’ll be able to see it every day. The visual reminder will help you find the determination you need.
- Break out of your comfort zone. Another name for your comfort zone might as well be your rut. And you’ve probably spent years building it and getting it ready to hang out in. One of the biggest rut-busters is to do something different than you usually do. Maybe you’ve heard of someone trying new things to drum up business. Try some of those techniques, especially if it makes you uncomfortable. You’ll thank yourself later. (Probably not until your heart slows down.)
As you try some of these steps to shake things up, find out what works for you and how you can recognize a rut when you feel one coming on. If you can stop it before it starts, you can avoid it. And you’ll avoid getting stuck altogether.