Stuck In A Rut: How To Move Forward In Life

Stuck In A Rut: How To Move Forward In Life
February 8, 2012 Leslie Juvin-Acker

What Happens:

Feeling stuck in life is a miserable place to be. When we feel stuck in a rut, the rest of our lives suffer. Eventually, we drudge through each day, thinking life has to be miserable, and any hope for change or relief is simply out of the question. What’s really happening when we feel stuck in a rut?

We feel stuck because we’ve allowed our minds to get jammed into a certain pattern of thinking. We’ve got a broken record of thoughts and judgements inside our head and voices that keep saying the same things over and over. One could even liken this experience to a printer’s paper jam. One paper, or in this case a thought pattern, gets stuck and the rest of the job or other print jobs can’t get through and finish. Instead of pulling the paper out of the jam, we just let the paper stay there and allowing everything else to pile up.

Settling on one way of thinking eventually closes our minds. Our same, tired thoughts and beliefs narrow down our thought processes and get us attached to what or how things, according to us, are supposed to work. What happens is we repeat patterns and behaviors that get us nowhere, which only lead us back to where we initially started. It’s not unusual to  keep seeing the same types of people and situations over and over again.  Getting mentally stuck keeps us from progressing and enjoying the growth that life has to offer and there are some real consequences to what the we’ve created.

Consequences of Feeling Stuck:


We become frustrated and upset when we realize that nothing is changing. This frustration leads to emotional symptoms such as anger, depression, despair and loneliness. At worst, we give up and let things happen to us by default. Perhaps we let relationships go sour and let our work and health suffer. We also don’t find the same joy in our activities as we’ve done so before. Everything in life becomes a chore or an obligation.


When we feel stuck, we either socially cut ourselves off from our friends and family or perhaps cut ourselves off from opportunities to meet new people. New opportunities are found in our relationships and interactions with others. Imagine how much we lose in opportunities when we cut ourselves off from social contact.

We find ourselves meeting the same people over and over again. Usually, these types of people are no good for us and we get ourselves into uncomfortable and miserable situations, having the same arguments and fighting the same battles. We just can’t seem to break free of these types of interactions.


Just as our emotions suffer, our physical health suffers, too. We might feel tired or sluggish or experience disease or dis-ease. There is no physical balance in our lives because our emotions are physical symptoms of our minds.

Emotions such as frustration, anger, and depression can play a significant role in our health. We internalize our emotions and our organ functions, sleeping habits, and behaviors become off-kilter. We find ourselves behaving unnaturally, and our physical well-being is one of the tell tale signs of this mental and emotional imbalance.

Ways To Get Unstuck:

Free Your Mind

Eckhart Tolle says our minds are tools to help us solve problems and create solutions and our thoughts are choices to help navigate us from one situation to another. When we allow our minds to get caught in overdrive – either stuck in the past or worrying about the future – thoughts can embed themselves and infect our minds, therefore emanating in our lives through our emotions and behaviors.

Allow your thoughts to come and go. Most of our thoughts are self criticisms, judgements, delusions, lies, and assumptions on imaginary situations. If you simply listen, you’ll realize how silly most of our thoughts really are. Our thoughts don’t define us, neither does our mind. If a thought comes which you know is not true, just say, “This is not true. I don’t choose this.”

Overcoming The Battle of The Mind

Breaking up the habit of allowing our thoughts and our mind to define us is just part of the solution to getting unstuck. Stopping the constant noise in our minds takes awareness and dedication to relax, observe, and free ourselves from judgement. It’s much easier said than done, I know, but moving forward truly means allowing our minds to live in the present.

When I work with clients, I assure them that 90% of the work is the battle of the mind. We work on re-wiring how the mind thinks and perceives and work on breaking patterns and preconceptions. What I do is help create a focused atmosphere that’s about releasing judgement and allowing freedom of thought and creativity to take its place. It takes time to jostle people out of their moldy old ways of thinking, but dedication and awareness eventually overcome and the creativity necessary to get unstuck will naturally arrive.

Be Playful

Sometimes, we literally have to ask ourselves, “Why so serious?” because we can really take ourselves and our situations too seriously. There are very few types of situations in life that require complete seriousness while the rest of our life is full of blunders, laughable moments, good times, and learning experiences. We must learn to see that life is an opportunity to play and see what happens.

Feel free to think absurdly and wildly when it comes to dreaming up possibilities and solutions. Creating and recreating ourselves means enjoying the process, not just the final result. Let go of the “need” to criticize yourself for failing to meet up to expectations. Guess what, most things don’t work out. Keep experimenting and trying different things until you find something that works for you. Being playful means rolling with the punches, embracing and learning from our mistakes, and letting go of our attachments and negative sentiments associated with our mistakes.

Being playing also implies letting go when our time is up and release our attachments. Do you ever see kids during recess? They are totally engrossed in their play and when their time is up, they drop what they’re doing and line up to return to class. Sometimes, you literally need to drop what you’re doing and thinking and go into another direction to move on. It’s this attachment to what we’re doing that gets us feeling stuck and we’re the ones who put ourselves into this situation!

Let Go of Limitations

When I start coaching clients, the first few sessions start out the same: My clients are only focusing on the limitations. I hear, “I can’t do this,” or “This is what’s wrong..” or “I’ve done everything I could think of…”. This type of broken record of limitations pervades our thoughts and our lives. When we get down to the bottom of things, my clients discover that practically no one is holding them back from progress. They are.

To get the creative juices going I ask, “If there was no yesterday and tomorrow was guaranteed to be perfect and you had absolutely no limitations, no resistance holding you down, what would you do?” When the time comes to respond, my clients find it difficult to answer because it’s so hard to imagine life without limitations, especially the self-imposed kind. It’s common to see people who have grown attached to their self-imposed limitations and use them as excuses to justify their ruts.

In terms of real limitations such as budget, family and financial responsibilities, I ask clients to embrace the limitations as opportunities to think creatively. Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking, “Have you ever asked this person if you could change things up?” Most of the time, clients haven’t even considered simply asking for help or cooperation. That’s how stuck and isolated they feel from others. Imagine the possibilities if we simply rearrange the cards we’ve been given to play.

Ask More Questions

It seems wanting all the answers is in our nature. Especially for high-achievers. These types of people want answers to explain everything and when they don’t have the answers, they make up answers that sound reasonable and stick to them, which by now we’ve learned is what gets us stuck. We get so attached to our answers that we believe that if we were to replace them with something better or different then we’d have to acknowledge something was obviously wrong with our former way of thinking. Of course, for the sake of being ‘right’, we don’t want to admit that we were wrong or were limited in perspective, so we attach ourselves to these answers. Again, we’re judging ourselves, self-imposing limitations, and taking ourselves too seriously.

Most of my work involves asking questions, “What if,” “Have you considered?” “What now?” What’s next?”. By asking questions I am systematically getting my clients to consider other possibilities so they may break out of their present way of thinking. Eventually, my clients begin to ask themselves what’s possible without a constant urge to be right. By that time, they’ve broken free and are taking their lives into new directions, looking back and wondering, “How could I have allowed myself to get stuck for so long?”


Getting unstuck is a process. It means remembering our truest state of freedom, letting go of self-imposed and self-created limitations, being kinder and less judgmental towards ourselves, and making more inquiries to explore and invite new opportunities. Much of the battle is a mental and spiritual one and it takes dedication and awareness to break old habits and patterns to create ourselves anew.

Have you ever found yourself in a rut? How did you get out? Have anything to add to this list. Share them here.