There are a lot of different aspects of our lives in which we can feel that we have fallen into a rut. We can go through periods during which time we feel like a relationship is in a ditch, our job is humdrum, we can’t budge a project we’ve been working on, or we feel like we’re in a general funk.
We start to say things like, “I’m stuck,” “I don’t know what I can do,” and “I’m running out of options.” We feel desperate, frustrated, and anxious. This can be a bit of a rabbit hole, and we find ourselves in the dark without a light.
So, what do we do next? How can we step out of this rut and get back on track?
First, clarify your goals. Write down what you want your outcome to look like. This can be anything from “I want to like my job,” to “I want to have a satisfying relationship,” to “I want to produce a product of which I’m proud”. The goal can start out abstract or concrete.
Second, ask yourself a few questions:
a) Why is this goal important to you?
b) What will be made possible for you if you achieve your goal?
c) What is at stake if you don’t achieve your goal?
d) What will you have to give up to achieve your goal?
e) What would have to be true for you to achieve your goal?
Here is an example of how to use these questions. Let’s say you have identified a goal to run a marathon. It is important to you because you want to feel that sense of accomplishment and because you want to see how far you can push yourself. What will be made possible by running a marathon is a new sense of your abilities and a deeper understanding of how you work. What’s at stake if you don’t achieve this goal is the feeling of a lack of discipline, inexperience of your abilities, and reinforcing the belief that you can’t accomplish a goal you set for yourself. What you will have to give up to achieve your goal is some of your free time which you will spend training and the freedom to eat whatever you want whenever you want because you will need to take excellent care of your body. What will have to be true for you to achieve this goal is that you are committed to your goal and yourself, that you are going to train even when you don’t feel like it, and that you are going to eat a healthy diet.
Third, break down your starting goal into smaller goals to be met within shorter time periods. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by a goal. The more intimidated you are, the less likely you are to feel confident about achieving your goal. Figure out smaller versions of achievement within the same big picture. About the marathon example, you might set a smaller goal of eating one healthy meal today/ running two miles today after work- something that you need to do to help get you achieve your goal, practice your self-discipline, and that feels doable.
Fourth, anticipate obstacles so that you don’t use them as excuses. Every path to a goal contains obstacles. There will be times when you have to be more flexible within the parameters you have set. There will be times when the person who wants to run a marathon gets sick, has to take a few days off from training, and must motivate to get back on track. You know that accomplishing something can be hard- you’ve been in a rut! You also know that there will be days when you’ll feel less motivated, experience discouragement by something that doesn’t go your way, and doubt yourself in various ways. None of this means that you’re on the wrong path or that you won’t/can’t achieve your goal. It means that you have to build up to it, be persistent for yourself, and think of the obstacles as valuable lessons.
Fifth, remind yourself of accomplishments past and present. You have faced obstacles and hardship on your way to these accomplishments. You can do it again. Remind yourself of what it took for you to achieve prior goals.
Sixth, keep yourself on track by regularly reviewing your goal. Orient yourself to your current progress, where it needs to be, and what else you can do to improve your progress. This will also help to validate how far you’ve come.
Try out these steps with a small goal and see how rewarding your effectiveness feels. This will whet your appetite to apply it to more complex goals. Now, go out and conquer!
Love and Be Loved,