Stuck In A Rut
Stuck In A Rut
Dear Tacit,

I feel like I am stuck in a rut and have lost the spark that comes from really enjoying life.  Overall, I feel “meh” most of the time.  What can I do to get my positive mojo back?

Signed: Stuck In A Rut

Dear Stuck In A Rut:

I think most of us understand that life cannot be exciting and high energy all of the time.  We need neutral moments, so we can catch our breath and reflect on the choices and decisions we have been making.  These periods of boredom give us time to slow down and consider the trajectory we are on in life.  They allow us to make intentional choices about the changes or the consistency we want to enjoy, moving forward.

But, if these periods of “pause” become too long, we might start to feel less contemplative and more stuck. We may lose our momentum and flow.  It’s always harder to get started again from a stop position.  It requires more energy and drive to get the wheels turning when they are at a stand-still.  And without the proper internal focus and motivation, we sometimes avoid diving back into the forward direction of our life’s journey.  We second guess if the effort will be worth it (and sometimes get caught in thinking we have to have all the answers before we take the first step).  Or we get comfortable with the “meh” feeling because nothing terrible is happening (which seems like a good place to be in comparison to trying something new, with its risk of failure and bad outcomes).

Here are a few strategies to help you decide when and how to get re-stated again, when you think you have plateaued for a bit too long:

  • Figure out what you need right now. Are you on “pause” because you are exhausted or run down (physically, emotionally and/or mentally?)  If so, you might need to stay where you are a while longer, to allow yourself more recovery time.  You will want to restart only when you feel you are in/close to a neutral (and not negative) place to launch from, because it is going to require energy to get out of that rut. It won’t do you any good in the long run if you are draining yourself by taking the next steps, even if they seem to be great ones (this will just cause burnout).
  • Identify what’s missing. How well do you know yourself? What feeling would you rather have instead of “meh”?  How will you know that the path you start down next is taking you where you want to go?  We need to have a sense of the final destination that we are seeking before we know in what direction we should be venturing.  Make sure you are being specific and active in your vision for the change you want to experience (don’t think in terms of “I don’t want to be feeling meh anymore“– or “I want to feel better” – both of these are far too general/passive as defining goals).
  • Say yes! Try new things.  Even if the steps don’t turn out to be the perfect path for you, the process of exploring will help you learn so much about yourself.  We all change as we age.  And the busyness of life before the rut may have caused you to disconnect a bit from yourself.  So, get to know who you are again by letting go of the image of who you thought you were and making room for the possibility of who you might be.  You could surprise yourself!
  • Start small. Remember the 1% rule (Aggregation of Marginal Gains) and try to make tiny changes in your life (on a day-to-day basis) that get you moving towards the goal you have identified.  We are more likely to stick with the change when we take small, steady steps forward.  Big jumps cannot be sustained as easily.  Making small changes regularly means you will have 37% improvement within a year. That’s a huge distance away from “meh”.
  • Let the forward momentum work for you. Stay consistent with your small steps, even when you are tempted to take a break.  It’s much harder to get going again, when you have derailed that flow.  This is as true physically as it is psychologically.
  • Notice the progress. Look back, from time to time, and see how far you have come with the changes you are making.   Compete only with yourself.  If you are doing better today than you did yesterday, you are succeeding.  Sit in that improvement – bask in the accomplishments as they are happening.  We sometimes wait until the final achievement of the end goal before we allow ourselves to relish the change that is unfolding right before our eyes.  And that’s a sure-fire way to end up back in a rut again!

Take care!

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