Discover what to do when you feel stuck in a rut and learn five simple ways you can drastically change your life.
Disclaimer: Posts may contain affiliate links. We earn commissions if you shop through the links on this page. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. For more info, read our disclosure policy.
If you find yourself unmotivated and in a slump, you’re reading the right post. Julia Drake will show you what to do when you feel stuck in a rut so you can get back to living the life of your dreams.
Born in the Black Forest, Germany, Julia Drake grew up roaming the woods in search of stories and she hasn’t stopped. Together with her husband Jared Drake, she runs Wildbound PR, a California based literary publicity company that represents writers that venture into the wilderness of the mind to move us, shake us, and bring us stories that enrich our lives.
She’s been quoted and written for many publications, including Publishers Weekly, the Independent Book Publishers Association Magazine, UCLA Magazine, SEO Nation, and the Travel Examiner. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in film from UCLA and a Master’s Degree in Screenwriting from The American Film Institute. Connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.
It’s literally built into our biological and genetic make-up. Sticking to a routine is safe, stray from it, and you’ll get eaten by a Mastodon. No, not really, but as much as we try to separate our big, evolved intellect from our ancient fear-based reptilian brain, it often gets the better of us.
Having a routine also creates the illusion of movement, of productivity. We feel like we’re moving forward, not realizing we’re sprinting in the hamster wheel of going through the motions. That’s not to say that having a routine is categorically a bad thing.
A routine can help us stay organized, be productive, and find meaning and purpose. But failing to examine or alter our habits can have a debilitating effect on our lives.
So if you feel stuck in a rut, unmotivated, unfulfilled, and life is starting to remind you of the movie Groundhog Day, it’s perhaps time to change things up, even if that comes with a little––or for some of us––a lot of discomfort.
The metaphor of the trapeze is a great way to wrap your mind around the concept of making change. Most of the time, you can imagine yourself dangling somewhat safe from a bar, swinging back and forth, but then comes that split second where you need to let go off one bar to hurl yourself across space to catch the next bar in front of you.
“Living in the moment” exists in that split second, which should be exhilarating, but often, the idea of the unknown, of letting go, of taking risks makes us feel clammy, edgy, scared, and sometimes completely paralyzed. But the more you can master enjoying that space in between, the better you’ll become at tricking our mind out of the daily grind and getting yourself unstuck if you feel in a rut.
Here are five ways to work toward that goal:
Just do it!
Nike is right about that.
Sometimes all that thinking and rationalizing gets you stuck in a rut you cannot seem to escape and then gets in the way of changing your ingrained habits and pursuing your goals, dreams, and true passions.
There comes a point where you need to free yourself from your own fabricated mental slavery and just do and think afterward. Otherwise you’ll miss that moment when the next bar comes along and it disappears again in the distance.
This doesn’t mean being reckless, it’s about taking calculated risks that propel you out of your comfort zone and routine, and make you grow, broaden your horizons, and build your confidence.
For example, if you always wanted to compete in a marathon, but have been running only 3 miles a day, sign up for a 10k. Or if you’ve always wanted to learn how to knit, start off with a scarf, not a wall tapestry.
Or perhaps there is someone you have a crush on and have been wanting to ask out. Start by inviting them for coffee, not dinner with your parents, even if you’re sure they are the love of your life.
You get the idea. Pick something that challenges you, but doesn’t completely paralyze you, so you can loosen your grip from that bar and fly.
Enjoy a “do things differently” day
Another thing you can do if you find yourself feeling stuck in a rut is to choose one day a week where you mix things up. Consciously disrupt your routine. Start with little things.
Eat and do everything with your left hand that you normally do with your right hand. Have eggs instead of your daily granola. Answer work emails at the end of the day, not right at the beginning. Listen to a new book instead of reading a book. Go for a walk after dinner instead of watching your favorite TV show.
This all might sound a bit weird or inconsequential, but small changes go a long way towards rerouting our brain circuitry and making new paths and connections. This is referred to as neural plasticity. Rewiring your brain is a dynamic process that happens within the relationship of your mind, brain, and body. They are intricately interconnected.
What does this mean for you? You can use your mind to change your brain, undo ingrained habits and patterns, get out of the rut you’re in and finally experience yourself and the world around you anew.
Do I need to add that this will also make you a happier person?
The path of most resistance
If you find yourself stuck in a rut, here’s a fun game to play that will make yourself aware of habits and inborn reflexes that tend to get the better of you.
It’s really a mindfulness exercise, but sometimes the whole concept of “mindfulness” practice can sound a bit daunting and ethereal, so sometimes taking a more practical and playful approach can be more helpful, and more fun!
So here it goes: Focus on saying “yes” every time you want to say no, and say “no” every time that “yes” is about to jump off the tip of your tongue. This is not something you should do forever, but it helps you become aware of your mental blindspots, why and when you tend to say “no” and why and when you tend to say “yes.”
Sneak by your reflexes before they have a chance to control you. Examples would be getting asked out to dinner or a movie, any social setting, where you categorically say no (and you know that there is no real reason other than your fear of being in a social setting to hold you back).
This also points to the other part of this game. It’s a trust and honesty exercise. It trains you to listen to that wise voice inside you that knows what you need and not what you want or retreat to because you don’t want to leave your comfort zone.
Learn something new
One day a week, take some time to learn something new. This is not the time to try to learn how to ski or speak French or build a house. Unless you can break down the steps and work toward them 5-15 minutes every week.
The idea here is instant gratification, and the realization that learning something new doesn’t have to be daunting. It’s to give you that rush of happiness hormone high, that will want to make you do it again.
So start with making a paper airplane that loops, or learning to identify the song of mockingbird, or cutting an apple with just one swoop.
The idea here is to pick something that’s not very productive, but plain fun, something you do just for the sheer heck of it all, to challenge yourself for 15 minutes. In short, learning something new can be daunting and the more incentive and less excuses you can give yourself to “jump in and do it,” the better.
Discover the unknown
Sometimes no matter how you hard you try to trick your mind out of the daily grind, you just can’t break the mold and so you feel stuck in a rut.
If you can’t move mentally, it’s time to move physically. Research has shown that moving physically also helps your mind unwind and open to new experiences, which is perhaps why so many great ideas are born in the car, the train, plane, or on vacation.
This is not to say that every time you feel stuck, you’ll need to go on vacation, a day trip or just 15 minutes around the block, walking, biking, or driving through a new area in your neighborhood or community can get things unstuck.
It doesn’t take much. In fact, discovering the unknown right in your front yard can be the most magical way to trick your mind out of the daily grind and experience life anew.