Stuck In A Rut? How Do You Get Out?

What’s a rut? What exactly makes a rut a rut, and not just a couple of bad days? What is it about a rut that doesn’t allow you to break that fog hanging over your head and allowing you to move forward in your life?

These are questions that I’ve asked myself in the past, and ones that have resurfaced of late, as my struggle to break my latest rut has kept me from taking serious moves. It has forced my thoughts to remain internal – a natural tendency for an introvert anyways, but one that feels impossible to break when you’re in the middle of that grind. And it has held my excitement for anything at bay. I’m simply asking myself, over and over, what should I do next?

That looks like it will hurt! A rut can feel the same. How do you climb out of one?

That looks like it will hurt! A rut can feel the same. How do you climb out of one?

For me, the rut came on slowly, without me ever knowing. Maybe that’s the way it works for everyone? But I was going along the way I thought I wanted, but before I knew it, I was stuck. It started a little over a year ago, when I truly became a freelancer. I was so excited to join the working legions from the home office. It wasn’t that I had expected every minute to be a whirlwind – I knew my move was going to make (some)days a little longer, money a little tighter (at least at first) and stress levels more pronounced.

But I was really focused on lifestyle. I wanted the opportunity to travel on a whim, have days that I finish at noon and time to explore passions that I had outside of the workplace. I didn’t see any other option besides freelancing.

I still feel that way. The problem was, out of fear of making the next paycheck; out of concern to sell the next story; out of the struggle to sign the next business client, I found myself constantly in front of the computer, sitting alone at my desk. For those that work alone, you may know the feeling. At first, the jubilation of having no restraints is intoxicating as you break free of the work day. But after a while, you’re constantly looking for extra ways to interact with someone, besides the dog. Going to the coffee shop in the afternoon becomes a social affair. Getting groceries; an event. Every little reason to get out of the house becomes a must-have breather from the home walls.

When I first became a freelancer though, I had plans to travel, and I did. I found reasons to go home for two weeks, or drive my brother back from school or go hang out in San Francisco for fun. It was great – the lifestyle I was wanting to build. But then something happened. I could blame the winter weather, but I found myself constantly sitting in front of the computer. And this became even more troubling as I was often working on content that didn’t match my expectations or desires for when I first went out on my own. The fear of the short-term had clouded my long-term plans, and I became an anxiety filled mess, as I couldn’t get outside my own head. Should I quit, I constantly asked myself.

That’s when I realized I had hit a rut. I was there. I had become angry. My girlfriend tried to help, but that’s the funny thing about a rut, if you can’t find a way out, you can’t find happiness in anything else that isn’t that way out. It becomes of vector of struggle as everything you do for short-term cash or experiments only feed this annoyance that you haven’t found what you really want to do moving forward.

This rut vector became an all-encompassing center of my attention, only made worse because I worked at home, and sat around staring at the computer day-in, day-out.

Does this sound familiar? Maybe, maybe not. Everyone could have a different experience in how they end up in a rut, but I bet everyone has experienced such a hole before. I’m still working on climbing out, but I can tell you, simply by talking about it has improved my outlook greatly.

So I’m asking you, when you get stuck in a rut, what do you do? Experts always say, ‘go for a walk,’ ‘read a new book’ or ‘take a nap.’ But what do you do when your life suddenly seems at a standstill, and you have no idea where to turn? Please share in the comments below.


photo by: smadden
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