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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 February 16, 2021

Need a Breakthrough from the Limitations Holding you Back?

Need a Breakthrough from the Limitations Holding you Back?

Do you feel stuck in an area of your life, not knowing what to do next?

There are things you want to accomplish, dreams you’d love to fulfil, yet your current circumstances seem to be preventing you from reaching your goals.

Perhaps it’s your job, your career, major decisions, relationships, or just life getting in the way that’s preventing you from focusing on your true desires.You’re unhappy, maybe even burning out, and you want a change.You need some sort of breakthrough. Is this where you’re at in life right now?

Is there something bigger, something more that you’d like to do, but feel like you can’t at this moment for whatever reason?If you’re feeling this way, then I want to first assure you that you’re not alone. Almost everyone has experienced this feeling at some point in their lives, because humans are made to grow and mature and to develop into ‘better’ versions of themselves. Take the evolution theory for example, it shows how humans evolve through time to adapt, survive, and thrive better on Earth.

Same goes for each of our individual lives. We have different goals, dreams, and aspirations, but they all lead to the same outcome – becoming better than what we were before… whether it’s in terms of happiness, wealth, love, etc. So why is it that some of us have a harder time moving ahead? To answer that, we need to look at the limitations holding us back.

What are Limitations?

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 your current circumstances, which also means that they define the quality of your life.

But, here’s another insight that we’ve found from people who consistently make breakthroughs: your reality is derived from your perception.

It’s not reality that’s important, but rather, how you see it. So being able to control how you look at things is the key to your breakthrough. 

Some people are able to move forward a lot easier than others because they’re able to control how to look at things better than others. They’re able to shift their mindset to look at even the most negative of situations, and turn them into something positive.

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And the good news, is that because all limitations start from your mind, it means that you can learn how to take control of the way you view your limitations. And, here is where I want to introduce to you the Breakthrough Framework.

The Full Life Framework

This Full Life Framework helps provide an overall paradigm shift for you to turn any limitation you may be having, into an opportunity that is achievable. 

With this framework, you’ll be able to transform yourself to achieve your goals and break free from anything that is holding you back.

You’ll learn how to use the Life Multipliers to help you through your transformation. These skills will help magnify your efforts and allow you to grasp your opportunities quicker and instill the changes permanently so that you won’t fall back into those limitations.

Step 1: Find the Hidden Opportunity

Step one is to find the Hidden Opportunity.When we’re faced with a challenge or setback, as humans it’s normal to focus on the negatives or the things that are missing. But, that’s life! There will always be some sort of constraint, so why not train your mind to think of opportunities instead of limitations?

With every obstacle, there is always a hidden opportunity waiting to be uncovered. So instead of fighting them or giving up, know that there are always two sides to every coin. This means that you can find an opportunity within any obstacle that you’re facing.

So, in order to find your hidden opportunity, try asking these guiding questions:

1. What limitation is affecting your quality of life right now?
E.g. “I’m limited by … [ the obstacle/constraint ]  Because …  [ why it’s a limitation ]”

2. What does it stop you from doing?
E.g. “It stops me from … [ the thing you want to do ]

3. What’s the turning point? A turning point is a key obstacle that, if overcome, would open new opportunities that weren’t available before. So you just need to find that turning point within the limitation you’re facing, to create a new opportunity.
E.g. If only I could … [ the achievement ] then I’d be able to … [ the new possibility ]”

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4. Create an Opportunity Statement.
E.g. I have an opportunity to … [ the new possibility ] by … [ the achievement ]

By writing an opportunity statement, it not only solidifies your intent, but it also provides a spark of motivation for you to finally come out of your limitation.

It can be a real mental drain to be faced with an obstacle; and the longer you stay stuck in it, the more effort and energy is taken away from you. So going through this first step of finding your hidden opportunity helps to re-ignite the flame of positivity that will drive you to take focused actions in steps 2 to 4.

Step 2: Plan Your Progression Stairway

Now that you’ve found a hidden opportunity, the next step is to plan your Progression Stairway.

This simply means that you should have a game plan of how you want to achieve that opportunity! And, it all starts with creating achievable goals.So the first secret to creating achievable goals, is to find your North Star.

Your North Star is what will guide you towards your outcome, and make sure your goals are focused within the bounds of what you actually want. Your North Star is the greater goal that all other smaller goals align themselves to.

The second secret is to set goals aimed at growth. This means that your success should be based on progress, and not just a single outcome.

The third secret, is to take bite-sized steps. In order to remain consistent, it’s helpful to break your ultimate goal into smaller, achievable chunks and work your way up from there – hence the progression stairway.

The clearer each bite sized step, the easier it is for you to keep making progress towards and eventually succeeding at accomplishing your goal.

Once you have your game plan sorted with goals in place, it’s time to start acting on them. And, here is where your actual energy and attention comes in. This is also the part where many of us fail or give up halfway because our energy and attention is limited. So we need to make sure we’re focusing it on the right tasks.

Step 3: Invest by Energy, Prioritize by Time

The third step of the Breakthrough Framework, therefore, is to Invest by Energy, Prioritize by Time. Breakthroughs require focused energy and effort above the level you’re currently using, otherwise it wouldn’t be called a breakthrough. So you can’t afford to waste it on distractions or scattered efforts. This is why focus is your ultimate weapon as it maximizes your effectiveness.

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And, since time is something we can never get back, we have to spend or invest in it carefully. We waste time when we allocate it on the wrong things. This may be due to poor planning or prioritizing. As a result, we don’t spend it effectively which is why focus is key.

So in order to maximize our efforts, we need to invest in our Energy and Time. 

Energy comes first because if you cannot focus, it doesn’t matter how well you manage your time. You’ll still end up wasting it because it’s not being productively spent.

Get rid of distractions, and do things in short bursts of focus as our attention span is short. Offload your brain by using support tools such as apps, journals, recording devices etc., so that your brain doesn’t get overwhelmed with information. Keep repeating this routine to build up your focus muscle.

Next comes time. Once you’ve learned to maximize your energy, it’s important to understand how you spend your time, set priorities and use the power of deadlines. Figure out which actions or tasks are more important, and prioritize those. Once you have your priorities listed, be sure to schedule them in weekly chunks so that they can be executed.

Now that you have established your opportunity, steps and focused actions, the last step of your breakthrough is to ensure this new you is sustainable!

Step 4: Make a Self-sustaining Engine

Most breakthroughs are not one off; therefore, a self-sustaining growth trend is needed. Along the way of reaching your breakthrough, you’ll encounter new challenges and obstacles that require the same mindset and plan of attack.

Breakthroughs require consistent input over time to guarantee stability; otherwise you might make a breakthrough but fall into the trap of sliding backwards again. And, just having willpower is not enough. You need a system to support and feed your momentum.

This is why we need what is called a self-sustaining Engine. And two elements form this engine: Motivation and Habits.

Motivation is formed from continuing growth and progress in your achievements. The more growth you experience, the more motivated you are to continue.

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And habits are routines that help you to generate momentum automatically. You can create a growth loop by having habits that anchor your growth. And, always incorporate a feedback loop so that you’re aware of your progress, and that will make your growth concrete.

Start by identifying keystone habits that can help anchor your growth, and be sure to work them in your daily schedule. Keep track of your daily or weekly progress in order to keep momentum going.

In a month, you should already see changes taking place. In 2 months, 3 months or more, you will be able to see milestones reached and progress made towards your ultimate goal that you had set out from the start – your opportunity statement.

Repeat and Grow

The four steps of the Breakthrough Framework that I’ve outlined can be used whenever you face any obstacle or limitation, no matter what situation you’re in. And mastering the Life Multipliers will allow you to carry out each step of the Breakthrough Framework effectively, as they give you in depth understanding of what should be done to get your desired outcomes.

Breakthrough’s are never one off. You may overcome a setback today, but face a new challenge 3 months later, and that’s normal because it’s how you know you’re progressing in life when you’re doing things that are harder than before to push you to greater heights.

With the Full Life Framework and the Life Multipliers, you’ll be able to break free from your current limitations and start pursuing the goals that truly matter to you, without risking or sacrificing your current responsibilities.

So don’t stay stagnant anymore, it’s time to see your breakthrough! Start your life-changing journey here!

Featured photo credit: Jeremy Bishop via unsplash.com

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