I don’t know if you have ever been in a rut but I have.
There was this one particular year in school, which I totally whiled away without studying. It was not that I was caught up in some bad habits or delinquent behavior, but somehow, I could just not break my inertia.
Every day, I would make grandiose plans for the next day – “Tomorrow, I will study 10 hrs, finish so many chapters, do this, do that.” But the next day, I would get so overwhelmed that I would distract myself by whiling away my time, and by evening, I would be frustrated as hell. Next day – repeat.
This went on for one year.
This is what being in a rut was for me – you feel low in energy and demotivated, and you are not able to act on your goals. The resulting frustration makes you even more demotivated and the vicious cycle continues.
In my case, I was somehow about to break out of the rut the next year, and that is how I cracked IITJEE.
Today, I am going to talk to you about how to break out of a rut.
- Shock yourself out of it
When you are in a rut, your life is caught in ‘sameness.’ Every day feels bad, but it also feels the same, and therefore, you act the same. Even though you feel frustrated, you just repeat that behavior.
The key to breaking this is to realize that if nothing changes, nothing changes. To break out of a rut, you need to change some variable in your life – you need to give your life a jolt.
As a student, my way of doing this was to study the whole night! Even if I was inefficient in studying, studying overnight gave me a sense of accomplishment and somehow, motivated me.
Now I certainly don’t recommend that you study the whole night – it is a bad idea. But change something in your life, which will jolt you into a different mindset. Maybe, for a week, wake up at 5 am and go for a walk, run, or some exercise. Or think of something else.
The idea is to shock yourself out of that ‘sameness.’ It really worked for me.
- Look forward, not backward
When in a rut, you are so frustrated by the time and opportunity wasted that you can’t take corrective action. The frustration weakens your willpower. So you repeat your behavior and the vicious cycle continues.
So here is the solution: Forget what has already happened, forgive yourself, and move on. What is done is done. Whether you wasted a week or ten years, it doesn’t matter. Look at the opportunity right in front of you – and grab it.
In my case, even though I wasted that one year in school, in the end, it didn’t really matter because I fixed my mistake. So focus on changing your future, not the past.
- Build habits to recharge yourself
Allow me to be a bit prescriptive here but a few simple habits can recharge and energize you to act. Here are some of them:
- Daily workout: Needless to say, this is a lifesaver. I know that everyone says this but it does not make it any less true. Do it. Workout is not just about changing your physical health but also your mindset.
- Meditation: It will de-stress you, give you a sense of control, and help you be more mindful. When you are calmer, you are more likely to act.
- Writing a journal: Putting your pen to paper is a great way to let go of your anxieties and create clarity. When the mind is clear, action follows.
If you find that you are unable to act on your goals, try a technique called WOOP (wish, outcome, obstacle, plan). This is a very effective motivational strategy from Gabriele Oettingen – please check it out.
Another thing that might work is having an accountability partner – ask a friend to check what you have done every day.
- Have a compelling (but achievable) goal
Having a goal is not enough, but without it, you won’t move forward. Whenever I have had a tangible goal (e.g., an exam I wanted to clear), I have been able to really push myself.
So what are your dreams and ambitions? Can you pick something to work on over the next three months? What actions can you take?
Have a goal that you badly want – it will automatically drive you to action.
That’s it for today. If you are ever stuck in a rut, do these things – they worked for me and I am confident they will work for you.
Also a reminder – without action, all the theory in the world is useless. Thank you for reading.