Since we’re coming up on the first anniversary of covid and just coming out of winter, I thought now would be a great time to talk about the first two steps to pulling yourself out of a rut. It’s easy to let circumstances add on and send you into burnout. I don’t know about you, but when 2020 first began, there was all this excitement about planning out the next ten years and making this the best decade ever, and with covid, that fire has definitely gone out.
But just because the 2020s haven’t turned out the way that we all hoped it would, it doesn’t mean we’re resigned to the fate of being stuck in overwhelm, burnout, and stuck in a rut. If you’re hearing yourself think thoughts like, “Why bother?” and “I don’t want to” when it comes to taking action on your goals, then this episode is for you. We’re talking about the first two steps you need to take to start pulling yourself out of a rut.
1) Turn off the distractions you’re using to avoid your feelings.
Here’s the deal, you can’t get a good idea of what plan will work best for you if you don’t know what you’re feeling and why. Your emotions never lie.
Your body will tell you exactly what it needs if you take the time to listen. That lesson, though, gets garbled when you drown it with instant gratification and distractions used to avoid what you’re thinking and feeling. It’s different for everyone.
My distractions are binging tv until my brain feels so numb that I can’t think straight. I know there’s some underlying issue I’m avoiding when I can’t turn off the tv after one episode. Sometimes, it can even get so bad that watching so much is actually giving me a migraine, but I push through it to keep watching. It’s like I’m so desperate to fry my brain and avoid what’s bothering me because it feels impossible and excruciating to work through.
Maybe your distractions look different than mine. It could be that you eat so much junk food that your stomach starts cramping, but you’d rather feel the shame about letting yourself eat so much rather than the actual cause of your shame.
Ask yourself what you’re using to distract yourself from feeling your negative feelings and how numbing yourself is actually doing you more harm than good. Then make a promise to yourself to spend a set amount of time each day merely feeling your emotions with ZERO distraction. I’m not going to sugarcoat this; when you first do it, it’s going to suck hardcore. Going distraction-free can be so unbearable because not only are you feeling withdrawal from the thing you use to numb (tv, sex, food, social media, etc.), but also this will be an uninterrupted time of feeling negative emotions.
But I always tell myself that feeling your feelings is kind of like working out. You know you need to even though your body is convincing you of how you can’t handle it, then afterward, you’re grateful that you did.
Feeling your emotions without distraction is, in my opinion, an even more critical workout than exercising your muscles.
2) Ask yourself thought-provoking questions to get to the heart of your rut.
Once the distractions are off, the resistance is going to come crashing in. you’ll suddenly get 1000 reasons why you shouldn’t bother to change: “I’m too tired. I don’t have enough time.” etc.
These are going to sound really persuasive and convincing if you let them be. You need to make your brain focus on something else so that these “reasons” don’t have as much power over you.
Enter: High-Grade Questions.
These are questions that you ask yourself that lead to answers that enlighten, inspire, or clarify. High-grade questions are those that set you on a path to moving forward because they yield answers causing you to think outside the box you’ve been in. The answers that high-grade questions ask for are those that cause you to think differently than you have in the past, making it easier to come up with creative solutions to problems and reinvigorates you when you’re in a rut.
Low-grade questions, though, are the exact opposite. They’re (usually) sarcastic with answers that keep you circling the same negative emotion instead of working through it.
I’ll give an example of a low-grade vs. a high-grade question.
- LOW-GRADE QUESTION: “Why am I always like this/doing this?”
- HIGH-GRADE QUESTION: “What is this rut trying to teach me that I haven’t understood before?”
Low-grade questions keep you circling the same emotion because they’re born from thinking that you don’t have the power to change it. High-grade questions are different because the very nature of the question leads you to think of creative ways to pull yourself out of a rut. Low-grade questions are born from negative emotion, so they keep you there. High-grade questions aren’t born from emotion; they come with objectivity.
When you can be objective with yourself and your circumstances, you start to see other options. That’s why phrases like “Look at the big picture” always come up when the chips are down. It’s a reminder to get out of the weeds of your negative emotions (in this case pulling yourself out of a rut) and getting a birds-eye view of everything going on.
The Big Picture
Pulling yourself out of a rut means you have to realize that doing the same thing over and over is what’s keeping you in a rut. If you keep avoiding the thing causing your negative emotion, the cycle continues.
If you’re able to face what’s causing you pain head-on instead of avoiding it, it’s like you’re telling your pain, “I know dealing with you will be hard, but I’m strong enough to face you and come out the other side”.
There’s so much power in simply being able to face what’s happening to you instead of finding ways to avoid it! But you know what they say, sometimes the hardest step to take is the first.