Three Tips For Finding Your Way Out Of A Personal Or Professional Rut

There are few things as frustrating and draining as a rut that you can’t get out of. We’ve all been there before, unable to break a pattern of inertia that harms us, both personally and professionally.

These emotional and intellectual valleys are difficult to overcome, not because of any specific challenge, but rather because we can’t see a clear path toward resolution. We simply don’t know what to do, so we wallow in our inaction.

Whether it’s a case of writer’s block, a business that won’t reach escape velocity, or just a persistent feeling of personal dissatisfaction, the effects of a rut can be devastating.

I’ve been forced to deal with being in a rut more times than I care to recall. Fortunately, my familiarity with persistent frustration has helped me find ways to overcome it.

Be honest with yourself

As with so many things in life, the key to finding your way out of a rut is self-awareness. You must recognize that you, and only you, are in control of your behavior.

It’s easy to blame external forces for your lack of forward momentum in life or business. Employees let you down, products fall flat, and initiatives go sideways, but you cannot let them control you.  The circumstances you’re faced with may influence your feelings, but they do not dictate your response.

Instead, you have to accept on a personal level the reality that you can and will move past whatever is currently holding you back. This starts and ends with you; no external factor or change will push you forward or hold you back.

A few years ago I found myself in a difficult position. I felt as though everything in my life had stalled. BodeTree’s growth was stagnant, my writing had flatlined, and it felt as though I was wading through molasses every day.

I blamed everything but myself, but ultimately I realized that I was the source of my frustration. Circumstances were challenging for sure, but I was the one waiting for things to change on their own. I was a passive player in my own life, and it wasn’t until I realized this and took control did things improve.

Seek out small victories

When you’re in a rut, it feels like you’ll never get out. The prospect of starting something, whether a new project or even or personal resolution, seems impossible.

I’ve learned that the only way to overcome this feeling of dread is to start small. Seek out small, achievable victories, and use them as stepping stones to bigger and better things.

Writing is one of my great loves, but like any relationship, there are always ups and downs. Sometimes it’s a whirlwind, and I can’t put words on the page fast enough. Other times, I feel utterly stalled, unable to come up with a single cogent thought.

Last year, I went through a serious dry spell where ideas simply ceased to flow. This writer’s block led to minor depression, as I felt that I had lost whatever creative edge I once possessed.

I realized, however, that I was in control of my destiny, and that capitulation was not an option.

I started out by challenging myself to write at least one solid paragraph each day. They didn’t have to be part of a larger narrative, just a few sentences grouped to make a simple point.

Each time I completed one of these paragraphs I felt as though a single stone was removed from the cave-in that was blocking my creativity. Eventually, I felt the spark once again and paragraphs turned into something more substantial.

These small, daily victories were just what I needed to clear away the cobwebs that had accumulated during my rut.

Live a life of conscious action

Procrastination is a part of life, but with the advent of modern technology, it has become easier than ever to find ways to distract yourself from the task at hand. These distractions, though tempting in the moment, almost always lead to inaction and lethargy.

The solution is as simple as it is difficult to implement; you must live a life of conscious action. To borrow a catchphrase from Nike, you have to “just do it.”

No one likes to hear this, but it’s true. It’s like my mother used to always to tell me, “Buck up and get busy.”

Living a life of conscious action means that you never let yourself stagnate. You force yourself to act with purpose at all times and attack tasks with an animalistic ferocity.

Your destiny is yours to define

We all fall into dark periods in our lives where we’re simply stuck in a never-ending rut. It may feel as though it will never end, but always remember: you are the master of your destiny.

The secret is to practice self-awareness, seek out small achievable victories, and always keep moving forward. If you can do this and have enough self-discipline to keep at it, you’ll find your way out of just about any rut in no time at all.

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Chris Myers

Written by Chris Myers

Chris Myers is the Cofounder and CEO of BodeTree and a Partner at BT Ventures. He is also a columnist for Forbes Magazine and a regular contributor for MSNBC.