Do you feel stuck? Is your life a revolving door of more of the same? Are you on a hamster wheel, going round & round and getting nowhere? Going through the motions, feeling passionless and purposeless?
I’ve been there. Busy as heck, in demand and up to my eye-balls both at home and at work. Yet feeling empty, or like something was missing. I was doing everything for everyone, forgetting that I had passions and dreams too. I somehow started from a dream, grabbed my passion with both hands and built a great life. I felt like I should have been happy, I should have felt accomplished but instead I felt like I was treading water.
Here’s the thing: dreams change, or rather, we change. We want something different now than we did years ago. And that is okay.
It took me a while to admit that it was alright to want a change. But when you think of it, it’s perfectly normal! We grow, mature, learn and we change! Imagine being the same person with the same perspective now as when you were ten. It doesn’t make sense, does it?
My constant is my family. My jobs change, more or less frequently, as my goals and interests grow and steer me in different directions. I’ve always had the same customer-driven attitude, the same drive to perfect operations and business routines. I simply changed the venue whenever I started feeling like I was stuck in a rut.
How do we get stuck anyways? I think it’s because we’re wired for persistence and because we are creatures of habit. We stick with what we know because we figure it’s going to pan out, or because it’ll change eventually, or even simply because it’s what we know and we’re comfortable with that. Change is scary because we don’t know for sure what it’ll be like afterwards.
But still, here we are. In a rut. Not fun or interesting or all that great, really.
So, how DO you get out of the rut? Here’s what I do:
Let go of the past
Acknowledge that you’re not happy with where you’re at. Look at that feeling, accept it and let it go. Being disappointed long-term turns into bitterness. What happened, happened and you can’t change it. Dwelling is a negative emotion and will leave you with that feeling of being trapped.
Stay positive. Imagine the outcome had been different, that it had turned out to be your ideal situation. Think of what you would have done (that you didn’t do) to make it happen. Turn it into a learning experience. Now you know what to do the next time you’re in a similar position.
Modify your future behaviour to get the result you wa
Understand your Comfort Zone
We tend to stick with the familiar. We are all, to one degree or another, creatures of habit. It feels wonderful to be in our comfort zone unless that zone is harmful to us. If you’re in an unhealthy relationship, if you hate your job, figure out why.
Really look at it, from that impersonal objective perspective and decide if it’s doing you more harm than good. Decide why it feels so yucky and why you’re still there.
Are you staying in your job because it’s what you know despite your toxic co-worker that makes every day miserable? Are you choosing to stay because it’s easier than making a change?
Acknowledging your comfort zone is a great first step to moving on.
It once took a 2 am phone call from a boss for me to see the light about a job. I was miserable at work but didn’t really KNOW it until that call. I answered the phone, sent a few emails to set the solution in motion and tried to go back to sleep.
It was a completely unnecessary call, something that could have waited until the morning.
I was steaming mad but it took me about an hour to realise it. It took me even longer to give myself permission to be mad. And longer still to accept that I didn’t have to deal with this.
I had a long hard think about this unfortunately common behaviour from this person and about how I didn’t have to stay in this job. I resigned the next day.
It was a very difficult decision for me for three reasons:
- I loved the team I had built.
- I enjoyed the work very much.
- I didn’t have another job lined up!
I was so scared but I also felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
Live in the moment
Stop constantly imagining the future, in the sense that once you figure out the changes you want to make, do not constantly think about how life will be then. Brief daydreams are okay, they’ll keep you motivated. But: smile, nod to yourself, take a breath and get back to it!
Make a plan, set SMART goals and move towards those goals.
SMART goals are:
Setting goals and breaking them down will definitely help you be more productive. Read more on productivity here.
Break it down into small steps (be specific)
Figure out the cause of your discontent before making drastic changes. I suggest not making drastic changes at all, at least not until you have a SMART goal and know exactly where you’re going and why.
Maybe you just need to make a few small changes to get out of that jogging in place feeling. You might simply need to make plans for a fun day once in a while so you have something to look forward to. Maybe you need to make a huge change in your life.
Big changes are scary! Figure out manageable baby steps toward your big goal. A big bonus is that you will feel great checking off every item during your journey. Set small goals with target dates. Think of the smaller steps that are involved in getting to that goal. Write those down in your planner or on your calendar.
A series of baby steps will eventually take you on a big journey.
Change your routines
Sometimes this is all you need to do to feel unstuck. You might not need or want to make big changes. Maybe the time’s not right or the opportunity isn’t there just yet. Perhaps you have to wait a little while. In order to not feel like you’re drowning while you’re treading water, try new things or change things up.
Add some different experiences to your days. Try some of the following:
- Have a chat with a stranger or with a friend
- Try something new. I tried painting pottery recently and had a blast despite my self-avowed lack of artistic talent.
- Go outside. Take a walk, look around, enjoy the moment!
- Be spontaneous
- Make plans so you have something to look forward to
- Have fun! Play with your kids or your pet. Do something with friends. Be silly.
Find your purpose
This one requires lots of thought. It’s important to feel like you’re working towards something, that you’re enjoying yourself not just at a specific moment in time but in general. If your current path isn’t doing it for you, find a hobby or take it up again.
Find that “thing” that sparks your passion and fuels your inner fire. The “thing” that makes you feel like you have to do it NOW, that once you’re doing you don’t want to stop. That thing.
Believe in Yourself
I know this is sometimes a hard thing to accomplish. In the wee hours, when I’m tired or sick, I am a master of self-doubt. But I’ve learned that the little voice is fear.
Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being wrong.
Remember your purpose. You are worthy of happiness. You’ve broken down your goal into baby steps. You know what you’re doing! Go for it.
I’ll say it again: believe in yourself.
Seek professional advice
If your feelings of being in a rut are paralysing you or if you feel completely hopeless, please seek the help of a professional. You might be dealing with more than you can handle.
I’ve suffered from depression. In fact, it is an on-going battle given my chronic illness, so I understand. You do not have to suffer in silence. Please talk to someone. You may benefit from speaking with a psychologist, a counsellor or a family doctor. If that’s too hard to envision doing that, start with your partner or a trusted friend.
If you’re stuck in your career and you feel that all the exploring of self and of purpose is getting you nowhere, seek the advice of a career counsellor.
Done is better than perfect
Striving for perfection will leave you dissatisfied. You will never finish a project or feel good about it. Sometimes it’s just time to call it in. Set a deadline and do your best up to that point. Acknowledge that tomorrow is another day and that it brings another project.
Being able to call it done is just as important as getting started.
Being in a rut is nothing to be ashamed of, but in my opinion, it’s a waste. I think everyone is interesting in their own right. As an introvert, I get overwhelmed by crowds but I find people individually fascinating. I love to know more about them, about what makes them tick and what they like to do.
There’s something so neat about talking with someone about their passion. Try it at the next farmer’s market or craft fair you attend. Ask someone how they got started or ask them a question about their product. They’ll likely talk your ear off!
I leave you with a quote:
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”Winston Churchill
Great advice, no?