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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

How to Get Out of a Rut and Start Living the Life You Desire

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How to Get Out of a Rut and Start Living the Life You Desire

Life comes in waves of novelty and familiarity. When things are new to us, whether they are goals, living situations, or jobs, they give us this rush of excitement and fear that pushes us to continue forward. Through the good and the not so good, these waves of novelty give us the opportunity to start anew and fuel our desire to enhance our lives.

When things become too familiar, on the other hand, it’s easy to fall into old habits and to feel as though we are not getting anywhere. This feeling eventually becomes something that begins to consume our days and we fall into a rut.

Once in that rut, it can be hard to get out, despite though you are well aware that you have trapped yourself in a cycle of doing the same things and getting no results.

The good news about being in a rut is that it is entirely possible to get yourself out, it will just take a little bit of strategy and self-exploration. If you’re one of the many people who feel that life has become bland or repetitive, take a look at this guide to help you get out of your rut and back into the life that you should be living.

1. Figure Out How Deep Your Rut Is

Not everyone’s rut is going to be the same. Some people may come to the realization that they are feeling trapped, make a slight adjustment in direction, and quickly put themselves back on track.

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Others, however, may be in a rut for several years before they figure out exactly what’s wrong and by that time, it is a little harder to change your course so that you can head in the direction that you’re wanting to go.

When you first begin to notice the feeling of being stuck or trapped in your current situation, hold onto that feeling and evaluate it. How long has this feeling been going on? Is this something that has recently appeared or is this something that you have been dealing with for ages but are only now noticing? More importantly, what type of feelings are being brought about with this shift in thinking?

Although being in a rut may feel relatively similar across the board and point to a lack of happiness with one’s life, there are different emotions that may be experienced when you come to the realization that you are in a rut. Some may be angry, some may be frustrated, and others may simply be going through a funk that they can’t shake.

It’s important to note this last part as some people may have everything they want but could be dealing with a major mental health issue such as depression. Depression manifests itself through symptoms such as a lack of interest in daily activities, fatigue and feelings of hopelessness and sadness, and avoidance of work and other responsibilities.[1]

If you’re not dealing with depression, the good news is that all you need are some life alterations to feel like your happy self again. If you are dealing with a form of depression, it’s important that you seek the help you need and if it is needed, you can take care of any life changes after you tackled your depression.

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2. Determine Where in Your Life You Feel Discontent

Being trapped in a rut may be a sign that your whole life needs re-working but that isn’t always so. Sometimes we may feel in a rut at work but could feel perfectly fine when we are out with friends or at home. Instead, we may feel stuck in a rut in our personal lives and may very happy with the progress that we’ve made in our professional lives.

Regardless of whether your rut signifies a whole life issue or just a problem in individual or several parts, you have to take a comprehensive look at your current life situation to determine where you are not getting your needs met.

The easiest way to do this is by using a goal-setting tool such as Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life, which identifies some of the major sections of life that people may wish to improve upon in order to experience balance in all aspects of their life.[2]

This resource specifically focuses on the following categories:

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    Start by going through each of these sections of life and asking yourself, am I 100 percent happy in this given area?

    If you are, congratulations! That’s one less section that you will have to work on to get yourself out of your rut.

    If the answer is no, however, take some time to jot down ways you can improve that section. For example, if you feel as though the work and career aspect of your life could be improved, maybe that means that you need to change your job completely and work towards what you love or maybe you just need to figure out how to get a raise or promotion.

    Whatever ideas and visions make you happiest, write those down so that you can reference them later on when you begin working towards what you want.

    3. Start Off Small and Gradually Set Goals

    You can’t change your life overnight and trying to do so can bring about as much frustration and stress as being in a rut can. Look over your goals each day and ask yourself, how can I work towards this today?

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    For the smaller goals like breaking a bad habit/creating a good habit or simply squeezing more you time into your day, you will be able to make these changes rather easily.

    For much larger goals that will take time, remember to break them down, set specific end goals and establish time frames, and remain mindful in your daily life so that you don’t end up drifting throughout your days and ending back where you are at the current moment![3]

    Final Thoughts

    The most important thing to remember is to not feel bad or bully yourself. Everyone goes through ruts, big and small, at some point in their lives. How your life goes from here depends entirely on what you do once you realize you are in one!

    Make the right decision by using the tips in this guide so that you can live the life that you want to lead in the future. If you need any additional help to guide yourself through some of the sections above, feel free to go through the following resources:

    Featured photo credit: Jake Melara via unsplash.com

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    Reference

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    Dylan Buckley

    Dylan is Lifehack's Motivation Expert specializing in self-development, with extensive experience working for life coaches and startups.

    9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams 10 Reasons Why You’re Demotivated and How to Overcome It 25 Hard Work Motivational Quotes to Help You Achieve More How to Help a Friend With Depression Learn to Love Life Again Mastering The Art of Happiness (9 Tips to Get Started)

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    Last Updated on October 7, 2021

    How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

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    How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

    Quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world. Some people quit smoking a thousand times in their lives! Everyone knows someone with this mindset.

    But this type of change is superficial. It doesn’t last. For real, lasting change to take place, we need to consider the quadrants of change.

    Real change, the change that is fundamental, consistent, and longitudinal (lasting over time) has to happen in four quadrants of your life.

    It doesn’t have to be quitting smoking; it can be any habit you want to break — drinking, biting your nails, overeating, playing video games, shopping, and more.

    Most experts focus on only one area of change, some focus on two areas, but almost none focus on all four quadrants of change. That’s why much of change management fails.

    Whether it is in the personal life of a single individual through actions and habits, or in a corporate environment, regarding the way they conduct their business, current change management strategies are lacking.

    It all stems from ignoring at least one part of the equation.

    So, today, we will cover all four quadrants of change and learn the formula for how to change fundamentally and never go back to your “old self.”

    A word of warning: this is simple to do, but it’s not easy. Anyone who tells you that change is easy is either trying to sell you something, or they have no idea what they’re talking about.

    Those who want an overnight solution have left the article now, so that leaves you, me, and the real process of change.

    The Four Quadrants of Change

    There are four areas, or quadrants, in which you need to make a change in order for it to stick. If you miss or ignore a single one of these, your change won’t stick, and you will go back to your previous behavior.

    The four quadrants are:

    1. Internal individual – mindset
    2. External individual – behavior
    3. Internal collective – culture/support system
    4. External collective – laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

    All four of these quadrants of change may sound like they could carry change all by themselves, but they can’t. So, be sure to implement your change in all four quadrants. Otherwise, it will all be in vain.

    First Quadrant — Internal Individual

    This quadrant focuses on the internal world of an individual, and it concerns itself with the mindset of a person.

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    Our actions stem from our thoughts (most of the time), and if we change our mindset toward something, we will begin to process of changing the way we act.

    People who use the law of attraction fall into this category, where they’ve recognized the strength of thoughts and how they make us change ourselves.

    Even Lao Tzu had a great saying regarding this:

    “Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.” [1]

    One of the most impactful ways you can make a change in this quadrant is to implement what James Clear calls identity-based habits. [2]

    Instead of prioritizing the outcome of a change (ex.: I want to lose 20 pounds), you prioritize your identity as a person (I want to become/remain a healthy person).

    Here are a couple of examples for you to see the strength of this kind of resolution:

    I want to watch many movies = I am a cinema lover
    I want to clean my apartment = I am a clean person
    I want to harvest my crops = I am a harvester (farmer)
    I want to swim = I am a swimmer

    This quadrant is about changing the identity you attach to a certain action. Once you re-frame your thinking in this way, you will have completed the first of the quadrants of change.

    Second Quadrant — External Individual

    This quadrant focuses on the external world of an individual and concerns itself with the behavior of a person.

    This is where people like Darren Hardy, the author of the Compound Effect reside. Hardy is about doing small, consistent actions that will create change in the long run (the compound effect).

    You want to lose 30 pounds? Start by eating just 150 calories (approximately two slices of bread) less a day, and in two and a half years, you will have lost 30 pounds.

    The same rules apply to business, investing, sports, and multiple other areas. Small, consistent actions can create big changes.

    This works — I’ve read 20 extra pages a day for the past two years, and it accumulated into 90 books read in two years. [3]

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    Here, you have two ways of dealing with change behaviorally: negative environmental design and positive environmental design.

    Negative Environmental Design

    This is when you eliminate the things from your environment that revert you to the old behavior. If you want to stop eating ice cream, you don’t keep it in your freezer.

    If you want to stop watching TV, you remove the batteries from the remote and put them on the other side of the house (it works!).

    Positive Environmental Design

    This is when you put the things that you want to do withing reach — literally!

    You want to learn how to play guitar? Put your guitar right next to your sofa. You want to head to the gym? Put the gym clothes in a backpack and put it on top of your shoes.

    You want to read more books? Have a book on your nightstand, your kitchen table, and on the sofa.

    You can even combine this last trick with my early advice about removing the batteries from your remote control, combining the negative and positive environmental designs for maximum effect.

    Two Sides of the Same Coin

    If you just change your behavior and leave your intentions (thoughts) intact, your discipline will fail you and the real change won’t happen.

    You will simply revert back to the previous behavior because you haven’t changed the fundamental root of why this problem occurs in the first place.

    That is why you need to create change both in the first quadrant (internal individual — mindset) and the second quadrant (external individual — behavior). These quadrants of change are two sides of the same coin.

    Most change management would stop here, and that’s why most change management fails.

    No matter how much you focus on yourself, there are things that affect our lives that are happening outside of us. That is the focus of the two remaining quadrants.

    Third Quadrant — Internal Collective

    This quadrant focuses on the internal world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the culture of that collective.

    There are two different distinctions here: the Inner Ring and the Outer Ring.

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    The Inner Ring

    These are your friends and your family. The Inner Ring is the place where the social and cultural norms of your friends and family rule.

    So, if everyone in your family is overweight and every lunch is 1,000 calories per person, then you can say goodbye to your idea of becoming healthy.

    In this case, the culture of your group, the inner norms that guide the decisions, actions, thoughts, ideas, and patterns of behaviors are all focused on eating as much as possible. [4]

    You need to have the support of your Inner Ring if you want to achieve change. If you don’t have this support, the the best way to proceed is by either changing your entire Inner Ring or distancing yourself from it.

    Beware — most Inner Rings won’t accept the fact that you want to change and will undermine you on many occasions — some out of habit, some due to jealousy, and some because supporting you would mean that they have to change, too.

    You don’t have to cut ties with people, but you can consciously decide to spend less time with them.

    The Outer Ring

    The Outer Ring consists of the culture of your company, community, county, region, and country. For example, it’s quite hard to be an open-minded person in North Nigeria, no matter how you, your friends, and your family think.

    The Outer Ring is the reason why young people move to the places that share their value systems instead of staying in their current city, county, or country.

    Sometimes, you need to change your Outer Ring as well because its culture is preventing you from changing.

    I see this every single day in my country, where the culture can be so toxic that it doesn’t matter how great of a job you have or how great your life currently looks — the culture will change you, inch by inch, until you become like it.

    Fourth Quadrant — External Collective

    This quadrant focuses on the external world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the systems, teams, laws, and rules of that collective.

    This quadrant is about the external manifestations of the collective culture. If the majority of the environment thinks in a certain way, they will create institutions that will implement that way of thinking.

    The same rules apply to companies.

    One example for companies would be those managers who think that employees are lazy, lack responsibility, and need constant supervision (or what is called Theory X in management).

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    Then, those managers implement systems that reflect that kind of culture– no flexible work hours, strict rules about logging work, no remote work, etc.

    Your thoughts, however, may be different. You might believe that people want responsibility, that they are capable of self-direction, that they can make good decisions, and that managers don’t need to stand on their necks if they want something done (this is called Theory Y in management).

    Then, you would want to have flexible working hours, different ways of measuring your productivity (for example, not time on the job but work produced), and remote work, if possible for your profession.

    This is when you enter into a conflict with the external collective quadrant. Here, you have four options: leave, persevere, neglect, and voice.

    Leave

    You can simply leave the company/organization/community/country and go to a different place. Most people decide to do this.

    Persevere

    This is when you see that the situation isn’t good, but you decide to stick at it and wait for the perfect time (or position) where you can implement change.

    Neglect

    This is where you give up on the change you want to see and just go with the flow, doing the minimal work necessary to keep the status quo.

    These are the people who are disengaged at work and are doing just the bare minimum necessary (which, in the U.S. is around 65% of the workforce).

    I did this only once, and it’s probably the only thing I regret doing in my life.

    Voice

    This is where you actively work on changing the situation, and the people in charge know that you want to create a change.

    It doesn’t matter if it’s your company, community, or your country; you are actively calling for a change and will not stop until it’s implemented.

    Putting It All Together

    When you take it all into account, change is simple, in theory, but it isn’t easy to execute. It takes work in all four quadrants:

    1. Internal individual — mindset
    2. External individual — behavior
    3. Internal collective — culture/support system
    4. External collective — laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

    Some will require more work, some less, but you will need to create a change in all four of them.

    But don’t let that discourage you because change is possible, and many people have done this. The best time to start changing was yesterday, but the second best time is today.

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    Featured photo credit: Djim Loic via unsplash.com

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