How to Change Your Life Even if You Feel Stuck in a Rut

Photo by Andreas Fidler on Unsplash

This year you didn’t bother with resolutions for the new year. Why should you? Last year, you made them but didn’t follow them for even a month. You didn’t make the changes you needed to then, and now it seems so much more difficult.

The plans you made to leave the bad relationship, get the new job, or fix the broken things in your life just haven’t panned out. It’s not that you’re lazy, but the motivation and drive are not there. It seems like a giant, uphill battle to begin, so you postpone till another time.

After awhile, you feel frozen, like you don’t even know where to begin. Things undone build up.

This is the point where you might choose to numb out with alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, and other addictions or distractions. Ignoring the obvious just past your sight line, you keep yourself too busy to think about it.

You can actually do this for years. Many have.

You might be in a rut.

Everyone’s point of entry into a rut is unique. But once you are there, the experience is surprisingly the same. The funny thing about a rut is that whether you’re stuck there for a couple of months or many years, it sucks the energy and light from your soul, and time from living fully.

Accept Your Invitation to the Monster’s Ball

The first step to getting out of a rut is facing it. Stop running. You might be fast, but you’re not fast enough. You’ll never outrun yourself, and you’ll never outrun the monsters of your mind.

So, if you can’t outrun the monsters, what should you do? The obvious, non-violent response is to square-off with them compassionately.

Take them up on their invitation and get to know them. It’s not just facing them, but really understanding them. Get to know them just like a new acquaintance. What have they been trying to tell you? Why do they try to scare you? What do they say when you’re not paying attention?

Facing what plagues you isn’t easy. First of all, it’s difficult to figure out exactly. This is the reason why anthropomorphizing your demons is a good strategy for overcoming them.

Also, tell yourself the truth. God knows, we could all use more truth-telling these days. But truth is not a luxury. Truth is an imperative for positive mental health.

What do you need help with? What unnecessary pressure are you putting on yourself? Where do you need a little push or pep talk? What negativity has taken hold of your outlook?

Face it all head on. You don’t have to take any drastic measures or immediate steps. Just be willing to look at it honestly and completely. Be willing to be kind to yourself while doing so.

Going to the monster’s ball is a bold move. Facing monsters is courage in motion, and the beginning of something much bigger.

Dance With the Ugly Ones

Now that you are in close proximity to the the ones you have avoided, it’s time to look them in the eyes.

Dance with all the monsters in your mind. See them for what they are. Once you see the monsters clearly, then they lose their ability to overcome you.

Remember the Abominable Snowman from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? He was no longer frightening when Kirby the dentist took out his teeth, in fact, by the end of the story, he was tame.

That’s the way it is with anxiety and fear. You tame them by removing their teeth. You tame them by dancing with them— real close.

Anxiety was a formidable foe for the latter part of my teens well into my thirties. It was a monster that sabotaged me in numerous ways. When I felt happy, it would steal my joy with fearful thoughts and obsessions. When I overcame one difficult challenge in my brain, it would quickly replace it with another. I was getting out of one pit and falling into another.

It was like being perched on the edge of an abyss, and fighting to keep from falling. It was only when I stopped fighting and just let myself fall, that I found I could float. Eventually, I found I could fly.

Dancing with the monsters is like falling into an abyss and finding you have wings. It’s facing the things that terrorize you, and embracing them until there isn’t anything to hold you back anymore.

Head Home As Daylight Breaks

Once you have a sense of the victory that comes from looking squarely at what holds you back, you’ll be able to work with it. Start by paying attention to your thoughts, not necessarily reacting or judging them as good or bad, but simply acknowledging them and letting them go.

Pay attention to your peripheral vision and watch what goes on around you without getting caught up in thinking too much. This type of paying attention is mindfulness. There are numerous mindful practices that you can tap into that will help you center and focus, but the point is to start with paying attention.

Most importantly, bring yourself back from judging your progress or your mindful skills. Just notice and keep noticing, mindfulness isn’t an end point but a continual process. Some days you’ll be better at it than others.

Mindfulness is a discipline too. Like any discipline, you have to keep practicing. I have found that adopting new habits requires humor and self compassion. Getting out of a rut is like that too. It requires new habits, self compassion, discipline, and a healthy sense of self amusement.

As you take on these practices, you will also find that time in nature, walking, writing lists, exercising, laughing, and balancing action with introspection will be of great assistance to you.

It’s not a race. It’s a journey that starts with a little courage and a sense of humor.

Change Your Life By Changing Your Mind

As you take on the practices mentioned above, you’ll begin to notice changes. It might seem slow or subtle at first, but with regular practice, the practices will become habits and your thinking patterns will shift.

There will be traps along the way though, that try to deter your way forward and pull you back. In order to avoid these traps, you’ll need to keep anxiety in perspective, and recognize addictions and distractions as they arise.

It’s a trap to compare yourself to the progress or process of others. It’s also a trap to put “shoulds” on yourself. Every “should’ve, would’ve, or could’ve” keeps you in a rut. Start measuring your progress only by your own goals and the habits you’re developing.

Set attainable goals. Monitor your progress without judgment, and practice gratitude for wherever you are. Once you start this process, just keep going.

If you’ve been stuck in a rut for any length of time, or caused yourself needless worry and suffering, then it’s time to take stock of the situation and make the changes you deserve.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”Although, there are times when comparison is helpful and not the thief of joy, overall he was onto something.

These days, when people are expected to prove their worth and value in so many spheres of life, it is easy to fall prey to a kind of “stinking” thinking that pulls you into a funk. Getting out of that funk is imperative for your overall health and wellbeing.

So take the monsters of your mind, and stare them down. Face them for what they are, and start getting free. Your thoughts and habits will shift and your perspective will change.

What was once your captor will become your liberator with a good dose of courage and a healthy sense of humor.

You will find that if you practice these things diligently, you will never be caught in a rut again.

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