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Years ago, I was on my way to pick up some friends at the airport that were visiting. As I was approaching the terminal, I got word that their flight was delayed twenty minutes. So I took the next offramp and pulled onto the shoulder to wait.
It turned out that the shoulder was muddy and my car wasn't moving. Every time I pushed on the gas pedal, the wheels spun and my car was getting stuck in a deeper and deeper rut. I tried putting the car into reverse and the same thing happened.
Luckily, my husband was able to push the car out of the rut and we went on to pick up our friends.
Sometimes, life feels similar. It's like I'm stuck in a rut. And the harder I try to push through, the deeper the rut becomes. I have felt such frustration in both big and small ways.
I was stuck in a rut 11 years ago before I started my business. And I've gotten stuck in a rut working on projects, like writing blog posts (shhh, that may have been the source of inspiration for this post in particular).
The thing about getting stuck in a rut is that my first impulse is to push through. To keep hitting the proverbial gas pedal. Of course, that only makes matters worse. That's because when my efforts don't work out, I start to trash talk myself.
Instead, I have learned to hit pause and give myself time and space to recollect my thoughts.
That's where journaling comes in. My journal offers a safe space for me to name and work through my feelings and experiences. It's also been a powerful tool for me to turn to for self-advisement. This is particularly useful when my thinking and actions are keeping me stuck in a rut.
Over the years, I've observed that I tend to follow three simple steps in my journaling to lift myself out of a RUT.
Recognize what's happening
Naming what's going on is essential. This is particularly helpful because my initial thoughts about what's happening are usually disparaging. I'll take feeling stuck as a sign that I'm not good enough nor ever will be - as evidenced by my struggle.
By naming in my journal the thoughts, feelings and sensations I'm experiencing, I am able to move past the initial self-judgment and ridicule. I know this because feeling stuck in a rut happens to me often.
There's rarely a work project or challenge where I never experience feeling stuck. Whether it's writing a post for social media or developing a customized training program for a client or launching a new website. At some point, I reach a moment where I simply don't know how to proceed but I know I need to make progress.
And in the moment, if I try to force it, I generally only make matters worse. And if I listen to the disparaging things my inner critic has to say in response, I most certainly will never get out of the rut.
By recognizing what's going on and naming it, I'm reclaiming my power within. I've taken an important first step in getting out of the rut.
While my inner critic has long been a source of cruel self-talk, my journal has been a place where I lift myself up. I will do that by writing encouraging words to myself.
I get inspiration for such encouragement by reflecting on what beliefs bring me hope. In other instances, I reflect on a time when I overcame a similar challenge.
Uplifting myself is also an opportunity to simply acknowledge how far I've come. When stuck in a rut, it really helps to celebrate progress. By doing so, I build my fortitude to tackle this next obstacle.
When I've uncovered a persistent pattern of getting stuck, I might craft plans to lift myself up in advance. I'll set intentions to go for a walk or call a friend the next time I experience those stymieing sensations that would have triggered sinking deeper into despair.
Lifting myself up helps me to fill my bucket. With greater energy, belief in myself and clear thinking, I am able to identify the next action to take.
My journaling practice will conclude with naming a specific and attainable next step. It might be as simple as starting a draft in Evernote. Or reviewing a past project for inspiration. More recently, I might remind myself to practice heart-focused breathing before I dig back into a challenge.
The point is, that by pausing, recognizing I'm in a rut and uplifting myself I shift my perspective. And in doing so, what once felt insurmountable, becomes manageable. This is largely because, in the pages of my journal I acknowledge for myself - I don't need to know every piece of how I'll make it happen, I just need to know the next step.
Instead of getting buried by feelings of overwhelm, I am energized to persevere. I have rebounded in a way that builds my momentum, allowing me to sustain forward progress the next time I get in a rut.
Do you feel stuck in a rut? Are you ready to course correct and build your momentum? Join me for the next Journal Jam on April 8th. More information and registration is available online here.