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Last Updated on March 29, 2019

Stuck in a Rut? 6 Steps to Break Free and Live a Happy Life Again

Stuck in a Rut? 6 Steps to Break Free and Live a Happy Life Again

So it has come this far. You’re stuck in a rut and feel like you’re not living your life to the fullest. You can feel it, but you find it more and more difficult to get rid of this feeling…

That’s why you are here, right?

Some of your friends or colleagues might say to you: “just cheer up!”. But you already know that it’s not that easy.

So instead of offering shallow advice on what to do, this article contains a clear 6-step plan to get you out of your rut and to live a happy life again. These are actionable things you can do right now, that don’t involve anything bizarre or life-changing.

Step 1: Write down What’s Keeping You Down

This first step might sound rather anti-climatic. You’ve come all this way to find this article, and now you’re asked to write down your feelings?

Even though it might sound silly at first, writing down whatever is keeping you in a rut will allow you to become more familiar with the issues you’re having.

What to write about? Don’t think too much about it and just start writing! If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, you’ll probably feel unhappy right now.

Write it down! “I’m feeling unhappy right now”. That could be your first sentence. Now ask yourself why. Why am I feeling unhappy right now?

“Because I feel unmotivated and don’t have any ambitions or goals”.

Or maybe it’s “because I feel like my love life is slowly evaporating”.

It could be anything. What I want you to do is to just start writing and keep going. Be critical and curious about the things you are feeling.

Keep asking “why” and soon enough you’ll have a clear idea of what issues are causing you to feel unhappy and stuck in a rut.

Step 2: Create a Plan and Set Small Goals

So you’ve filled a good page with why you are feeling stuck in a rut? Good! Did you fill multiple pages? Even better!

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Now it’s time to create a plan based on the root causes of your negative feelings. This plan must be specific and should contain small goals.

Why small goals?

Because it’s more difficult to measure progress on a big goal.

Imagine you found out in step 1 that you severely dislike your job, so you’re thinking of a goal like: I want to find a better suiting job.

Now, that goal in itself might be great, but it’s better to slice it up into smaller, more attainable goals. Think about it like this:

  • Update my resume
  • Start looking for openings
  • Send out 3 applications
  • Schedule my first interview at a different company
  • Get hired at a new job

See how this is practically the same goal, but seems much more attainable?

Also, tracking progress is much easier when you create smaller sub-goals like this.

This is a vital part of your plan: it needs to contain measurable and attainable goals. This will help you stay motivated, instead of forcing you to become paralyzed by the shear size of your goal.

You’ll notice that you can find your way out of this rut by taking small steps like this. This brings me to the next step of this action plan:

Step 3: Accept That This Process Takes Time

After having written down your feelings in step 1, you probably found out that change won’t happen overnight.

The negative feelings that you’re experiencing right now are a result of a lot of things that may have already been going on for years. These habits that you’ve slowly built during your life won’t always be easy to change.

That’s why you need to accept that it takes time to get out of a rut like this. Finding long-term happiness again is a delicate process that cannot be rushed.

You have created a plan with actionable steps that you can take to get you back on your feet. Now do what it takes and move forwards, one step at a time.

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What if you failed to move forward after a bad day?

Don’t sweat it! We are all human, so we are eventually going to encounter some rough weather or bad decision-making along the way.

It’s crucial that you recognize this for what it is: small speed-bumps rather than complete failures.

What if you’ve had a bad day? Sleep it off, and start fresh again tomorrow.

Step 4: Prioritize Your Sleep

Now, this step might seem silly to you. How is sleep going to help me get out of this rut?

It turns out that sleep plays a gigantic role in our mental health. Even though you may not feel tired after sleeping only 5 hours for three nights in a row, you’ll be surprised by the potential lasting effects of this sleep deprivation.

The USA is one of the most developed countries in the world. A worrying trend that developed countries are showing is that the workforce is becoming more and more sleep deprived. Phrases like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” and “work hard, play hard” are becoming more regular every day.

Anecdotally, sometimes when I mention I try to sleep 8 hours a day, I sometimes get strange looks from my colleagues. Like I’m some sort of loser that doesn’t know how to live life to the fullest.

“Sleep is for the weak!”

This kind of thinking is extremely flawed, and one of the reasons why chronic depression is on the rise. It shouldn’t surprise you now that depression rates are the highest in developed countries like the USA.

I’ve personally analyzed 1,000 days of my happiness and sleep habits over the last 3 years. I tracked my sleep every night and rates my feeling of happiness on a scale from 1 to 10. What I found out was very interesting:

  • I am constantly experiencing a social jet lag
  • I sleep much less than average on weekdays, and have to make it up on the weekend days
  • I have only been truly unhappy on days where I was heavily sleep deprived

These where the biggest lessons I learned after analyzing my sleep and happiness.[1]

This doesn’t necessarily mean that your feeling of unhappiness is a result of bad sleep habits, but if there’s one thing that most people seem to neglect, then that’s sleep. Don’t make that same mistake.

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Step 5: Spend More Time with the People You Love

Almost everybody has a small circle of people that they trust and love, whether that’s a partner, family or friends. These people have a positive influence on your happiness.

I want you to focus on spending more time with these people. When you’re feeling stuck in a rut, you are more likely to postpone activities that require you to be outgoing. You’d rather be lazy and watch Netflix all day than to go outside and meet up with your friend.

You must try to break out of your comfort zone and spend more time with the people who actually have a positive influence on your happiness.

These are the people that can help you to get out of your rut. You can even share the plan that you’ve made in step 2 of this article.

If these people truly love you, then they can act as a support net for the moments when you’re feeling down. This might sound intimidating and scary, but it’s a step that should not be underestimated.

Even when you don’t feel comfortable sharing your plan with these people, there’s another thing you can actively do: be grateful that these people are in your life:

  • Be grateful that you have parents who support you, no matter what you do.
  • Be grateful for the friends with whom you can laugh your ass off.
  • Be grateful that you have a healthy and loving partner.
  • Be grateful that you have a kid that looks up to you and thinks you are the best.

Being grateful might sound like a rather pointless thing to do. Why would being grateful help me become happier again?

Well, the answer is simple.

Being grateful forces you to think of the positive things that you already have in your life. This allows you to face your issues with optimism. People that actively practice gratitude are better able to deal with toxic emotions.[2]

So what do you have to do?

Go out there and meet up with the people you love, and be grateful for having these people in your life. Even better: add these things as actionable and attainable goals in your plan!

Step 6: Try to Spread Happiness to People Around You

Wait. What? You’re asking me to spread my happiness, even though I’m looking for ways to be happier myself? Where’s the logic in that?

Well, it may surprise you, but happiness is a funny concept in more than one way.

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My personal favorite is this:

When you are trying to make others happier, you will paradoxically find happiness yourself.

How does that work? Here are some examples:

  • When we make somebody else laugh, we tend to laugh ourselves as well.
  • Giving something to others can give us a feeling of having a positive influence on another life.
  • Focusing on helping others allows us to not worry about our own problems for a moment.

These are just a few specific examples that you can probably recognize yourself. Even though they might sound simple and painfully obvious, it doesn’t change the fact that spreading happiness can have a positive influence on your own life as well.

It will definitely help you to break free from your rut and find happiness again.

Final Thoughts

You may have noticed that this article is different from other “get happier” articles that you have come across already. This list includes steps that you can take and plan for right now. No bullshit advice such as “just cheer up”.

It all starts with a plan, though.

I can’t stress this enough:

Write down what your issues are, and make an actionable and realistic plan to get back on top.

Set small goals.

Accept that this process takes time, take it one step at a time.

Prioritize your sleep.

Spend time with people you actually care about. People who have a positive influence on your happiness.

Spread happiness, even though you might feel like this is not possible because you’re stuck in a rut. Happiness can be shared in many ways!

More Resources to Help You Get Unstuck

Featured photo credit: Paul Gilmore via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Tracking Happiness: The Effect Of Sleep On Happiness
[2] Greater Good Magazine: How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain

More by this author

Hugo Huyer

Author at Tracking Happiness, lifelong happiness tracker and passionate about all things mental health and well-being.

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

What Is the Purpose of Life and What Should You Live For?

What Is the Purpose of Life and What Should You Live For?

In society today, knowing your purpose of life and what you should live for has become the major criteria for measuring how happy your life is. There is a lot of pressure to know your purpose in life, becuase if you don’t know, then the chances of you living a fulfiling and happy life are nil.

This is absolute rubbish.

Ralph Emerson’s states in his quote that our purpose in life has nothing to do with happiness but more to do with how well we lived our lives.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

That is the secret recipe to living a happy and fulfilling life.

A Story About My Friend John

My best friend John suddenly passed away a few weeks ago. John was a person who lived a purposeful life that was centred on his commitment and love for his family and serving others.

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John did not seek out his purpose in life. He didn’t read personal development books on how to find your life purpose and he never asked the question “what should I live for?” He just knew what gave him joy and that was to serve his family and the people who were in his life.

John was that person that Ralph Emerson was referring to in his quote: a man who showed compassion and kindness and who lived a full life with purpose and commitment.

John was not a famous man who had achieved world recognition for his amazing feats. He was my long-time friend, a truly great man who to me lived his life purpose to the fullest.

Not all of us are like John who just knew what his purpose in life was and then just did it. Some of us need guidance as to how we can start this journey…

3 Steps To Finding Your Life Purpose

Here are 3 very simple steps that if you follow will help you to attain purpose and fulfilment in life.

1. Disconnect from Social Media

With social media, we are relentlessly exposed to thousands of people who present a life where they seem to be living incredibly fulfilled and successful lives with purpose.

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It seems to be for many people that figuring out your life purpose today is complicated and a drawn out process that can take forever. This is in fact not true at all.

On social media, you only see the fabulous and fun parts of peoples lives, you do not see their true life that can be as challenging and as complicated as yours. No one escapes the realities of life – those life curveballs that come from nowhere.

If you are comparing your quality of life and your happiness with those people on social media, then you need to stop. You need to find your own measures of success as to what a fulfilled happy life means to you.

Social Media will not give you what you are seeking when it comes to finding what it is that will bring joy to your life.

When you are consistently experiencing joy in your life, you are living a purposeful life. You know what the kind of life you want to live that is important to you. Using other peoples experiences of joy on social media is not best way for you to determine your life purpose.

2. Ask These 3 Key Questions to Define Your Life Purpose

To start your journey to figuring out your purpose in life ask yourself these 3 key questions:

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  • What is the legacy that I want to leave behind?
  • What will people say about me when I have gone?
  • What difference have I made to other peoples lives?

The answers to these 3 questions will help you determine your purpose in life.

Once you have defined these answers, the next step is for you is to take action and consistently demonstrate those qualities you believe are important for you to attain living a life with purpose and joy.

3. Focus on the Specific Actions That Bring You Joy

“You do not write your life with words. . . You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do” — Patrick Ness

Discovering your purpose in life and what you should live for is the same for everyone in the world – rich or poor. Everyone has the opportunity to live life to the fullest. It is not complex, difficult or out of your reach.

Finding your life purpose is very achievable. All you have to do is decide what it is that living a fulfilled happy life means to you and then you go do it. Go and be kind to others and live your life the best way you can every day.

Acts of kindness, generosity, gratitude and love are the core actions of living a life with purpose. If you focus on these actions on a daily basis, you will be living your life with purpose. It is at this point that the feelings of happiness fill your life.

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The more you do for others, the more happy you will be.

A Word of Warning

When you are living your life with purpose, it does not mean that you will transform into living the life of an angel.

Remember your reality – you will still have your faults, make huge mistakes, fail and have to navigate your way through the challenges that life throws at you.

However, living a life with purpose and commitment builds your resilience and enables you to deal with life challenges from a place of strength and certainty.

Your power of choice is the only thing that you have that enables you to live a life with purpose and joy. My friend John knew how to use his power of choice to the fullest. He chose to live a life with purpose and he knew what he had to do to bring joy into his life and to those people he loved – a very simple recipe to living life to the fullest.

The journey to knowing your life purpose and living your life purpose is within your reach. You are the only person who can do it and you have control over how you want to live your life.

Remember that nobody else does – it is all down to you. I suggest that you go do it now!

More About Finding Your True Purpose

Featured photo credit: Timothy Paul Smith via unsplash.com

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