It seems like part of the human experience is to endure periods of time where we lack motivation and feel uncertainty and confusion about the future.
Typically, this is what we like to call, “ being in a rut.”
We’ve all been through this at some point, where it feels as if someone has hit a pause button on our life. Instead of an active participant, we feel like an uninterested spectator of our own lives.
Our motivation to strive and excel takes a huge hit. Previously enjoyable activities don’t seem to excite us as much anymore. To put it bluntly, when you’re in a rut everything just seems to suck more.
Being in a rut for days, or even weeks, is completely natural. However, when this “rut” stretches out to months and years, things can go down a dangerous path.
In this article I’m going to show you how to get yourself out of a funk and get motivated whenever you find yourselves slipping into a rut.
Everyone reading this article falls into one of two categories — you’re either in a rut or you will be in the future.
If you’re a part of the former group, then I’ll show you exactly how to dig ourselves out of the hole that you’re currently in.
If you’re a part of the latter group, then my goal is to prepare with you a plan of action so that you avoid future pitfalls.
How Do You Know That You Are In a Rut?
One key distinction that needs to be made here is that being in a rut is not the same as being in a bad mood.
Bad moods are short-lived, and typically lasts minutes or hours.
Ruts tend to last much longer, as they usually stretch on for weeks and months, and in some cases even years.
There’s no true medical diagnosis for being in a rut. According to Psychology Today, the closest thing to a true diagnosis would be a condition called dysthymia — the symptoms of which are low energy, low mood, loss of interest, and a loss of pleasure.
One recent study analyzed the brains of people reacting to their favorite music. The researchers found that the brains of healthy participants got excited, while the brains of depressed participants didn’t seem to notice the music was playing.
That’s essentially what it feels like to be in a rut –– you just stop hearing the music. Worse yet, you have no idea how to get yourself out of a funk and get motivated again.
However, this is quite vague in terms of an explanation, so let’s get a little more specific and actionable
Logically, the first step to getting out of a rut is identifying if you’re actually in one. As mentioned before, there’s no sound medical diagnosis to rely on here. It’s not like brain cancer, where you’re able to run a CT scan and locate a tumor immediately.
With that being said, there are key indicators that will give you a good handle on your current mental state. If you find yourself resonating with many of the indicators on this list, there’s a good probability that you’re stuck in a rut.
- When you wake up, you aren’t excited about the day ahead. Instead of seeing an opportunity, you see it as something that you have to get through.
- By the time you get “down time”, you don’t have the energy or the motivation to do something interesting.
- You repeatedly find yourself wishing you were someone else or that your life was different, and you’re constantly daydreaming about the person you should be without taking any action.
- You want to make some sort of change in your life, and you know that making that change would help you feel more fulfilled. However, it’s easier to sit around and complain, so you do that instead.
- You aren’t spending as much time with the people in your social circle, and you might even feel “disengaged” when you do see them.
- Procrastination seems to run your life, even when it comes to easy tasks that don’t require much effort or willpower.
- If you answered “How are you?” genuinely, you’d say something like, “Meh.”
- Even though you keep checking things off of your to-do list, it still doesn’t feel like you’re making much progress.
- You find it hard to come up with new and creative ideas. “Writer’s block” seems to be a permanent force in your work as opposed to a temporary obstacle.
- You feel unfulfilled. Life feels dull and boring. You want to try new things, but don’t know where to begin.
Radical change starts with brutal honesty.
Really sit back and think about how you’ve been feeling about life over the past weeks and months. If most of these statements line up with what you’ve been experiencing, it’s likely that you’re in a rut.
If only one or two of them do, I wouldn’t worry too much. Even when you feel your best, you’re not going to be perfect.
How Do You Get Rid of a Funk?
If I’m being honest, a lot of the advice out there when it comes to getting out of a slump pisses me off.
I will often read things like:
- Just book a trip somewhere you’ve always wanted to go
- Call one of your friends
- Go for a walk outside
- Make plans to see someone that you haven’t seen in awhile
Look, all of those things are great. Seeing friends, taking trips, and being in nature are all activities that I would highly recommend.
However, it’s very ideological, and honestly, pretty stupid, to think that these things will magically wake you up and cause you to finally stop sleep-walking through your life.
The actions you repeat each day determine how fulfilled and happy you are in life, so putting a temporary band-aid on things isn’t going to fundamentally change who you are.
For example, let’s say that you’ve been feeling disengaged from your social circle. To combat this feeling, you make plans to go out to dinner with a few people you know.
The dinner is wonderful. The steak and lobster is perfectly booked. The back-and-forth banter is fun and engaging.
At the end of the night, you say goodbye to your friends and you all go your separate ways. When you get back to your house, you’re feeling pretty good.
You’re satisfied that you got to catch up with your friends, and because of that you fall asleep content with how the day went.
But what happens when you wake up the next morning? Yup, you feel the exact same way you felt the day before.
And this time, you feel even more empty. Because the dinner with your friends that was supposed to get you out of your rut didn’t do anything except mask the pain for a few hours.
One-time actions are only effective when they become long-term habits.
You can’t expect to unravel months and years of poor choices in one night, or even one week. If you find yourself in a rut, you need to commit to a process that is several months long.
Let’s talk about the long-term plan of action for taking back control of your life.
How to Get Yourself Out of a Funk And Get Motivated Again
The title of this section is pretty self-explanatory, I’m going to give you a simple two step plan for how to get yourself out of a funk and get motivated again.
First things first, we need to identify the source of your rut.
You can do this by asking one simple question — If I had a magic wand and could change any area of my life, what would it be?
The reason I love this question is because it gets right to the heart of your discontent.
In the past, when I’ve found myself feeling stuck and stagnant, it was due to the fact that I had been resisting change in a key area of my life.
As Jordan Peterson says, “When something announces itself to you as in need of repair, fix it.”
When you ask yourself this question, the answer will likely be something that you’ve been wanting to change for awhile. It could be your productivity habits, your relationships, your confidence, etc.
Typically, this question gets you to admit your biggest demon, and facing your biggest demon serves as the spark that synergizes the rest of your life.
Now that you have a good handle on which facet of your life needs to be altered in order to bring some energy back into your life, all you need is a solid plan of action.
If you’ve read any of my articles on habits, you know that my philosophy when it comes to change is pretty simple:
First, you decide which area of your life needs improvement. Second, you repeat tiny daily habits that move the needle forward in that area of your life.
That’s all it is. Change isn’t about setting big goals or committing to massive, Mount-Everest like shifts in your identity, it’s about consistency and mastering the art of showing up.
If you are in a rut, your motivation levels are already hovering near the ground floor. So why would it make sense to overwhelm yourself with daily targets that require a substantial amount of motivation and willpower to reach?
One is greater than zero. Minimal action is better than no action. If you want to change your current state, you need to start by changing the habits that led you to where you are.
For example, let’s say that you’ve identified lack of confidence as the source of your rut.
If your goal is to put yourself in an even deeper hole, you’d commit to radical change. Something like, “Approach 10 strangers each day.”
You might be able to keep this up for a few days. But what’s going to happen on that very first day you feel a drop in motivation?
Inevitably, you’re going to slack off and miss a day. And when you miss one day, you know how easy it is to miss twice. Missing twice becomes the start of a new habit, and you never get your momentum back.
Instead, commit to something small. Commit to a new daily habit that is so easy to do that you can’t say no.
If you’re wondering whether or not the habit that you’ve chosen is too difficult, ask yourself this question:
Could I still do this if I woke up and had little to no motivation?
If the answer is yes, then you’re in the clear. If the answer is no, then you need to scale the behavior down even more.
The key to igniting change in your life is to set the bar low. Instead of aiming to approach ten strangers per day, commit to saying “hello” to one stranger per day.
As you make this ritual a habit, the compound effect will kick in and you’ll naturally start to strive for higher targets. Establish the habit first, then optimize it later.
Here’s some further examples that involve other areas of life:
Biggest Demon — Weight:
Small daily habits that move the needle forward:
- Walk 100 steps per day
- Eat a side of fruits/vegetables each day at lunch
Biggest Demon — Lack of social circle:
Small daily habits that move the needle forward:
- Each day, text a friend “Hey, how are you?”
- When you go outside, introduce yourself to one stranger
- Call someone in your contacts each day after dinner
Biggest Demon — Procrastination
Small daily actions that move the needle forward:
- Make a to-do list every morning
- Whenever you find yourself procrastinating on something, apply the two minute rule.
- Before you sit down to work, shut off your phone and stick it another room
Don’t spend too much time stressing out what to start. Just pick something that you feel would be beneficial, reduce it down to it’s tiniest version, and then start taking action immediately.
Once you’ve stuck with this for at least 45-60 days, add more onto your plate and pick another habit.
If you repeat this process for 6-12 months, you’ll be a completely different person.
Anyone who tells you that you can get out of a rut in a week or two is lying to you, or trying to sell you something. If you’ve made years of decisions that have led you to the mental state you find yourself in right now, how do you expect to turn all of that around in one week?
It’s not possible. This is not a temporary solution to make you feel better, it’s a long-term strategy for change that will make future slumps less likely and less frequent.
I hope you enjoyed this article on how to get yourself out of a funk and get motivated again!
If you were looking for a quick-fix, then I’m sorry to disappoint you.
There is no “quick-fix” to addressing a lack of fulfillment in your life.
Facing your biggest demon means unpacking what is likely years of trauma and limiting beliefs — and that isn’t a process that happens overnight.
It’s a recipe that requires two ingredients — patience and a practical plan of action.
Reading this article will arm you with the practical plan of action, the patience part can only come from you.