The Sounds of Advice #24; When You're In A Rut
How to get unstuck when you feel like your life is in a rut
Aisling: Do some soul searching while you take some time for yourself. Sometimes we get so caught up in the everyday things of life that we can tend to get stuck.
Sandy: Find something that you really love to do. I find going to a concert turns my mood around pretty fast. Go do that thing you love and that should help you get out of a funk. At least for awhile anyway. Once you do that keep doing things that make you happy. :)
1. Embrace Regret: Regret may paralyze you from making progress, but studies show that counterfactual thinking can actually help motivate you to act. Counterfactual thinking is the process of constructively assessing how something might have happened, asking the question, “What might I have done?” It prompts a new and empowering resolve: “When X happens (or doesn’t happen), I will do Y.”
2. Understand Your Comfort Zone: To get out of your rut, understand what keeps you in it. You may be caught in your comfort zone, a situation that feels familiar because of your early childhood experience. Those that grew up in loving and supportive families rarely find themselves in a negative rut. Those who grew up in harmful emotional environments, however, may have a comfort zone that feels familiar but is still harmful. When trying to move past a negative situation, ask yourself: Does an aspect of this situation seem familiar? Understanding where your responses are coming from is a first step toward getting yourself on the move.
3. Set Attainable Goals: Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by the amount of change required to get out of a rut, and that keeps us in it. To solve this, set manageable interim goals. Be mindful that we tend to exaggerate our abilities or wrongly attribute failure to circumstances beyond our control. Be ruthlessly realistic about how your talents match up with the goal you set. If your goal seems unreachable, pull back and master mental contrasting.
4. Use Mental Contrasting: Mental contrasting helps you stay motivated by that desired future, while keeping you realistic about the steps needed to fix hindrances. To do it, contemplate your ideal future while thinking about the short-term factors that stand in the way of achieving it. Just imagining the future alone (indulging) or thinking about the possible problems alone (dwelling) will not propel you into meaningful action and can actually leave you stuck.
5. Use Critical Thinking: I’ve already written about how much of our thinking isn’t as deliberate as we think. We are all vulnerable to cognitive distortions, one of which is a combination of magical thinking and misattribution of cause and effect. B.F. Skinner described it in a study he called “Superstition in the Pigeon.” (I do not endorse animal cruelty.) Skinner put very, very hungry pigeons in cages and swung a food dish into the cages at random intervals. When the pigeons got hungry again, 75% of the birds would repeat whatever they were doing when the food arrived. They attributed cause and effect to whatever action—such as hopping on one foot or flapping their wings—“made” the food appear the last time. People do that, too. Something good happens, and you attribute it to the prayer you uttered, the candle you lit, or the lucky shirt you wore. To get out of the rut, stop inferring cause and effect like Skinner’s superstitious pigeon. It will just keep you on the hamster wheel even longer.