From time to time we all get caught in a rut of some sort. No matter how great our lives are, things can happen out of chaos and through no fault of your own, you end up in a situation which is beyond your control.
For someone like myself who’s borderline OCD on control, this is a hard place to be. The world is made up of nearly 7 billion people and the chance of a random thing happening to jam a stick in your wheel is probably more likely than you or I would be willing to admit.
I’ve often said that these are the times in our lives which test us the most. There are many stories in the world where people end up in ruts and never get out for their entire lives. Ruts can be shallow or deep, and ruts can certainly take longer than needed.
As an entrepreneur, these times have appeared in my life more often than when I was an employee for someone. I guess the reason for this could be that starting and running your own business is both stressful and rewarding at the same time.
The highs are high and lows can be awfully low. However, there are strategies which you can use to get yourself out of a rut and most of them will involve some thinking in your part.
Ruts are generally caused by the inability to move in any one direction for fear of failure or the unknown. The trick is to address these a little at a time and soon you’ll be out of the rut.
Do lots of little things
One of my favourite ways to get out of a rut is to do lots of little things that are easy to complete with set and clear goals. These could be work related or personal, it doesn’t matter. The objective is to get the mind into a state of completion and therefore a sense of closure and some success too. Easy tasks help you build that set of feelings up, a bit like filling up with petrol at a gas/petrol station.
I often start with the most basic household tasks to help me get my mind into this phase. Even doing various things like tidying up or washing some clothes, organising the pantry might help twofold. It’ll take your mind off your rut, and it will also help build this sense of doing something that moves you forward, even if it is a little step.
Once you get into the habit of doing these things, it becomes an easy task to build up momentum and soon you’ll move onto the trickier tasks, perhaps even some work related ones.
Eventually once you’re in full swing, you’ll find that you’ve overcome the rut and back into the swing of things.
Our ruts could be a result of some big decision or task that you have to make. Confusion, fear and anger can leave us paralysed into inaction, and hence into a state of doing nothing. The process here is to chunk smaller, which means to break up the decision or task into much smaller pieces that your mind can handle.
This makes it easier also to complete these smaller tasks, and much like doing lots of little things, you turn the big decision into a series of much smaller ones which are easier to achieve and again help to move your forward.
Chunking is often done in projects where resource managers typically chunk up all the project components and delegate to individuals on the team. It is an effective way to manage a project and the same methodology can be used to effective chunk your own choices and tasks into manageable proportions.
Take 2 days out
Do something that is completely outside your world for 2 days. It’ll act like a mental holiday where you mind is occupied by other things that are inconsequential to your own goals.
You could go volunteer for 2 days at a charity, or go for a short break in another city. Perhaps you could take a long drive into a part of your country you’ve never been and go explore for 2 days.
How about taking a few novels and renting out a cottage somewhere remote and just read fiction for 2 days?
All this will help to break your mind away from the day to day routine, and also give you another fresh perspective on life. It might even provide you with answers to your problems and you return from your 2 days out with ideas and solutions.
Replay some childhood days
Ok, you might think this is silly, but this really works. Much like taking 2 days off, this changes your perceptions and alters your reality because most of us don’t replay our childhood in present day much and reliving some good times does in fact do many things to your mind. It makes you appreciate how far you’ve come, and also revitalise your mind because as children we have no worries and concerns and it reminds our brains that there was a time when this was true.
Perhaps you liked to play Lego, then go and buy some Lego and construct something for a few days. Maybe you enjoyed kiting, or swimming, or doing papier mâché, whatever you enjoyed as a child, give it a go and spend a day doing it again.
These are just some tricks to helping you get out of a rut, I should probably heed my own advice more often as I write this I often lose sight of some great tools and end up being in ruts longer than I need to be!
The goal is constantly moving forward, no matter how small the steps are. When a baby is learning how to walk, they start on all fours, gradually stand up on 2 feet and then one small step at a time they learn to walk. They don’t give up, they take it slow and they never get in a rut just because they haven’t got it yet.
There’s something to be learned from that.