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Published on December 23, 2019

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, 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.

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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Mandie Holgate

Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

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Last Updated on July 9, 2020

How to Stop Being Passive and Start Getting What You Want

How to Stop Being Passive and Start Getting What You Want

Have you ever wondered what keeps you stuck in a state of passivity each day? You tend to know exactly what you need to, but you never have the energy, motivation, or willpower to do it. You know you need to learn how to stop being passive, but how do you do that?

You are not alone. Being passive can leave you stuck in a bit of a rut that is difficult to escape from. This article will help to shine some light on your predicament by not just exploring the methods of how to stop being passive, but also the finer and very important details about what causes passive behavior, as well as an important distinction between positive and negative forms of being passive.

Let’s dive straight in.

What Causes Passive Behavior?

Passive behavior is often the leading cause of people feeling stuck either at work or in their life. It occurs when your life situation is unhappy, but the only thing you “actively” do about it is complain. This, of course, doesn’t change anything. Passive behavior in this sense leaves people feeling stuck, hopeless, and miserable for the vast majority of their life.

Passive behavior can emerge from a number of different sources, but there are three main ways that tend to be the most evident.

Lack of Motivation

Perhaps the most common and most obvious cause of passive behavior is the simple fact of being unmotivated. In the conventional sense, motivation gives rise to action. When you feel motivated, you go and do the things that you set out to do. When you don’t feel motivated, you don’t act.

You might wake up one morning and be eager to get a nice, long, satisfying workout in, so you head to the gym. On another morning, or for a number of consecutive mornings, you might not feel motivated at all. As a result, you don’t get a workout done.

Not being motivated and not always doing what you set out to do is fine. It is part of the natural ebb and flow of life and all of its contents. However, it is a myth that motivation needs to be preceded by action. The secret of successful and seemingly “always motivated” people is that they know that that is a myth. They also know that, quite often, it is usually action that leads to motivation[1].

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Don’t believe me? You have probably experienced it many times yourself. You have forced yourself into your workout gear and then suddenly felt ready to go. You forced yourself to begin writing a report and then all of a sudden you’re in full flow. You forced yourself to meet friends just for one drink and ended up having the time of your life. Action, and then motivation.

Motivation sometimes leads to action, but motivation only comes around every so often. However, motivation that follows action is always in your control. It may seem counterintuitive, but whenever you feel unmotivated and passive, just do something. Anything. And you will usually find that motivation and productivity follow closely behind.

Lack of Goals

Another common force behind passive behavior is the lack of any meaningful goals that you are striving towards. If your life consists of going through the motions, doing the same boring tasks every day, and eating the same sort of stuff, not only can it quickly begin to feel like Groundhog Day, but it can also begin to eat away at your life energy. Anyone with experience of these sorts of patterns will be able to directly relate.

When your only goal is to make it through another day or make it to the weekend, that is a massive portion of your life that you are throwing away. Discovering and creating meaningful goals in your own life can radically change all of that.

Ideally, because you spend large portions of your life at work, you will want to start by finding some meaningful goals within the work section of your life. You can strive towards creating something amazing and valuable for your customers or brainstorming ways that your business can become further integrated into the community. There are a number of ways to create meaningful goals at work. If you really cannot find any, then a goal might be to find a place or line of work where you can.

Thankfully, though, life doesn’t exclusively consist of work. Meaningful goals can be spread out across all areas and interests of life. Maybe you set yourself a goal of setting up a local football team in your neighborhood. Maybe you volunteer for a charity that means a lot to you.

Meaningful goals almost always involve other people, and this kindness, generosity, and good-will not only grows in others and your community, but it grows inside of you, too. The growth of these qualities in your life inevitably leads you out of passive behavior.

Analysis Paralysis

You might be shocked to realize that anything that involves analysis is one of the leading causes of passive behavior. Yet, it is this “analysis paralysis” that occurs to varying degrees in various people over time that is a big contributor to passivity and ultimately not getting what you want out of life[2].

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Analysis paralysis is so common in the modern era due to the infinite sources of information that we have available to us via books, websites, podcasts, YouTube, etc. Because of this, a child who didn’t know any better would probably spend hours upon on hours watching YouTube videos, studying textbooks, and analyzing different expert’s opinions on how to ride a bike rather than actually just getting on one and learning through experience.

It is common for you to slip into this same trap as the child in many other areas of life. You want all experts to agree on something before you take any action on it. You want to memorize the instructions front-to-back before you start on step one. You want a 100% guarantee that something will work from start to finish before you try it for yourself. Of course, that guarantee never arrives, and you remain in the same place.

Forget all of that. Your brain is great for many things, but it is actually more likely to keep you stuck in the same place than it is to move you forward towards your goals. It will give you ten reasons why you shouldn’t for every one that you should. This is where listening to your intuition is important. There are countless examples of people living extraordinary lives and accomplishing truly wonderful things after they followed their intuition and ignored their “intellectual impulse” to have all of the details figured out first.

Experience is not only the greatest teacher, it is the most direct route to experiencing, learning from and enjoying reality. Whatever goes on in your head is a projection. Whatever actually happens is reality. Spend less time reading about bikes (which is passive behaviour disguised as active behavior), and start getting on that bike for yourself.

Is Being Passive a Bad Thing?

As already highlighted briefly in the introduction, it is important to distinguish exactly what is meant by “passive” in this article. Here, we are talking about passivity and how it relates to things like boredom, frustration, unhappiness, feeling stuck, and all other connotations. The passivity that we are talking about is living a relatively unhappy existence and not really doing anything about it.

Passive is not always a bad thing, though, and while the positive meanings of being passive aren’t the focus of this article, they are worth pointing out so that you don’t avoid passivity altogether.

Passive can also relate to peace, contentment, and even things like creativity and inspiration. It is very rare for somebody who is in an active state all of the time to produce anything original and not completely burnout. Great individuals throughout history that put a lot of emphasis on stillness, reflection, and the “good” form of passivity include Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare, Mahatma Gandhi, and many, many others.

There is an important distinction to be made between the passivity that is causing unhappiness and the passivity that is to be used in intervals to take your life to the next level. In this article though, we are focusing on the former.

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How to Stop Being Passive

Now that we have established some of the causes of being passive and the different faces of passivity, it is time to explore ways in which you can stop being passive (in the negative sense) and start to find effective methods of allowing more happiness into your life.

1. Be Proactive, Not Reactive

One of the most effective ways to stop being passive is to stop reacting to other people and situations as soon as they unfold. Your knee-jerk reaction is rarely the best course of action to take, and yet, it is a deeply-seated habit of all humans to respond angrily to anger or to see an unexpected situation as much more of an issue and struggle than it actually is.

To stop being reactive, you can start being proactive. The best thing you can do in this sense, paradoxically, is to simply watch your reactivity as much as possible[3]. What feelings flare up and cloud your judgment in certain situations? How do you respond when things don’t go your way or to plan? The closer you can watch, and the more honest you can be, the less automatic your reactions become, and the more proactive and effective your responses to situations and people will be.

You can also try to imagine different scenarios about how things might play out in the future. Thing about what might go right and what might go wrong so that you can anticipate and plan your action ahead of time. However, it can be difficult to predict the future, which is why I always emphasize starting with yourself.

2. Consider the Future and Act in the Present

Closely linked to the point above, while you can never accurately predict the future, it is always useful to give some consideration to how it might play out. What goals do you want to achieve? What circumstances do you want in your life? What obstacles might arise, and how can you either avoid them or be effective in dealing with them?

Considering all of these questions and any others that are personal to you will give you an excellent basis for action.

From this position, you can now focus all of your attention back into the present moment. The future is important to consider, but don’t live there because it doesn’t exist. All that exists is the present moment. You can only ever take care of the things right in front of you. Focus only on taking care of them, one thing at a time, and you will find that your entire future and life will fall perfectly into place.

3. Address the Emotional Side of Passivity

As we covered earlier when discussing lack of motivation and its direct influence on passivity, the reason that you are being passive is probably because you are invested in the story that you need to be motivated before you can take any action.

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Being passive, unmotivated, uninspired, or any other great word that you want to throw an “un” in front of is often an emotional issue that needs addressing. For you, addressing the problem might simply mean taking action and letting the motivation follow. It might be attaching something emotionally rewarding (a treat of some kind) with action that you want to take that, for now, isn’t emotionally rewarding in itself.

There is usually some sort of emotional gap that needs to be bridged before you can truly step out of being passive and step into the life that you want to live.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has managed to shine a bit more light on being passive, where it comes from, how it keeps your life stagnant, and what to do about it.

As you already know, reading about riding a bike doesn’t teach you how to ride a bike. Even more sneakily, it is inaction disguised as action, because deep down you know you just need to do it.

Going from passive to active living is exactly the same. You have read this article, you know what to do… now go do it!

Your new life awaits you on the other side.

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Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

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