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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

More by this author

Mandie Holgate

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

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Never Get Stuck Again

Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Never Get Stuck Again

The statistics are dismal. A recent study has found that 69% of people feel trapped in the same old routine, and only 3 out of 10 people are happy with their lives.[1] People are feeling stuck.

Some are feeling stuck in their careers, feeling like they’re too far along one path to make a change. Some are feeling stuck in their personal lives. The toll of the daily grind sucks most of their time and energy. So their relationships, self-care, and personal goals get lost in the shuffle of the treadmill existence.

When people come across these challenges of feeling stuck, the feeling sometimes doesn’t go away. It often intensifies as time goes on. As the stuck feeling intensifies, some people choose to settle. Subconsciously, without even realizing it, they end up pushing their dreams and goals further and further down.

Others, if the feeling of being stuck intensifies to an unbearable point, choose to make changes. They may choose to pivot in their careers, even after years at a successful job. They may end up making big changes in their relationships, or start putting their fitness at a higher priority. They may make drastic changes to finally feel free. These changes can be incredibly difficult to make, especially if a person has lived many years in a certain lifestyle.

Feeling stuck is NOT fun. I’ve been there. I get it.

Why Am I Feeling Stuck?

People feel stuck once in a while. There are many causes of feeling stuck. Many people work toward goals that don’t actually align with who they are at the core or what they truly desire. I call these “False Objectives”.

Living a life of False Objectives can cause people to feel very stuck and frustrated. People can build lives that are very “successful” according to society; but if you’ve built your life based on False Objectives, you’re not going to feel fulfilled. You’ll end up feeling stuck.

Another cause of feeling stuck is not knowing who you are. If you don’t understand how you’re innately wired – your strengths, your gifts, your talents, your passions – it’s tough to make decisions that enable you to maximize those. It’s tough to reach your full potential if you don’t know who you are.

You can feel stuck if you’re doing work that doesn’t allow you to maximize your innate strengths. If you’re doing work that doesn’t bring out the best in who you are at the core, you’ll likely feel some dissatisfaction and you won’t reach your full potential.

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Other people feel stuck because they haven’t surrounded themselves with mentors or peers who have achieved what they want to achieve. They stay in certain routines while craving to do life differently. As Jim Rohn says,

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

If your goal is to run a marathon and you’re spending most evenings and weekends drinking beer with your coworkers, you’re probably not going to run that marathon. If your goal is to live a location-independent lifestyle and work anytime from anywhere, but everyone in your social circle is at traditional jobs; it’ll be tough to break free from the 9-5 mentality.

How Feeling Stuck Screws You up Secretly

Feeling stuck screws up people’s lives. The consequences of feeling stuck can range from mild to severe. People may feel a mild discontentment with life and end up succumbing to the idea that life is “okay,” and settle. (Nancy’s story will resonate with you.) They may never reach their full potential, their highest levels of happiness and satisfaction. And they may not make the impact on the world that they could make, and have a looming sense that there could be “more” to life.

Often, though, the feeling of being stuck comes with much larger consequences. Feeling stuck can hinder career growth and contribute to disrupted marriages. It can lead to huge midlife crises.

The feeling can (and frequently does) increase as the years go on, leading to significant regrets about unfulfilled dreams. In fact, the number one regret of the dying, according to Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse, is, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” She writes:[2]

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Many people had not honored even a half of their dreams, and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”

    Approaching Life Differently

    Thankfully, some highly effective strategies can prevent you from feeling stuck. Using these strategies can help you avoid significant problems in your life. It’s different than conventional living, and it works.

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    Commonly, people live with many set routines. While certain routines are helpful, becoming stuck in the daily grind routine can get frustrating. Many people eat roughly the same foods each week, go to the same place each day, talk to the same people, keep the same commitments, and end up living life on autopilot.

    It’s tough to feel like you’re progressing forward when each day is spent doing the same uninspiring routine. In order to avoid feeling stuck, it’s important to live intentionally. It’s crucial to live in the driver’s seat of your life and get out of autopilot mode.

    First, ditch the False Objectives. Just because everyone in your family are doctors doesn’t mean that’s the best path for you. Just because all your friends are married with a big house, a white picket fence, and 2 kids doesn’t mean that’s the best path for you. Just because everyone you know works 9-5 doesn’t mean that’s the best path for you. It’s not easy to design your life intentionally, but it’s critical in order to avoid feeling stuck.

    Remember, the majority of people feel stuck. So, if you’re doing things like the majority of people, you’ll likely feel stuck, too. You’ll need to think differently and create your life differently.

    2 Questions to Ask Yourself Every Day

    In order to intentionally design your life, avoid falling prey to False Objectives, and prevent feeling stuck, there are questions to ask yourself every day. These questions can help you stay focused on what matters most to you, help you avoid feeling stuck and frustrated, and create the best life possible.

    1. Why Am I Going to Do What I’m Going to Do Today?

    If you’re showing up to work each day and giving your years to your job, it’s important that your “why” is deeper than “to pay the bills.” Knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing can help you make choices that inspire and motivate you.

    By asking yourself why you’re going to do what you’re going to do today, you will be living intentionally. In today’s incredibly busy, easily distracted world, living intentionally and focusing every day on what matters most is unique.

    When you choose to ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing every day, it will help you stay focused on what’s truly important to you. This can prevent you from getting stuck.

    2. What Would Future Want Me to Do Today?

    Imagine yourself, in the future, as the best version of you. What would that version of you want you to do today? Making decisions from the viewpoint of the future you can help you move forward and prevent the stuck and frustrated feeling.

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    When you make decisions from the viewpoint of future you, you will develop perseverance and reap the benefits of delayed gratification. Today’s society is very focused on instant gratification, but a lot of great things in life take time and effort. Learning to take small steps forward by making decisions from the future you’s standpoint can help you progress toward your biggest goals and dreams.

    How to Get Unstuck

    After asking yourself the two questions, work on the plan to get unstuck. I’ve personally tried these strategies and they work for me.

    1. Choose Goals You Truly Desire to Accomplish

    This might sound obvious but we all get sucked into False Objectives at times. When you’re setting goals in your career and your personal life, make sure they are goals that matter to you.

    Working hard toward big achievements that don’t align with your values, priorities, and who you are at the core is a fast-track toward feeling stuck.

    Learn about your strengths, your gifts, and your passions. Choose goals that align with who you are at the core, and work toward goals that align with your inner strengths and gifts. This will help you maximize your potential and minimize the stuck and frustrated feelings.

    2. Watch Your Mindset

    Often, we think we’re stuck, but the problem is our mindset. Being mindful of our mindset and self-talk is important to living a life of freedom and fulfillment. Work on rephrasing your self-talk in order to improve your mindset.

    For example, if you tell yourself, “I could never start a business,” rephrase it to, “I don’t know how to start a business YET, but I can learn.” If you find yourself saying, “I don’t have enough money to travel,” tell yourself, “I don’t have the money right now, but I can make a plan to save money to travel. Rephrasing your self-talk can help you see opportunities and possibilities instead of feeling stuck.

    Occasionally, even the most driven people have days where they feel unmotivated. Check out this article for tips to get motivated when you feel like doing nothing: What Motivates You And How to Always Stay Motivated

    Those tips can help you break free from the rut.

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    3. Get out of Your Comfort Zone and Add Some Excitement to Your Day

    Shaking up your daily routine and adding some excitement to your days can help you get unstuck.

    While breaking out of your daily routine can be uncomfortable, it can be a great way to invigorate your life. You can start by getting out of your comfort zone in small ways. Here are 10 ways to step out of your comfort zone and overcome your fear. As Brian Tracy says,

    “Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”

    Getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing growth can help you to continue to move forward and prevent you from getting stuck.

    4. Surround Yourself with People Who Have Done What You Aspire to Do

    It’s easy to get stuck if you’re trying to accomplish something and you’re struggling to believe it’s possible to accomplish it.

    Instead of letting yourself be isolated and stuck, commit to learning from people who have done what you aspire to do. This can help you believe it’s possible to achieve the same goals. It can also help you to be inspired to progress forward instead of staying in stuck-land.

    You can seek out a mentor, or even read inspiring books or listen to motivating podcasts by the people who have achieved your biggest goals and dreams.

    Final Thoughts

    It’s frustrating to feel stuck. But you don’t need to stay stuck if you know the right ways to break free from the rut.

    Practice living intentionally by asking yourself the 2 critical questions:

    • Why am I going to do what I’m going to do today?
    • What would future want me to do today?

    When you constantly reflect about what you truly want and whether you’re doing the things that lead you to what you desire, you’ll feel less stuck gradually.

    More to Help You Get Unstuck

    Featured photo credit: Krists Luhaers via unsplash.com

    Reference

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