Disclosure: this page contains affiliate links to select partners. We receive a commission should you choose to make a purchase after clicking on them.
There are times in life when we feel like we aren’t making progress. The wheels are spinning and spinning, but they just don’t seem to gain any traction.
Instead, you just sit in one place, wheels spinning, trying to figure out why nothing is happening and why you’re not going anywhere.
Being stuck in a rut is an unexciting place to be. In some situations, it can even be distressing.
It can make you feel like you’re doing the wrong things or making the wrong decisions. And that may or may not be true. Sometimes the right decisions can be fairly boring and monotonous. But, on the other hand, you may be doing the right thing, and it’s just not leading to where you thought it would go.
So what can you do when you find yourself in a rut with no obvious way out? This article will attempt to give you some actionable advice to help you free yourself.
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you pull yourself out of the rut you’re in. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
How can I tell if I’m stuck in a rut?
Well, you look for the more obvious signs that you are. Signs such as:
- You feel unmotivated and lack interest. You want to do things, but you just can’t seem to find the time and energy to do them. You may also find yourself making excuses as to why you’re not able to do them.
- You find yourself lacking fulfillment. The things that filled up your cup no longer seem to be working. The activities that brought you happiness or a sense of purpose aren’t providing those feelings anymore.
- You feel like you’re just trying to get through the day. Every day feels the same as the last. Your world feels flat and gray. You’re not getting excited about anything, and happiness seems to be fleeting.
- You fear change. You know change is going to be uncomfortable, so you just avoid it altogether.
Should you be familiar with depression, those things may sound awfully similar. Sometimes, being “stuck in a rut” is actually a low-grade depression, the kind where the world is just gray, but there aren’t necessarily the more severe symptoms of depression. So, if you find that these things are relatable and have been persistent for a long time, it would be worthwhile to discuss the situation with a mental health professional (visit BetterHelp.com for online therapy from trained and experienced professionals).
Are you actually in a rut?
Do you feel like you’re not accomplishing what you expected to or wanted to? Do you feel overworked or underappreciated? Do you feel like your life is boring and you want more excitement? Do you feel like you are being held back by external circumstances? Is it social pressure from your friends and family?
In essence, can you identify a specific reason that you feel like you’re in a rut?
You want to identify the specific source of these feelings so you can determine whether or not your expectations are fair and reasonable.
Let’s take a moment to consider an example:
After working a nine-hour shift, Sarah sits down with her phone to watch an influencer smiling and happy on some tropical beach. Her life is working at least 45 hours a week while trying to keep up her home, maintain social relationships, and sleep once in a while. She looks at them and thinks, “I want that. I want excitement and some adventure! I want to be happy instead of dealing with this struggle!”
But what Sarah doesn’t see in that picture is the apparatus behind it or who that person actually is. It’s easy to look happy and appear like your life is in order. All you have to do is care enough to fake it.
The reality of the situation is that a lot of those influencers aren’t making much money. They do things like rent fancy cars or buy fancy clothes for photo shoots and then return them afterwards. They may go into massive debt to perpetuate their image. Some are using funds from a family or a previous job to pay for the appearance of a lifestyle they can’t actually afford.
They are just as much in a rut because they are spinning their wheels and going nowhere. Or, even worse, they’re going backward.
Plenty of people crave adventure and excitement. They look at the idea of working a full-time job for decades as something bad. That’s one way to look at it. But then you have another person who looks at that and says, “I want that stability.” Because stability can sometimes look an awful lot like a rut.
Consider a mentally ill person that can’t hold down a job. They look at someone like Sarah and long for that life, that stability, because they may feel like a burden to their loved ones and society. There are plenty of disabled people out there who would rather be working a stable job so they can build the kind of life that Sarah has.
And that leads us to advertising. There are many ways to go about advertising, but one of the most common is to focus on insecurity and what a person feels they don’t have. You’ll be more likely to buy the product if you feel that it will solve your problem. For example:
“Suffering from male pattern baldness? We can help!”
“Now introducing our Fall Collection! Stay up to date on the latest fashion trends!”
“Look at all these people having fun! Don’t you want to escape your life and take a vacation here in sunny Florida!? They’re having the time of their lives making memories! Why aren’t you?”
It’s all the same BS. Your life is lacking – you are lacking – buy our stuff.
But are you actually lacking? Are you actually in a rut? Or is it these outside forces making you feel like you’re lacking for their benefit, at the expense of your peace of mind and happiness?
And then there is social pressure…
Are you living your life in a way that makes sense for you? Are you looking at your life in a vacuum and feeling dissatisfied with it? Or are you looking at the lives of other people and comparing your life to theirs? Are your goals yours because you want them to be? Or because you think you are living up to some social expectation?
In our society, we expect 18-year-old kids to go tens of thousands of dollars into student loan debt for a career that they’re supposed to be happy doing for the rest of their lives that may not even exist. Aren’t you thinking about your future? Don’t you want to be able to support yourself or a family? Don’t you want the unaffordable house with the white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and minivan?
Why aren’t you making progress?
Oh, you’re 25, and the job market is terrible? The job hunt is about as enjoyable as pulling teeth? Why don’t you have a family yet? Why don’t you have kids yet? Are you thinking about retirement?
Can’t you see how good your friends are doing? Why aren’t you doing as well as your brother? When I was your age…
On, and on, and on, and on, and on people will go to not be supportive, judge your life, and make you feel like you’re not good enough.
That’s also not a rut. That’s just people being jerks and making you feel bad for not living up to their expectations. That kind of problem needs to be solved by creating boundaries for the kind of criticism that you permit in your life. As in, “I’m not really interested in your opinion on how I live my life.”
So, before you write yourself off as being in a rut, make sure it’s not a matter of perception or the people around you. Life has plenty of ups and downs, but there’s a whole lot of middle ground between the two that people tend to just leave out of the conversation.
But I actually am in a rut! I want more for myself and my life!
It is a good idea to seek professional help from one of the therapists at BetterHelp.com as professional therapy can be highly effective in helping you to address the things that have gotten you into the rut and to put a plan of action in place to get out of it.
Alright. So, you’ve taken some time to consider whether or not you’re in a rut and have determined that you are. You don’t feel excited about anything; you don’t feel like you’re making any progress in life. You want a change that can shake things up a bit and make you feel like you’re moving in the right direction.
So, how can you do that?
1. Stop making excuses.
People often get stuck because they convince themselves they lack power. They tell themselves that they cannot do this particular thing because of whatever reason. Reasons might be disappointing someone they love, it’s just beyond their capability, or they are waiting for the stars and planets to perfectly align before doing anything.
The problem with making excuses is that they often become self-fulfilling. A person who believes that they can’t do the thing is probably not going to do the thing. They fail because they either don’t try or don’t put the right kind of energy into trying. They hold back because they are bracing for failure instead of pursuing success as hard as they can.
Stop making excuses. Stop telling yourself why things can’t work and start looking for ways to make them work. It doesn’t have to be perfectly planned out. In fact, it can be better when it’s not because you will undoubtedly hit snags that you couldn’t have anticipated. That’s just life.
2. Don’t hide behind who you think you are.
This goes along with the first point, but it’s worth talking about limiting beliefs created by your self-perception. The person that you think you are will limit your growth, life, and potential. The labels that you put on yourself have certain preconceived notions that will subconsciously affect you.
Let me give you an example. I personally dislike when someone describes themselves as unartistic, and they don’t even try. It tells me that they don’t understand the artistic process. What they are actually saying is, “I don’t have an inherent artistic talent.” And frankly, talent doesn’t mean a whole lot without the discipline to do the work to develop it. There are plenty of talented people who don’t accomplish anything because they just didn’t do the work. However, some people didn’t start off as talented but create great things because they took the time to learn the processes and practice a lot, which literally anyone can do.
But they don’t, because they aren’t artistic. It’s a limiting belief that is dictating their life to them. I’m not adventurous. I’m not exciting. I’m not smart enough. I’m not capable. I can’t possibly do this.
And you know what? Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes you can’t do a thing. But deciding that without actually trying because of who you think you are is the wrong approach.
So ask yourself: what limiting beliefs are preventing you from living the kind of life that you want?
3. Set goals in the areas of life you want to improve.
Goal-setting can help provide you with a sense of progress while working your way out of a rut. After all, a rut feels like you’re stuck in place. Accomplishing goals is a concrete way to show that you are making progress, which helps combat the stuck feeling.
To set good goals, consider using the SMART goal system. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound. By setting SMART goals, you can effectively plot your course toward the major improvement you want to make.
For example, if you want to lose 50 pounds, you may set a SMART goal like:
“I’m going to only eat and drink 1400 calories every day.”
It’s specific. It’s measurable in that you know whether or not you consume 1400 calories in a day. It’s actionable, which means reasonable in this context. It’s relevant in that it is getting you closer to losing those 50 pounds. And it’s time-bound because you’re doing it every day.
That SMART goal will take the person closer to their major goal of losing 50 pounds because calorie counting is one of the most effective ways to lose weight.
4. Set aside bad habits, develop better habits.
Habits build a life. People with bad and unhealthy habits are more likely to get stuck in place because of the negative consequences of those habits. For example, a person who doesn’t exercise and eats garbage will gain weight and lack energy. And that’s not including how unhealthy eating and a sedentary lifestyle affect your mental health and well-being.
You will need both the energy and the attitude to take you through the slow times of life. Developing better, healthier habits for your life will provide you the fuel that you need to get through.
5. Change up your life in a way that works for you.
The feeling of being in a rut can often be attributed to routine monotony. One way to combat that feeling is to break up the routine and introduce a little something different in your life.
Something different can be anything from a vacation to changing jobs to just picking up a new hobby. It doesn’t necessarily have to be some major life change, though. You may find that you don’t want a major life change; you just want some additional excitement.
That change can also be something you look forward to while you are trudging through your low. You know you’re going to have a trip coming up in the future, so it’s something you can look forward to and plan for. Maybe it’s picking up that new hobby, where you know you’ll have something fun to do this coming weekend.
And even if you can’t afford to do something major, just an overnight stay in a hotel room in a nearby city can help break the monotonous flow of life. Maybe catch a concert or visit a museum, have some dinner, and take some time to just relax away from your everyday life.
6. Say “yes” more often.
Do something spontaneous. Take a drive, go out to dinner, grab a friend and go do something without scheduling it all out if you can. Say yes when opportunities come along to do or experience something different.
7. Spend more time outdoors.
Being outdoors is a well-known way to reduce stress and improve peace of mind. People who spend time in nature benefit from being in the sunshine, getting exercise, and just getting away from this constructed world that so many of us habit.
We move from box to box in our lives: home to the car to the cubicle to the car back home. Everyone should make more time to be out under the wide-open sky to let some freedom into their mind.
8. Create a little purpose in your life.
A sense of purpose can carry you through some of the darkest times of your life. Luckily, it can also help you through monotonous times. Find something to look forward to. Create some purpose in your life.
The keyword there is “create.” It’s true that some people just randomly find purpose in life through a pure stroke of luck. However, the people who choose to create purpose in their lives tend to get left out of the conversation. They see a thing they want to do, they decide to do it, and they dedicate themselves to doing the thing.
Their choices ultimately bring them closer to doing the thing. And there is the added benefit of the sense of accomplishment that they experience when they are doing their thing or know that they are making a difference.
Pick something you feel strongly about and go make a positive contribution. You don’t have to be inspired or moved to do the thing. It helps, but it’s not necessary.
9. Spend time with supportive people.
Connect with other people that can help you see your way out of the rut. That could be anything from a support community to supportive friends and family. There are a lot of online communities that are focused around self-improvement and living a better life.
Minimize your time with people that put you down, hurt you, or encourage you to be complacent. Complacency isn’t going to get you out of a rut if that’s where you find yourself. Sometimes we can find ourselves surrounded by people who are just fine with dwelling in the muck of their life. And then they try to drag you down because your acts of improvement are a reminder to them of what they’re not doing.
Misery loves company. Don’t be that company.
We live in a busy world where there is constant social pressure to do more, be more, accomplish more, earn more. More, more, more! DO MORE!
“Oh, you work? You need a side hustle.”
“You only have one life to live! So make it an adventure!”
“Are you living your best life?”
“I can sleep when I’m dead.”
Maybe you’re not in a rut at all. Maybe you’re just overworked and burned out. Maybe you need to take some things off of your plate so you can take a moment to breathe and maybe get a full night’s sleep without needing to power up with a Venti latte in the morning.
Being overworked and burnt out can certainly have all the same signs as being in a rut. And the solution for that is to do less, not do more.
Do talk to a mental health professional.
The truth of the matter is that being in a rut can mean different things. It may just be that you’re in a rut and need a little change-up in your life. On the other hand, it could also point to more severe mental health issues, stress, or burnout. If you can’t identify where your struggle is coming from, consider talking with a certified mental health professional.
You’ll likely need professional help if you find that your rut is persistent and doesn’t change when you start doing things differently.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
You may also like:
- 11 Important Tips If You Feel Your Life Is Going Nowhere
- 14 No Nonsense Ways To Live A Fulfilling Life
- 12 No Nonsense Ways To Live A More Interesting And Exciting Life
- 8 Steps To Finding Direction In Life If You’ve Lost Yours
- If You Feel Like You’re Wasting Your Life, Do These 10 Things
- 19 Undeniable Signs You Need A Change In Life
- 24 Things You Can Do To Change Your Life For The Better
- 10 Reasons Why Your Life Will Get Better (Even If It You Can’t See How)