Being stuck in a rut can feel really disheartening. You can feel stuck on a Groundhog Day loop. And it’s not a good day. It’s dull and uneventful.
Unfortunately, one of the first challenges in this situation can be that we don’t realise what is going on. We know that we aren’t happy. But, often we can’t pinpoint why.
How did we get stuck in a rut?
Our brains love routine. Comfortable routines satisfy one of our basic needs for safety.
But if we are not careful – our routine (and lives) can become boring and unfulfilling. This can happen when we:
- Forget to make plans and goals that are important to us
- Don’t prioritise looking after ourselves
- Don’t have activities in our lives that feel purposeful and happy
What does being stuck in a rut feel like?
Here are some common signs you may be stuck in a rut:
- You feel unmotivated and unfulfilled
- You want to change but you feel scared or don’t know where to start
- Everyday feels the same
- You don’t feel excited or inspired
In my life – I have found the following situations to be indicative of a rut:
- You can’t honestly answer the question “how are you?”
- You find yourself looking for activities that numb your days (eg. TV, alcohol)
- The highlight of your day or week is it being over
- You feel like the things you secretly want can’t be possible for you
How do we get unstuck?
If you have realised you are stuck in a rut – there is no need to worry. You can start the wheels turning to get yourself unstuck.
Here are some common recommendations for getting unstuck:
- Get out of denial and accept you have responsibility to change things
- Uncover the reason you are feeling this way
- Start doing everything you know you should to change the situation
- Create healty habits to move you forward
- Take on a challenge to prove to yourself you can do what it takes
- Get the support you need
However, I thought I would give you some detail about some of my recommendations for when you are feeling like you need to get your life unstuck.
Know that it is okay to feel like this
The first step is to accept it is okay to feel like this. Most (if not all) of us have been there.
It is important not to be hard on yourself. This will just perpetuate negative feelings (and you have had enough).
This is a good time to be thankful you have realised the problem and excited you can start making steps towards a life you love.
Give yourself a boost
The first action step I would recommend is to give yourself a boost to shake this up. A happiness boost if you will.
This is a great opportunity to spice things up and create some excitement and motivation to move things forward.
Here are some examples you could try to start feeling unstuck:
- Change up your hair style
- Visit a different city
- Work out with a personal trainer
- Be impulsive
Here are a few things that I know work for me in this situation:
- Make a plan in the future you can look forward to
- Do or try something new (eg. go somewhere you haven’t been or eat food you’ve never tried)
- Learn something new (this can be as easy as getting on YouTube or maybe enrolling in a class you have been thinking about)
- Go outside for a walk. Pay attention to everything around you (sights, smells and sounds)
Related post: A low effort happiness boost for those inevitable days
Think about how you can move forward
Now you may know you are stuck in a rut, but, you might not know what to do about it.
Below are some suggestions to help you find what that next step will be.
Start getting unstuck with a life audit
One exercise that may be helpful to you is to do a life audit:
- Pick a typical couple of days out of your week
- Record the activties you do from the moment you wake up until bed time
- Now take out three colours and highlight
- The things that bring you excitement and joy – in one colour
- The things you enjoy doing – in the second colour
- The things you might not enjoy doing that much but they bring you a sense of contentment and purpose – in the last colour
- Then everything left are the “nothing good” activities
- What you have now is a heat map of how much of your typical days are spend on happiness, purposeful & “nothing good” activities
- How do you feel about this balance?
- What needs to change?
Pick an area of your life to improve
Another activity that may help you is the Wellness Wheel.
This activity provides you with a holistic picture of the important segments in your life and which areas could need some TLC to help you feel unstuck.
You can find out the details in this post: Wellness wheel activity equals game changer
Move towards YOUR definition of success
Something else you could think about is the fact you now know what a “stuck” life looks like. But, do you know what a “successful” life looks like for you?
The best way to understand your personal definition of success – is to take a step back and reflect on what is truly important to you.
This means understanding your values and what brings you meaning and purpose.
You can find out more about your personal definition of success in this free course.
Use goals the right way
Now you have found something you want to improve – it is time to start working on it.
You want to keep creating forward momentum. But you want it to be the right momentum done in the right/easiest way.
The key is to start small. Start with one tiny step. Once you have completed that – you can move on to the next.
Create a momentum of positive change. This allows you to celebrate success and build motivation.
Related post: How to set goals – 3 easy tips
Always get the support you need
When you start working on your goals getting support and encouragement from your friends and family is a great way to be accountable.
If you are having trouble getting started on your goals reaching out to professional coaches or therapists is also a great move.
But most importantly. If you feel stuck in your life and unable to do anything about it – reach out to a medical professional to get the support you need. Feeling stuck in life can be a sign of depression so never hesitate to reach out if you are feeling concerned.
Be kind to yourself
This journey to get unstuck is going to take some work. So, it is important to be kind to yourself throughout the process.
Make sure you have self-care activities in your routine that will support your physical and mental health.
Watch for unhelpful thoughts
Part of moving forward and pushing through the comfort zone you have created for yourself will be the battle you have with your brain.
It will be doing its best to keep you comfortable and safe but giving you unhelpful thoughts and doubts.
The important thing is to remember these are only thoughts (and not facts).
Thank your brain for trying to keep you safe. But, remember not to buy into those thoughts. Just pay attention to the thoughts that will help and support you to make the positive changes you want and deserve.
Now you should be fully armed with information that supports you to get yourself out of a rut.
But, the key is to start. Now.
So, let me help you. To begin with – I invite you to answer this question:
What are three things you are grateful for in your life right now?
This should boost your positivity.
Now, think about something new and different you have been thinking about doing recently? (Hint: going somewhere new, trying something new, learning something etc)
Okay – now do it! Right now. Go do it or book it in or make a solid plan (and stick to it!).
Congratulations! You have started to get yourself unstuck!
See you later Groundhog day!
There is nothing to fear but fear itself.
A bird in the bush is worth two in the hand.
A family that plays together stays together.
These are all things I have heard. They make sense. But, I’ve never paid much attention to their meaning.
But, what if one is genuinely the key to a fulfilling life?
On closer review, it is not a surprise that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s statement “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” from his 1932 inaugural address has more value than a proverb based on medieval falconry and a rock band album cover.
But, my point still stands.
Perhaps knowing the only thing we should be fearing is fear itself – is the key to living a rewarding, worthwhile and happy life?
Let me explain.
Life lessons about fear stopping you
Recently, I quickly came up with 40 life lessons that changed my life. As I dug a little deeper I found a common theme. Fear.
- Fear that stops you from being the best version you can be.
- Fear that programs our ancient brains to live with the status quo.
- Fear that keeps us from getting over our anxieties.
- Fear that stands between us and new and exciting opportunities.
- Fear that can ruin your life because it forces you to play it safe.
- Fear that stops you from being vulnerable and making meaningful connections.
- Fear of judgment that stops you from being you.
I found that almost 20% of my most important life lessons were routed in my discoveries about fear.
Signs that fear is stopping you
So, the fact is for the longest time (probably 39 years) – I didn’t realise fear was invading, shaping and ruining my life.
If you are anything like me – you may like some signs that fear might be stopping you:
- You strive for (impossible) perfection
- You settle for less than you really want
- You find yourself saying “yes” or “no” when you don’t want to
- You find ways to numb yourself from reality (eg. Netflix, food, alcohol)
- You have mastered the skill of procrastination
- You struggle to make decisions
- You need to control everything
- You shy away from things that are important to you
- You are often feeling under the weather
The fear that is stopping you
But, what are we afraid of? What are these invisible forces/fears that are stopping us from going after our goals?
- Loss of freedom
- Being judged
- Getting hurt
To just name a few…
What to do when fear is stopping you
If this is resonating with you – you might be wondering what the next step is. If so, try giving this a go:
- Think about where these fears are coming from: Listen to the negative thoughts that are coming from a place of fear. What are they saying to you?
- Think about the validity of these thoughts: Should these fears really be a concern? Should they stop you from living a life you love and being who you’ve always wanted to be?
- Understand where you want to be: Take the time to explore what you really want your life to look like – if fear and negative thoughts weren’t an issue.
- Take your fears head on (or just dip your toe in): Prove to yourself that you can face your fears. Start working towards your dream life – focusing on what is important to you and not your fears. You will no doubt surprise yourself about what you can achieve when your focus is pointed away from your fears.
Don’t let fear stop you from living a life you love
…let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
If you feel like the changes you want in your life are impossible – then it might be fear that is holding you back from what you deserve.
Don’t settle for a bird in the hand if you want more. Don’t be afraid to go for it!
On the other side of fear, there may be two birds or maybe ten. For certain – there will be valuable life lessons, new opportunities and forward momentum. And these are all the things you need if you want more from your life.
If you need a hand building a picture of what your dream life might look like – check out this free 5-day email course.
You have a goal you want to achieve. Awesome! Do you find yourself wishing for a magic wand?
Now is when the real battle begins.
Anyone that has ever tried to reach a goal would know – achieving big goals takes a lot of hard work and dedication. But, there are small things you can do to help yourself find a storybook ending.
These are my 4 top tips for you to help you achieve your goals the easiest way possible.
Don’t think big goals – just work on the next little step
By achieving small goals you can create motivation through self-efficacy or small wins. The more wins you put on the board the more your motivation will build.
So if you want to achieve your goals the easiest way possible, experiment with keeping your timeline under 2 weeks and just concentrate on one step at a time.
Extra tip – I always like to make the first step due by the end of the day to get myself off to a flying start!
Create a path of least resistance
We are creatures of habits and for most of us, habits are only created when we make it super easy for ourselves.
So, when you are planning your goals – plan to slip your required action into your existing lifestyle as simply as possible. Then, do as much setup as you can.
So, when it is time for action – you have done your best to make it easy for yourself.
Setting yourself up for success will minimise the excuses you make in the moment for not going after your goals. This will increase your chances of action taking!
Feel accountable to your goals
To give yourself a fighting chance I recommend finding an accountability system that works for you.
Here are a few examples:
1. Share your goals
But, do it with the right people. These are people that will support and encourage you.
2. Have other people hold you accountable
Try setting up an accountability partnership with a friend. Or, join/create a group of like-minded goal-achieving people.
3. Create accountability in your day
Display them in an obvious place so every day you can remind yourself to be responsible for your success.
Really understand your “Why?”
If you want the best chance of attaining a new goal – be VERY excited about it!
If you want to be VERY excited about your goal. You need to have a deep understanding of why you need this goal in your life and how it is important to you.
A helpful question to ask yourself is:
What will my life be like when I attain this goal?
After answering this question you want to be buzzing.
If you are not, you might want to think about shelving it for another time. And find something else to work on that lights you up.
Are you trying to achieve your goals the easiest way?
So, although this isn’t a fairy tale where all your wildest dreams will easily come true. If you keep these simple things in mind when you are taking action on your goals you can do to make your happy ending a little more achievable.
Have you noticed when you most need a happiness boost your motivation is at an all time low?
It is certainly true for me. If I am feeling a little blue, finding the energy for an activity that will boost my happiness seems like the last thing I can do. In fact, when I am lying on the couch under my blanket – the last thing I want to do is work on my happiness.
But, although we might not want to make the effort, it is times like these when we need a happiness boost the most. That’s why I recommend having a few effective low-effort activities you can pull out of your back pocket when needed.
If you don’t have a list already – below are my 7 go-to low effort happiness boost exercises to help get the ball rolling.
There is a lot of research about the best way to approach gratitude exercises to boost your happiness over the long term. But for me, gratitude works great as an instant fix.
When you’re feeling low grab your phone and send a gratitude text to someone. Take the time to genuinely describe your appreciation for something they have done/do. Writing the text will give you a boost as you think about them and how best to thank them. And if you get a nice response – that is a lovely added bonus.
Your facial expressions play a part in setting your mood. Pretending to be happy can trick your brain into believing you are happy. (Fun fact, a study has found that people that can’t frown because of botox as less likely to be sad.)
One advantage I have found in this world of mask-wearing is when someone annoys me (which is not uncommon) I can grin like an idiot under my mask to start turning my mood around.
Phone a friend
We are built for social connections and interactions with the people we care about will make us happier. Obviously, some of our loved ones will make us feel happier than others when we are feeling down. So, pick the friend you need and make a meaningful connection to boost your mood.
If you can’t get in touch with a friend. A friendly chat with an engaging stranger will also help. So put on your fake smile and jump into those “Nice weather we are having” conversations.
Think of happy times
Thinking about a good memory can also help to improve your mood. When you are feeling low, take the time to relax and really explore a pleasant memory. Why were you happy? What did it sound like? What did it smell like? See if you can get a smile back on your face.
Hugs help release your bonding hormone oxytocin which will help lift your mood. The research suggests that a 20sec cuddle is a sweet spot and it can work with humans, animals, yourself and hug machines.
But if you were thinking about grabbing a stranger for a squeeze – you do have an alternative. Lingering eye contact can also get the oxytocin going – so that may be a better option for legal reasons.
Exercise is a great way to get the endorphins flowing and your mood improving. However, if you are anything like me, what little motivation I have to exercise does not exist when I am feeling down.
So my hot tip is to roll off the couch and start with an exercise that is low to the ground. My personal favourite is push-ups. By the end of a couple of sets, the endorphins have kicked in and I am usually laughing at myself because I am struggling so much.
Try something new
Novalty is a great way to pick up your mood. So put your thinking cap on and think of ways you can try something new with little as effort possible. You may enjoy learning something new on Youtube or getting a new food delivered to your door. Think of the things that interest you and can spark joy in your times of need.
Is your pocket full of happiness boost tricks?
So next time you are feeling in need – make sure you have a pocket full of tricks ready to pull out as needed. The most effective activities will be different for everyone so make sure you know what works for you.
Please note: These activities are meant for little happiness boosts when you are feeling a little down. If you are struggling with your happiness make sure you reach out to an appropriate professional immediately to get the support you need.