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In A Rut? Here's What You Can Do

When life gets away from us, clawing our way back out usually seems like an insurmountable task. The overestimation of the road ahead douses so many flames and drags capable people deep into a rut. 


It makes bad situations worse, augments self-doubt, and encourages self-destructive habits and negative thinking. If left unchecked, a rut can quickly (and often does) turn into a downward spiral, ending at rock bottom. 


OK, that might be a bit melodramatic, but you get what I’m saying. When we let what could be a bump in the road define our self-worth, things can get pretty hairy down the line.


The good news is that ruts are normal. They happen to everyone – from Tom Brady to Nelson Mandela. 


So, without further ado… Whaddya gonna do about it?


Acceptance


The solutions that follow cannot be accomplished without first accepting the situation. Many people find this the most challenging step, as easy as it sounds.

 

“I’m fine, just tired.”


“I’ll give it another day.”


Do either of those statements (or variations on the theme) sound familiar? 

A widespread response to being in a rut is the denial of it happening in the first place. Often, that’s to avoid the self-blame and judgment we lay on ourselves for making mistakes. 


That’s why times like these call for a bucket of compassion and understanding. And realizing that you’re not the first person, nor will you be the last, to find themselves spinning their wheels.  


It takes an incredible amount of strength to accept responsibility for one’s own life. It also serves to deepen our sense of ownership over our lives.


Locate the cause


Once you accept the slump, then comes a little soul searching. Whatever is going on, there’s a reason. Sometimes the cause is apparent – like a recent break-up or a job you hate – and doesn’t take long to identify. 


Other times, it may not be so clear. On the outside, you might say to yourself, “I should be happy and motivated – so what gives?”


In this case, you might ask yourself a few direct questions:


  • What in life makes me feel happy?

  • Are there parts that make me feel sad, depressed, or uneasy? What are they?

  • Regarding the things I do and the decisions I make, is my motivation usually to fulfill my own needs or someone else’s?

  • Do I get the emotional support and fulfillment I deserve from my relationships?


Spend time on each question and be honest. No one else will read your answers. 


Are your goals realistic?


This heading might read like, “Get real, buddy, you’ll never be an astronaut!”


That’s not the case.


But when our goals are far beyond what we can reasonably expect to achieve in the near future, we might continue not to reach them, contributing to increased frustration and more “wheel spinning.”


Lofty goals are incredibly useful. But they need to be supplemented by smaller, immediate goals. These should be strategically structured to cut away at the space between where you are now and where you want to be.

Jumping for the stars at ground level without a ladder or a rocket is a recipe for discouragement. Take pride and, most importantly, ownership of your journey. 

Baby steps, baby!


Meditate


Or do yoga


“Confine yourself to the present,” taught Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome from 161-180 CE.  


Life’s many trials and tribulations cannot touch the soul immersed in the present moment. 


Regrets of the past and worries about the future don’t exist during this breath in or out.


Slowing down and re-familiarizing yourself with yourself is one of the most powerful tools you can add to your kit. 


Final word


Be kind to yourself, and know that life isn’t a race. Take things day by day, making time for self-care and fun activities to break up the monotony. Sometimes all it takes to get out of a slump is to fulfill an unmet need. 

Have a look at Maslow’s 5 Levels of Human Need, a widely accepted structure of what a human needs to be happy.


Perhaps there’s something in there you might be neglecting in your own life. Oftentimes, simply adding a missing piece can bring about a dramatic shift in perspective!

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