How to Get Out of a Rut

How to Get Out of a Rut

By Sahil Bloom

Here’s a situation that will sound familiar:

You’re firing on all cylinders personally and professionally—inspired and motivated. Things are coming easy to you. You wake up on time, nail your morning routine, and charge forward into the unknown of your day with confidence. You’re in the flow.

Then, suddenly, you aren’t.

You’re not sure why, but your motivation and inspiration runs dry. Things become very, very difficult. You struggle to get up on time, skip your morning routine, and feel sluggish as you head into the day.

You’re in a rut.

It’s ok—we’ve all been there. It’s especially common for ambitious, high-achievers, who tend to default to a state of burning the candle at both ends.

Today, I’ll share my three-step method for getting yourself out of a rut and back on the right path.

The Three-Step Method

Last week, I felt myself falling into a rut.

The first sign was that I felt physically and mentally drained—I didn’t want to wake up at my normal hour, didn’t want to travel to an exciting event I had committed to, and didn’t want to do the daily writing that I normally love.

Fortunately, I’ve developed a useful set of principles for managing these swings and working out of them.

I follow three general steps…

Step 1: Stop Digging

“The most important thing to do if you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.” ― Warren Buffett

Think of being in a rut as being at the bottom of a hole. We’re typically digging ourselves deeper into that hole without realizing it.

The two most common ways that we dig ourselves deeper:

  • Negativity: It’s easy to be hard on yourself when you’re in a rut. You start using negative self-talk to criticize your lack of motivation and discipline. The negativity is a self-fulfilling prophecy—you start to believe negative things about yourself, which leads you to find evidence to support those negative beliefs. This is digging you deeper into the hole.
  • Exhaustion: Imagine a car stuck in the mud. Ambitious people assume that they can get the car out of the mud by revving the engine and propelling forward, but the tire spins faster and faster and the car digs itself deeper and deeper. Most of us have been conditioned to believe that rest is bad—lost productivity, wasted time, opportunity cost. We dig ourselves deeper because we avoid the rest we need.

The first step is to stop digging.

  1. Upgrade Your Mindset: Eliminate the negativity and cut yourself a break. If you catch the negative self-talk happening, stop it in its tracks.
  2. Take Rest: When you find yourself in a rut, don’t try to get out of it in an instant. Give yourself the time and space to rest. Remember that “rest” doesn’t just mean sleep (consider the seven types of rest here).

If you’ve successfully stopped digging, congratulations, you’ve made it through the most important part.

Step 2: Change Direction

The next step to getting out of a rut is to change direction.

There are all variety of factors that are outside of your control that may have contributed to you falling into a rut, but this step solely focuses on those within your control.

Look internally and externally at the controllables:

  • Internally: How am I complicit in creating the conditions that I don’t want? This question forces you to pause and look inward—to ask whether there are any actions, mindsets, or patterns through which you were contributing to the rut. How can you change those conditions?
  • Externally: How is your environment negatively shaping this reality? Most of the time, your environment contributes to your rut. You may just need a change of scenery, or you may need to remove some people or things that are draining your energy and contributing to the negative cycle.

As you change direction, focus on your identity: What mental and physical space would the ideal version of yourself occupy here?

Step 3: Create Movement

The last step to getting out of a rut: Move.

If you wait to act until you feel motivated, you may never start. Motivation is a natural byproduct of movement. When in doubt, just start moving.

Movement —> Momentum —> Motivation

To start the cycle, all you have to do is manufacture a tiny bit of movement. If you do that, you can sit back and let it take you for a ride.

My favorite method for manufacturing movement: Minimum Viable Progress. Minimum Viable Progress says to just do a tiny bit, as anything above zero compounds.

  • If you’re trying to get back into your workout habit, don’t worry about going to the gym for two hours, just go for a 15 minute walk outside.
  • If you’re trying to get back into your work flow, don’t worry about executing four hour blocks of deep work, just focus on one task for 15 minutes.

Avoid the tendency to think that the movement has to be perfect or robust. As Atomic Habits author James Clear says, “Just because it’s not optimal, doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial.”

Narrow your focus and start small—even tiny. Build from there.

Staying In The Game

Life is a long, long game that all comes down to allowing positive actions to compound for the long run. With this in mind, simply staying in the game is the most important thing.

Ruts will happen.

When they do, slow down and allow yourself to work through them. The worst thing you can do is push the engine harder and risk taking yourself out of the game for a longer period than if you had worked through it.

My three-step method to work through a rut:

  1. Stop Digging
  2. Change Direction
  3. Create Movement

Give it a shot and let me know what you think.

*This article first appeared on the website

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