In a rut: Help for when you’re stuck

In a rut: Help for when you’re stuck

Stuck in a rut. Spinning your wheels. Going around in circles. Getting nowhere fast.

It’s not that you’re not working hard, it’s just that you don’t seem to be getting anywhere.

First you feel a bit of an irritation. Then the anxiety sets in and finally you find yourself unable to do anything because you can’t figure out what will propel you forwards and what will keep you where you are.

It’s a terrible feeling and one I’m all too familiar with. In fact I’m feeling it right now.

Our current ‘financial goal’ is to get our house to sale ready condition. We have no plans to sell, but it feels like a smart move to maintain a house in top condition in order to get the best price should we ever need to sell in an emergency.

Ten years ago we started renovating it and needless to say, never quite got the job done. There are still bits and pieces that need to be finished. In fact they needed to be finished before we went on a holiday to Nepal.

Then before the baby arrived.

Now it’s before the next baby arrives.

We’re stuck in a rut, we’re spinning our wheels and getting nowhere. And I’m totally, completely and utterly over it.

Research can explain that feeling. Apparently, progress is the single most important predictor of engagement. This means we need to recognise progress while working on our projects and goals in order to stay committed to them.

Whether it’s renovating, changing jobs, creating a side income, or reaching for a savings goal, the principles of getting unstuck are the same. Here’s 5 that I’m going to be implementing to get our renovation (and a few other projects moving along).

Celebrate the small wins

Everything seems to take longer than it should. You start saving and at the end of the month, your account is still only registering $200 even though it feels like you’ve not spent at least $500. A project that was supposed to take a day, takes the whole weekend and never mind all the things that you were going to get done this week.

If you want to stay engaged, take some time out at the end of the week to acknowledge all of your wins. Actually write down all the things you achieved in the week no matter how small. It’s very therapeutic to recognise that you’re making progress even if it feels like you’re stuck in a rut.

This is especially important with big goals or where your to-do list is miles long. Break these down into smaller chunks and enjoy meeting the little milestones along the way.

Stop Identifying with Your Struggle

After failing to meet self-imposed deadline after deadline on our renovation, my mantra has become “we’re hopeless at finishing stuff.”

Other helpful things I tell myself – “I’m hopeless at hustling” and day after day I fail to write a guest post proposal and send it out even though I’ve known for months that’s what I need to do to get people to know my blog exists.

Identifying with our limiting beliefs whether it’s mine or “I’m bad with money” or “I’ll never pay off my debt” is so easy to do.

We tend to live up to our expectations of ourselves, so the longer you repeat your limiting beliefs, the longer you’ll be stuck in a rut.

So every time you do this, notice when you set low standards for yourself and re-frame your thoughts. Change “I’m hopeless at saving money” to “I find saving money a challenge, but I’ve succeeded in other areas I found challenging so this is another opportunity to succeed”.

Make a plan, then stick with it

I’m a world class plan maker. I have a plan for everything. If there was a career that centred on planning, I’d be in my element. Oh wait, there is!

There’s just one problem. I can’t stick to my own plans. Before the mental ink is dry I’m already second guessing whether I’ve made the right decision. Or whether this is should really be my main priority.

If that’s you too, then stop changing lanes. Stay focused. Don’t shift your priorities. It’s the sure way to fail and stay stuck in a rut.

We are hardwired to want things NOW! Instant gratification is the desire to experience pleasure or fulfilment without delay. It’s why headlines like “100 Ways to Earn $100 today” and “25 Ways to Save Money Fast” are so popular.

Trouble is, while you can easily earn a little side money every day, setting up a side hustle that brings in passive income takes a lot more time and effort. Taking lots of small steps is the way big goals are achieved. Like saving for an emergency fund or paying off a loan.

There’s lots of reasons why we don’t stick to our plans, but to succeed it’s critical that you try for long enough to see results.

How long should we give it? At least 30 days, but realistically 3 months. Then review and decide where tweaks need to be made.

Be Honest With Yourself about Your Why

You want something that goes against what sits right with you. A raise. A million dollar net worth. An online business.

Welcome to the emotion of guilt.

Money is still taboo and surprisingly most people hate it.

It makes us feel guilty for wanting more of it and we feel guilty if we’re doing better than those around us. We feel guilty for selling stuff we make.

When we make plans to improve our financial situation by paying off debt, or improving our lifestyle by starting a business (or losing weight – so shallow!) we quickly feel guilty for having those desires.

Why do we deserve more money? Why do we even want it?

I felt very guilty when we paid off our home loan. After all, we were so much better off than most of our family and friends. I also feel the same about this blog. I’d love to earn money from it, but I don’t feel like I deserve to. There are so many people who work so much harder than me.

Guilt can be paralysing and keeps you stuck in a rut and spinning your wheels through inaction.

You can’t change what you’re not aware of, so the first step is to acknowledge that its guilt you’re feeling. Then you need to start replacing those beliefs with more positive ones. Where does your guilt come from? Does it pass the logic test? It might feel useful, but is your guilt actually helping you other than to protect you from change?

And remember guilt is just a feeling.

Acknowledge When It’s Fear Keeping You Stuck in a Rut

Fear is at the heart being stuck in a rut. It’s the reason we spin our wheels, agree to take on too much and don’t get where we want to go.

Vital for our survival when it’s necessary, fear is a basic human emotion that can stand in the way of everything we want.

Fear stops us from asking for a promotion (am I up to the job?), growing a business (what if no one likes what I’m selling?) or investing in the stock market (what if I lose money). Fear stops us from making decisions.

I believe feeling fear and taking action anyway is one of life’s big challenges. I could write a million positive affirmations and still the fear would be there and still you might not act.

Knowing that everyone feels fear but people ignore it and succeed anyway has never helped me. I usually find it frustrating.

So can you overcome fear? The clinical antidote to fear is exposure.5 ways to get out of a rut

If you’re scared of snakes, you slowly expose yourself to them by looking at pictures until you’re comfortable with that. Then you might move onto seeing the real thing in a zoo. Finally you’ll try touching one.

It’s about taking small steps that are manageable without causing a huge spike in anxiety and I can vouch that this method works.

Due to my fear of needles for years I avoided getting travel vaccinations despite travelling to Northern Africa and South East Asia. I remember hiding a permission slip from my Mom when I was a teenager for the MMR vaccine at school.

While planning our trip to South America I realised this wasn’t good for my health. I made an appointment with the travel doctor and stressed and sweated in the preceding days. When it came time for my first three needles I was so scared I lay down just in case.

Long story short, I’ve now had so many needles don’t phase me, which is lucky since I came to be on first name terms with my pathologist during my pregnancy.

Nowadays I can’t understand my fear of needles.

So take small steps and one day you’ll look back on today and wonder what you were so afraid of.

Are you stuck in a rut at the moment? How have you successfully got unstuck in the past?

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4 thoughts on “In a rut: Help for when you’re stuck”

  • My wife and I have hit a groove at this point and don’t want for very much. Unfortunately we continue to collect things for our 20 month old son and it’s starting to clutter up the house. So my wife is in a bit of a rut thinking we’re hoarders. So I have a feeling we will be doing a huge declutter exercise shortly to minimize some of the junk we have in the house.

    • Kid’s stuff drives me crazy! Who ever knew that such little creatures could come with so much stuff? And funnily enough, my 15 month old much prefers to raid the pantry for plastic bags that rustle and spoons out of the drawers than most of her toys. My siblings just get rid of the kids stuff as soon as their kids grow out of it to reduce the clutter. Unfortunately with a second one on the way you might have to wait a while to do that. I saw a book a while ago about home made toys I’ll have to find again and I’m scouring Pinterest for stuff to do (like a mud pit tomorrow) to avoid buying more stuff. Otherwise we really will need a bigger house!

  • My biggest issue is over-planning. I’m the same way as you – I love planning things out, but it’s so hard to actually stick to it! And then I just make another plan, feel the rush of fake “progress,” but then never actually do anything to make real progress. The only way I beat this is by planning only a couple of important things to do the next day. That way it’s not overwhelming, but important things get done. And once those are done, I usually have the motivation to do more.

    • That’s a great point about the fake “progress”. Making plans feels addictive in a way because of this rush, it’s a pity about the let down when you don’t get anywhere. Good strategy to overcome over-planning.

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