Hmmm … Are you stuck? Feel like you’re in a rut and not moving? Are you not reaching the goals you have set for yourself? Maybe even lowering your expectations so that it feels ok that you’re where you are right now – because you’ve talked yourself into thinking that its okay.
Are you afraid to take that decision, the one that will lead to the change in your life?
As the saying goes: “If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep getting what we’ve always gotten.” So in order to get out of a rut, we will have to change something, can we agree on that? Getting out of a rut, getting “unstuck”, means we are going to have to do something differently, whereby “do” is a very small word for something that is, in actuality, a very big thing. “Doing” is an action, so let’s break that down and take a closer look at what we want to do to get ourselves unstuck.
Stop ruminating. The past is behind you.
Do you have thoughts ruminating in your mind, that keep coming back and forcing you to pay attention to them? Are you replaying old stories from the past? Do you feel like you are stuck in a parallel universe, one where you keep reliving a past mistake? Do you still feel embarrassed or ashamed for something you did a gazillion years (months, weeks, days, or hours) ago? Well that was then – and it is over with. You cannot go back in time, so you are now here and it is now, here. You are no longer in that position, as a matter of fact, you are no longer that person. Your entire body is different – the cells that make up your body are not even the same anymore. So you can safely say, “That isn’t me anymore” and you are telling the full truth. In order to let go and get unstuck from ruminating thoughts, make a point to acknowledging those thoughts by thanking them for having given you a lesson and then picture them moving on. You could, for example, imagine these thoughts packing up a suitcase with all the embarrassing and shameful words or behaviors, and then picture them picking up the suitcase and walking out the door. See yourself in your mind’s eye, as you wave good-bye to those ruminating thoughts. When you let go of the past go, you’re able to experience your “today” with a clear mind.
Change something that you do – any behavior change forces you to get out of a rut.
Did you know that we humans have two major forces that drive our behavior: fear and love. And due to the history of our evolution, fear is the force that is the most prevalent, the strongest and most forceful. After all, if our ancestors had not been afraid of the sable-tooth tiger, then we would have been doomed for extinction. So fear is a good motivator, if you are a cave(wo)man …
Fear has its merits of course! Fear of a heart attack can drive a person to eat a healthier diet, or go for a run – instead of sitting on the couch eating chips day in and day out. But if fear is keeping you in a rut, then it is time to change something, however small that change may be. And that is the key word here: “small”. Any small change in a daily routine, like where you sit on your couch, or the route you drive to work, or when you go to bed – anything can be that small change. Change, or doing something differently, actually forces your brain to use your senses in a different way. So for starters, you could write your grocery list with your “wrong” hand, or walk up the steps using the “wrong” foot first. It is all about opening up to new ideas, new routines, getting a new perspective on everyday things. You are clearing your mind of cobwebs you probably didn’t know that you had.
What makes you feel alive? What are you passionate about?
What makes you happy? (when was the last time you thought about that?)
When you are really enjoying yourself, what are you doing?
When you loose track of time, what are you doing?
When you feel good about yourself, what is it that got you there?
What is something that you are good at?
Just asking yourself these questions will give you a head start to getting out of that rut. By doing something that you enjoy, maybe even something that challenges you and gives you a sense of accomplishment once you’ve done it, will also serve to energize you.
Put the spotlight on someone else: who can you help?
Sometimes we just need to stop navel-gazing. If you’re stuck thinking about everything that isn’t working for you, then have a look around and see who else is having a bad day. You will always be able to find something that you can do to help someone else. Be that to bring your colleague a cup of coffee because they are really focused on getting a report done so they can leave work in time to pick up their children from school; to listening to your aging aunt tell the same story for the umpteenth time because she doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to speak with people these days. Whatever you can do to give someone else a moment of being on center stage, will help you to feel good, too.
Stay curious because it helps you to stay hopeful.
When you are curious about things, you are automatically also hopeful. Don’t believe me? Try this: when you are curious how a ballgame will go you’re also hopeful your team will win. When you’re curious how your exam will turn out, you are also hopeful that you studied enough to make a good grade; when you’re curious who is going to get the promotion, you are also hopeful it will be you – or the person you are rooting for. Stay curious and stay hopeful.
Be ok with not being ok all the time.
We’re just human, so we are not perfect. That’s part of the deal of the human experience. Those folks that inspire the most, are also those that have made mistakes and learned from them, and they have moved on. So go ahead: you have permission to believe in yourself! You are not going to be ok all the time, but that’s ok, too. Make a list of the things that you are proud of about yourself, and go back and read that list when you’re having one of those “not ok” days. It will help you get out of that rut, too.
Get professional help
If none of these tips are working for you, then get professional help. There is no reason whatsoever for you to stay stuck. None. Not a single reason. If you’re not able to move on after putting these tips to practice, then there is no reason that justifies you going through yet another day of not feeling good. It is ok to get psychological help, that is what we’ve learned and what we do for a profession.