Everyone gets stuck. It’s part of life. We all have problems to solve, a tendency to procrastinate, a fear of failure and slumps in motivation. At one time or another, in your career it is inevitable that you will feel like you’re stuck in a rut. There are a few simple steps to pulling yourself out of a rut, but the process is hard work for most of us.
Being able to recognise when you are stuck, unpick why you feel that way and then take action to move forward is an important part of your personal and career development. Good managers are also able spot the symptoms of ‘stuck’ team members and help individuals ‘unstick’ themselves.
The first step in moving on from a rut is to recognise you are in one. Have you ever felt that you lack motivation for your role, or felt frustrated that you are not achieving enough, or bored by doing the same tasks? Sometimes being stuck might be more than just experiencing these feelings; perhaps you had a disappointing appraisal, were turned down for promotion or didn’t get the job you wanted. Take a step back and acknowledge how you feel. Consider how long you have felt these lacklustre feelings – if it’s more than once and consistent over weeks, months or even years, you are experiencing symptoms of stuck.
Why are you stuck?
If you suspect you are in a rut, the next step is working out why. And a way to do this is to ask yourself ‘why?’ five times. Sometimes described as ‘toddler syndrome’, repeatedly asking ‘why?’ helps you get to the root cause of why you are stuck. Find a coach, mentor or trusted friend to help you work through your ‘whys’. If you find yourself answering ‘I don’t know’, try to break that pattern. Ask yourself: ‘If I did know – what would I say?’
How to overcome being stuck
There are several proven ways to push through being stuck and get moving again.
First, connect with your purpose. What is important to you? What activities make you happy? Why do you do the job you do?
Then take a step back to reflect. How is what you are currently doing helping you achieve your purpose? Are you in the right role, working environment or organisation that is congruent with what’s important to you?
Then focus on where you want to be in five years. I know it’s a contrived question, but it’s only when you know where you want to be that can you plan your route to get there. Your current rut might be a means to an end and knowing that can be helpful. Make a plan: what do you need to do to get to where you want to go?
Stop thinking about what you have to do and just do it. Force yourself to take the first step on your plan.
What stops you?
The above tips might sound simple, but simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. From my experience, the main reason that we get stuck is fear of failure. Being in a rut might feel miserable but it feels safe. Changing your situation can feel frightening because the majority of human beings feel apprehensive about change. Focus on where you want to go and why. Surround yourself with positive people to support and encourage you, and use that momentum to help you push through the inertia that fear creates.
Ruts can be good
Sometimes if you’ve had the same job for a long time, you might feel pressure to move on, change or do something different. Don’t let employers, colleagues, friends or family project on to you their perception of being stuck in a rut. If you are happy and satisfied where you are, stay put.
Finally, remember that being stuck is normal and it is part of the process of growth. Often, that stuck feeling intensifies right before a breakthrough. Acknowledge that being stuck could be a positive signal and work with it.
This blog was first published at People Management.
If you are stuck and would like some help to get unstuck, drop us a line. Lucidity coaching might be just what you need to get moving in the right direction.