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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

How to Move Forward When You’re Stuck in a Rut

How to Move Forward When You’re Stuck in a Rut

I’ve helped thousands of people get out of ruts, however, rarely do they say “Hey Mand, I’m stuck in a rut, can you get me out?” It makes it sound like it’s so small that you could just rock a bit and out you’d pop like the proverbial cork out of the champagne.

If only it was that easy, right?

If you want to know what a rut really is like, check out the films that stick in your mind. At some stage, the stars are stuck in a rut: Ferris Beuller, Luke Skywalker and Jennifer in Dirty Dancing. And since I love Disney, poor old Rapunzel is seriously trapped, and we aren’t talking about the tower and the evil step mum.

Looking through my love of films, these films hook us because we look at how that character goes on a metaphorical of physical adventure, and we think by the time we get out of the cinema:

“It’s my time!”

“Let’s do this”

“I can achieve anything!”

Only to be at home tucked up doing what you usually do, slowly losing that sense of can do that was so alive in you as you left the movies.

So how do you hang on to the motivation to change and how do you make it happen ensuring you never languish there ever again?

1. Talk About What You’re Going Through

Whether it’s films, news stories or products, so it is stands to reason the same is true of change in our own lives. You can tap into the power of coaching here to get out of your own rut. The first thing I do with a new client is let them talk and talk and talk. No interruptions. Words spilling out like they can’t wait to escape.

The client often talks pretty much nonstop for 20 minutes, maybe a question here or there to help them keep going and dig deeper but, they talk until their shoulders sag and they often look shattered, worn out. It’s almost like a fog lifts and they look at me and usually say something like “Wow, where did all that come from?” or “Sorry, I’ve done your head in with my life haven’t i?”

While they may have an idea that something is wrong or life is not flying along as they’d love it to, rarely do they actually verbalize everything that they feel is going on.

Giving yourself permission to talk is very important. We are taught in 21st century life to not moan, to look for the positive, to be happy. Sometimes, it’s important to really process the other side of this. In doing this, you can really understand what is happening.

People often give me the biggest views into their mind when they least want to. In coaching, it’s often the flippant throw away statement that hides the real issues. The perfect example is a recent client who couldn’t see away out of their rut. And for some explanation, I asked “For what reason are you always on someone else’s path? Is it better over there? Is it safer? What’s going on?” The client looked at me in horror and said “How did you know?”

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Coaching has become a very spiritual practice for me and sometimes, I ask questions that feel like they are coming through me rather than out of me. Weird I know, but true. It’s these weird questions that usually really help clients. I’m probably just picking up on key words they’ve used repeatedly and then phrasing it in a way that resonates powerfully with the client.

Another great example was the client that told me about all the possibilities the future held for them, and how it made them feel trapped in a rut and they were fearful to escape. I asked “You know how in fog some people will choose not to go out; and others will take precautions to go out there but go slowly; and others carry on regardless and risk everything, which are you?”

They hadn’t once talked about fog, but it was a powerful visual that helped them to decide what they wanted. They realized they wanted to go forward, with caution and that created our plan.

For the client who was always on other people’s paths, they realized with tears in their eyes that they’d been petrified for years of getting it wrong. They constantly tried to copy everyone else, and we all know that is not the path to success, joy and happiness don’t we?

We created a plan of action and I drew a picture of a sign hammered into the grass saying, “Stick to your path!” It’s a visual reminder that helps ensure the client stays on track.

2. Build Yourself the Right Network

Network is your net worth. This has been a powerful phrase for me this year and resonates with so many. If you find that you get stuck in a rut or struggle to escape one, have a look around you. The people you work with, socialize with, even listen to on the radio or share your life with on your phone are all part of your network. And we worryingly seem to forget the value of this.

The network around you can either inspire and nurture you, or drag you down and keep you stuck.

Have a look at your social media feed, is it full of great ideas, happy faces, great news, beauty and joy? Or is it full of disturbing things happening on the other side of the world that you couldn’t possibly ever have an impact on, and moaning people complaining about governments and celebrities?

I’m not suggesting that you don’t take an interest and action on helping to shape the world we live in, however, I am saying you need to ask yourself what your social media feed does for you. How does it make you feel?

I asked this question recently on Facebook and was inundated with negative comments and sadness from people who found social media depressing and soul destroying. Interestingly, the ones that felt like me and loved social media felt connected to people around the world. I have social media friends on the other side of the world who I’ve never met but feel deeply connected to. We can share in joy; we can comfort when our world sees atrocities and we feel connected.

If your network doesn’t feel good for you, then change it. No one needs to know.

We can choose to control who is in our life physically and metaphorically, and that can drastically impact on our ability to get out of the ruts that come up in life.

Ever heard someone say:

“What do you want to do that for?”

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“That doesn’t sound like much fun, are you sure you want that?”

“You just don’t get it do you.”

“That can’t be done.”

These comments (and people) can damage your network’s net worth. The right people in your network do the very opposite, they are like the critical eureka moment in our favourite films where our stars realize what they can achieve.

There are so many people around the world I have never met and yet, we’ve helped each other on those dark “I can’t do this days.”

I’ve never been to Tucson, AZ. However, I know I’ve at least one friend there in Alicia from Energetic Life Healing. While we’ve never met, we both know we can get in touch if we want advice, support or a proverbial kick up the butt to get where we want to go in life. The right network makes such a difference to your ability to steer clear of the ruts of life.

3. Don’t Be Too Peoply*

*(Yes, I know it’s a made up word!)

People that try to enslave you to their thinking aren’t good for you. A great network respects you whatever you choose to think. Here in the UK, we have faced years of political unrest and divide, and for some, it has caused a big rut in their life;

“We will move house when Brexit is over.”

“I will set up my own business when Brexit is done.”

“It’s not practical to do that until Brexit is finished.

“We can’t make a decision yet because we don’t know what is going to happen.”

Too peoply is a saying a friend (funnily enough who started off as a social media friend is now a real friend) said to me once. If I am around people too much, it gets too peoply and I need a break.” When I asked about getting stuck in a rut online Abbie Thoms from Polyspiral Website Design said:

“I think we get caught up in our situations and forget to take a step back for some perspective.”

Spot on Abbie!

As my friend and Abbie have beautifully sussed, sometimes, the quickest way out of rut is to step back. When I feel stuck on a task or way forward, I know what I must do. A walk on the beach with my dog is important, so much so that I invested in a very expensive coat so that no matter what the weather or temperature I could still go for that walk. The sea air, the solitude and the sound of the waves always help me.

Always, without fail.

Ask yourself when life feels too peoply and you need a new perspective to move forward, what would be on your must do now list? A walk on the beach? Pottering in the garden? Baking a cake? Painting your nails? Daydreaming on YouTube? Reading a book? Even playing a pointless time-wasting game on your phone can be good.

With all of these actions, your brain is given a bit of space to process what you’ve been working on. So when you feel stuck what will your go to action be?

And please note, working on it some more, is not going to work!

4. Plan in a Way That Works for You

If you want to steer clear of a rut and get unstuck, you need to always plan. I like fluid plans, if I have a goal that I can visualize, I’m happy.

I don’t need to plan every action. I’ve learned (the hard way!) that if I plan every finite action, it doesn’t work for me; while some clients like everything listed down to details of what they are doing on what day of the week. I have clients that like Excel spreadsheets. Clients that like colourful mind maps. And clients that like mood boards or lists.

We are all so beautifully unique, so before you decide on your plan of action, decide how you will bring your plan alive!

This works so powerfully that for clients that love color. Without fail, brown is a disliked color, so I will ask the question in brown “What could stop you?” Because it’s a disliked question and a disliked color, they will work powerfully to steer clear of that result. Which links back to emotions which we talked about at the start. What emotions do you want to evoke when you look at your plan?

5. Don’t Plan Alone

Another reason a rut is so tough is because we try and fix it on our own. We think it’s the right thing to do, however the 21st Century is teaching us that personally and professionally, we achieve more, are happier, and less stressed if we open up. Planning with the right person or people ensures you:

  • Challenge yourself.
  • Don’t shy away from the things that frighten you.
  • Ensure you creatively think.
  • Ensure you add ideas that seem ridiculous or crazy.

And this helps you see the big picture in a new way. Which leads us onto…

6. Be Aware of Your Perceptions

There is a very good reason why a 2 hour conversation with me can completely change the way someone feels about their life, and who they are and it is down to perceptions.

Perceptions are what shape the world we live in. However, it has always fascinated me that two people can see the same film, party or place and feel completely different about it. Our perception of the world we live in and who we are is impacted on by our beliefs, values and experiences. Helping people to adjust their beliefs and respect their values and experiences is a fast way to getting a perspective that helps you instead of keeping you trapped.

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7. Realize That You’re Just Trapped in Limbo

If you help someone to explore their rut, it often can drag them down further. They feel trapped by circumstances and say things like:

It can’t be helped.

It’s just the way it is.

It’s just our current circumstances, when this is over we can…

Watch out for victim talk when it comes to ruts in your own life. Speaking from experience, it is not always easy, yet we can escape the most awful of situations however badly we feel trapped by what we choose to think. Lupus has isolated me from society and destroyed my social life. At times, I would cry because it felt like I was the only person in the world.

Just me and my dog.

If you’ve ever faced adversity or tough times out of your control, it can feel like a rut because you can’t find a way forward. The fastest way forward is not always putting one foot in front of another, it is by monitoring the quality of your thoughts.

I loved the book The Forgotten Highlander by Alistair Urquhart. The true story of a Scottish soldier who faced some of the worse most horrific moments of the second world war. I saw an interview with him years ago where the interviewer asked Alistair “How did you keep going?” and Alistair talked about how they could do what they wanted to his body but they were never getting their hands on his mind!

This was the belief that changed my circumstances. Not medicine, or exercise or diet or friends, but just one thought. Which leads me to the next thing that ensures I never fall into a rut again…

8. Practice Gratitude

If you want to get out of a rut, another way to slay the victim mentality is to look for everything you love about your world. Everything you are honoured to have. Everything that makes you feel happy and loved. It is hard to feel trapped when you find yourself experiencing so many positive emotions.

Remember positivity is a great place to start when you want to change something in your life. Blind positivity is not much use, but positivity based on facts is.

Try these 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

I’m more than happy to hear from Lifehack readers anytime, so do feel free to get in touch via my social media which you can access on my profile page. Let’s keep the conversation and the lifehacks going!

More to Help You Get Unstuck

Featured photo credit: Tai Jyun Chang via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Mandie Holgate

International Coach, Best Selling Author & Speaker inspiring people around the world to success.

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Last Updated on June 4, 2021

How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

Everyone goes through changes in their lives, whether it be aging, emotional maturing, retirement, parenthood, or entering or leaving a relationship. However, some of us seem to embrace chance better than others. When change happens, we may find ourselves wondering how to start over and make the best of the new circumstances we find ourselves in.

You’ve likely been in a situation where you felt that things just weren’t working out. Whether it’s in your personal relationships or career development, you feel stuck and unhappy with the way things are.

You need that change, yet you’re afraid to make the conscious decision to move because you’re not even sure what change you need to make, or you’re afraid you don’t have time to start over in life.

You might have been with the same company for the last 5 years, and the thought of doing the same thing for the next 5 or 10 years scares you. You want to do more, or perhaps even something completely different altogether.

Or you could already be late into adulthood, where you’ve established a good career path, and you’ve got a lot going on, such as a family to care for. You’re financially stable and could potentially be working towards your next promotion. But, somehow, you’re not quite satisfied with what you’ve achieved.

There’s just something missing. And yet it feels like it’s too late to leave all that stability behind to embark on a completely new journey of discovery.

Why is that so many of us find ourselves limiting our windows of opportunity and potential because we think it’s too late to learn how to start over?

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Meet Jack

At age 37, Jack is a Senior Manager at one of the Big Four and has been working in Audit for over 15 years. He’s got a great salary, owns his own apartment, and enjoys the finer things in life, but not without the heavy demands that his job brings.

On the surface it would look like he’s got life figured out. His next steps would be a promotion to becoming Director, or settling down with someone.

Yet, when I asked him if he was happy with his work, he hesitated before answering. He said that he sometimes wished he could quit his job to do something less stressful. However, he’s become accustomed to this lifestyle and feels that it would be too late to give it up to pursue a new career or ambition.

The external struggles that Jack faces are financial stability, social influences from his peers, the lavish lifestyle he leads, and status or recognition that he gets from continuing with this job. These may be things you’re facing as well.

Internally, Jack faces the risk of losing what he’s built over the years. It just doesn’t seem logical to give up this job for the pursuit of an alternative that would give more meaning to his life.

You might have come across a similar scenario as Jack’s, or you might be a Jack. Whether it’s the stresses and demands of your job, a lack of satisfaction, or a feeling of stagnation, you have to decide if you want to tear down that wall or continue to let it enclose you.

How to Start Over When It Feels too Late

The good news is that as our society continues to develop at such a rapid pace, it also means we have more opportunities to do things that were previously thought impossible. These days, more individuals are pushing the boundaries and breaking stereotypes.

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It’s not just about age or education. It’s about you, and your ability to accept challenges and having the determination to break free from your existing situation.

    1. Gain a Fresh Perspective

    To break free from our limitations, we’ve got to take a step back and gain a fresh perspective on just what limitations really are. On the surface, limitations are things that prevent you from doing something, but if you dig deeper, you’ll find that limitations are the things that keep you constrained inside a loop.

    They keep you stuck facing the same problems, having the same choices, and taking the same actions over and over again. Limitations define the quality of your life. If you want to improve your life, then you must break free from the limitations that keep you in the same loop every day, month, and year.

    It may seem that the limitations that you’re facing are out of your control or something that just happens to you. However, your reality is derived from your perception.

    It’s not reality that’s important, but rather how you perceive your reality. Being able to control how you look at things is the key to learning how to start over and creating a fresh start. Shaping your perception is so powerful that just a small change in perspective can completely change everything, from your motivation and outlook, to your self-esteem and confidence.

    2. Identify the Challenges

    Once you decide to shift your perspective and look at things in a new way, identify exactly what challenges you’ll face as you try to learn how to start over and reboot your life. If you want to change your job, what’s standing in your way? Is it a lack of education, a poor job market, or simply a lack of motivation?

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    If you have just ended a long-term relationship, what difficulties to you foresee in the near future? You may need to find a new living situation, reconnect with old friends, or get used to being alone again.

    To identify what’s holding you back, you can take this Life Assessment for free and get a detailed analysis of how you’re doing in different life aspects.

    Whatever the challenges are, note them down and write down at least three possible solutions. Once you see that each problem has an answer, you’ll begin to put your mind at ease and get comfortable with change.

    3. Check in With Your Values and Priorities

    If you’re determined to start over and change your life, make sure you’re pointing yourself in the right direction as you change. Identify your values and priorities and understand that they’ve likely changed over the years[1].

    When you graduated college, your priority was likely finding a job and making money. Maybe now you’re more interested in developing good relationships with your kids or traveling the world. Be honest with yourself during this process in order to make the most the change you’re going to make.

    You can learn to identify your personal values here.

    4. Utilize the Breakthrough Framework

    The Full Life Framework (as outlined in the book Full Life Essential Guide) provides an overall paradigm shift to turn any limitation into an opportunity that is achievable.

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    By going through each of these four steps, you can transform your mind and actions towards the change that is needed to achieve your ultimate goals, and truly break free from your limitations.

    Step 1: Find the Hidden Opportunity

    It’s easy to see what’s standing in your way. Instead, look for any hidden opportunities that will come out of the change as you learn how to start over.

    Step 2: Plan Your Progression

    Create a plan to achieve the change you want to make. Set a long-term goal, and then break it down into smaller short-term goals that you can work on over the next few months or years.

    Step 3: Invest and Prioritize

    Invest your time and energy into making your plan and goals a reality. Prioritize what you do with each moment and create deadlines to ensure that your plan goes smoothly.

    Step 4: Tap Into Motivation and Good Habits

    Even if you have a good plan, it won’t work unless you develop motivation and positive habits that will keep you on track. These habits can include goal setting, daily reflections, and perseverance.

    Grab your copy of The Full Life Essential Guide to learn more on tapping into your motivation to find your life’s purpose.

    Final Thoughts

    It’s possible to make life changes and learn how to start over. Don’t become a person who lets life pass them by only to regret it when you’re retired or far into old age. Don’t let your life plateau and waste away in the daily grind for the next twenty years while wasting the potential you still have.

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    Tired of being held back by your limitations? It’s time to break free from them, and start living out your best days.

    More Tips on Starting Over

    Featured photo credit: Jenna Anderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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