The Counter-Intuitive Way to Bust Out of a Rut

Whether it’s keeping on an extra 20 lbs., tolerating a bad relationship, or putting up with a soul-sucking job, chances are that you have been stuck in a rut at some point in your life, without a clear idea how to get out of it.

When you’re down in the trenches, it can feel like you’re literally stuck in the muck, unable to lift yourself out of the situation and get onto higher ground.  In simplest terms, our beliefs guide our behaviors, and our behaviors determine our outcomes.

Inertia sets in, and we get used to the frustrating situation. Maintaining the status quo, however unpleasant the effects, can seem preferable to change. 

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” - George Bernard Shaw 

What keeps us stuck in these situations that we know don’t serve us?

You might be surprised to know that it’s your good intentions.

Stick with me for a minute while I explain....

As human beings, we have an inherent need for safety, love, and belonging.  These conditions are crucial for our long-term survival.

So, we will do whatever we can to protect ourselves against any threats to keeping safety, love, or belonging intact.  Even if it means repeating unhealthy patterns or putting up with frustrating situations.

None of this process is really conscious.

Our primitive brain, or “critter brain”, thinks in pretty black and white terms.  Its sole concern is your survival. It knows that even though you might be miserable, you have survived your current situation, and that alone means it’s done its job.

Your more highly evolved cortex, however, logically knows that staying stuck is not serving you, and it has bigger visions for you. It also creates thoughts about your being stuck.

And your limbic system, which governs emotions, mediates and makes meaning of your situation--whether it be frustration, anger at yourself, a belief it can’t get any better, or something similar.

If you’re not careful, you can stay stuck in this cycle--sometimes for years.  But here’s a way to bust out of the rut you find yourself in:

  1. First, fully accept where you are. Acknowledging the current situation will allow you to move beyond it.  When we deny the present state even exists, we are not yet prepared to move beyond it. Often fear and shame can prevent us from really taking an honest look at our present state.
  2. Accept where you are, without shame, and appreciate that you were taking care of yourself. Understand that there are very good reasons why you got stuck in this pattern. Your behaviors served a purpose at some point to keep you safe--there was positive intent there.  
  3. Identify the underlying fear you have. What were you working to protect yourself from?  For example, if you stay stuck in a job that wears you down, perhaps your concern is to ensure you support your family, and you fear that if you moved to a different company, you might not succeed and your family’s very survival would be threatened. This sounds extreme, but those basic underlying fears and beliefs drive our behavior far more than we realize.
  4. Try on other beliefs that could serve you better. When you open up to different possible interpretations and beliefs, you gain access to far more choices and actions to move yourself forward. In the job example, you could look to others who have made a switch to a new company and see that they have been successful, so it is certainly possible. You could try on the belief that you’ve always been successful in supporting your family, and therefore you can trust yourself to do whatever it takes in any situation to ensure that continues.  You could try on the belief that when you grow and thrive, your family does. Aim to generate at least 3-5 new possible beliefs about your situation. That loosens the hold our old belief has on us.
  5. Choose the belief that makes you feel most excited about hopeful about moving forward. Then begin to notice evidence that the belief is true. Continuing our example, you could make a list of former colleagues who are at new employers and reach out to find out how they are doing.  Ask them about their new situation and how they made the move. Think of all the people you know who switched jobs and are as well as, or better off, than they were before. Recognize there is evidence of this all around, and it’s possible for you as well.
  6. Take consistent, small steps toward your goal and go easy on yourself as you reinforce your new beliefs and behaviors. Remember, shame and guilt are clever ways to keep yourself stuck in a situation your critter brain knows is survivable.

There is a reason why the phrase, “Change is hard,” is cliche--it’s true!

And now we know there are well-intentioned, deep seated reasons for this. Be sure to get support from others--whether it’s a friend, family member, a colleague, or a coach--is crucial to keeping up your momentum and morale.  

Changing your beliefs can literally change your life. What you are capable of is astounding. If you’d like to learn more about transformational coaching and belief change work, contact us for a complimentary consultation.

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