How to Get Out of a Rut: 7 Effective Strategies You Should Try

how to get out of a rut

Paul liked his job well enough. He had taken it right out of college and steadily climbed the ladder. But Paul had a problem. He had been there for eight years and he was in a rut. He had tried things before, but deep down he didn’t know how to get out of the rut.

Worse, he wasn’t just in a rut at work. He felt like his whole life was one big pattern of events he had little control over. The passion for life had been sucked out as if a giant vacuum had found him and latched on. The only direction left to him was to be sucked up the accordion-like tube and into the canister.

Paul is not alone. There are staggering numbers of people, as high as 80% of the population in the U.S., that admit to being in the same situation as Paul. If you’re reading this now and can relate, you’re not alone and we want to help.

The Good and Bad of Uniqueness

Everyone has a skill, personality, character trait, etc. that makes them a unique contributor when compared to everybody else. That uniqueness is something to treasure and develop!

But there is a prevalent mindset among people stuck in a rut. It’s the idea that they have it worse than everyone else around them. Or, if not worse, than at least that their situation is unique and nobody else understands.

As we said from the beginning, you are not alone! Discard the idea you are the only one who could possibly be going through an existence like yours. Embrace the notion you are not alone and begin to move out of your rut.

Leave Your Comfort Zone

Sometimes the path out of the rut involves small forward steps in a direction away from the comfortable. Notice the emphasis on small. You don’t need to jump out of a plane tomorrow as if this was an exercise in conquering your fear of heights.

Going back to Paul for a moment… his routine involved coming home after work and enjoying dinner on his back patio. It was quiet back there, and peaceful within the confines of his fence. A small step for him was simply to move onto his front porch. Suddenly, he’s greeting neighbors as they pass by and engaging his surroundings rather than retreating.

Set Goals and Track Progress

Look at this as a tool for you to use rather than a burden for you to carry. Some people will stay in the rut because they feel weighed down by goals they’ve set for themselves that are so heavy they can’t break free.

You make the goals, you track the goals, and you master them! They don’t control you, they are simply there as a tool for you to use. Some goals should be the small steps forward, some should be the long strides that get you out of the rut. But both should be easy to track and completely controlled by you.

Finish What You Start

One of the other mindsets that can trip up someone in a rut is that in order to change they need to be perfect. Excelling at something is an admirable goal. But it can also be an excuse that’s used to keep you from trying something new.

One of the ways you can move away from the need for perfection is to embrace the goals you’ve set for yourself. If you begin to love the accomplishment that comes from being able to check something off your list, you are less likely to dwell on every minute detail.

Create Accountability

If you are serious about making lasting changes, you will be better off if you find a companion to walk with you. People often shrink from this notion, picturing in their minds the teacher that looked over their shoulder while they sat at their desk in grade school.

The best kind of accountability is the friend who is willing to share a portion of your burden. The friend who is a warrior and will stand in the gap while you climb out of your rut. This change will not always be easy, and it will be easy to turn back. This friend will be there to steer you back towards your goal.

Change Your Diet or Exercise Pattern

Some reading this may need to make sweeping changes in both of these areas. Others may feel like these things have been in control for a long time. Whatever your scenario may be, changes in this area either small or large can help pull you out of your rut.

Test Yourself – Find Competition

Once you’ve made some progress, you may want to flex those new found muscles a bit. That’s a great step, and when used the right way, some healthy competition can keep you moving towards your goals.

The kind of competition you engage in can vary greatly. Some may need to compete to stay on top of a weight loss or fitness goal. Others may need to quietly compete against a co-worker for a position that is outside their comfort zone.

One of Paul’s goals was to read more books specifically related to the type of work he wanted to apply for. He challenged himself with a specific goal, communicated that with his warrior/friend to keep him accountable, and then was able to track that progress by tracking the books he’d read.

How to Get Out of a Rut – The Toolbox

In the same way a life-long mechanic doesn’t use every tool in his box on every job, you don’t need to engage each of these methods for every change you make. Some of these tools will take some time to add to the toolbox to begin with.

Finding the friend who can/will walk with you through this process may take some time. And some of these changes involve changing a mindset that has become entrenched over time. That’s OK.

The exciting thing is you now have a path forward. Those small forward steps are becoming easier to take and you can actually chart your way out of the rut.


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