We all fall into ruts from time to time.
It’s one of the most infuriating aspects of self-improvement; you’re cruising along, making progress, then all of a sudden that progress just… stops. Sometimes there’s no particular reason why, no rhyme or reason to it, and no obvious answer as to how you’re going to fix it.
I’ve gone through many of these ruts myself; I’ve had periods of weeks or months where I couldn’t seem to get any momentum. My worst rut was a 5 month period where I didn’t date anyone, didn’t go to the gym, and didn’t do much of anything. I’d go to bed each night feeling like I wasn’t make any progress, wake up feeling depressed, and the days started to sort of just blend into each other, balling up into an hopeless & overwhelming mass of wasted time and wasted potential.
But each time I was in one of these ruts, something unexpected happened, right when I was about to give up hope. As long as I was still doing my best to keep working on my goals (even if those efforts were measly), I found eventually, the ruts naturally passed. As long as I was trying to make progress each day, I’d eventually have a “breakthrough” moment where I busted through the rut and got back to kicking ass.
Just sticking in there and never quitting is often the only answer you need. “All I have to do is not quit”.
Many of my coaching clients also fall into ruts from time to time – maybe they’re not having as much dating success as they’d like. Maybe their gym progress slows down a bit. Maybe they’re frustrated that they’re putting in all this effort and not seeing results as quickly as they’d hoped. They’re frustrated and are usually looking for a silver bullet – something that will immediately fix all their problems.
Sometimes I can give them that silver bullet; a new way of framing things, or a little nugget of wisdom that’s helped me, or a new way of tackling the problem they hadn’t previously considered. But sometimes – hell, often – the only way out of a particular rut is to just weather the storm and push through, making small improvements and taking baby steps each day. Over time those little baby steps will add up, and you’ll find your life gradually getting better as you move towards your goal.
Ruts happen. For most of us, they’re probably inevitable. In some cases, there’s something in particular you’ll need to change or improve; some problem that needs solving. In those cases, make that your main mission; take massive action and crush your goal. But other times, the solution is to keep taking baby steps and just wait it out, trusting on blind faith that things will get better.
Of course, you still need to keep working on your goals – don’t just sit on your couch every day doing nothing. You need to fight a rut by taking action – even when you don’t feel like it. As long as you keep making tiny little changes each day, if you’re patient enough, those baby steps will naturally pull you out of the rut… even if sometimes it takes a few weeks or months.
My girlfriend was recently in a rut; she was going through a multitude of big life changes and was feeling pretty depressed and overwhelmed. I gently reminded her, “This is probably going to suck for a while. But you felt good in the past, right? Then that means you’ll feel good again in the future; this is just a temporary rut. Your only job is to take it one day at a time, keep taking action, and things will eventually get better.”
And guess what? Things got better. They always do. Your only job is to keep working on your goals, a little each day, and just trust things will get better as long as you just never quit.