Breaking the Cycle When You Feel Stuck in a Rut

by Anne Dorko

Living on the high seas has its ups and downs. (Yes, I like to imagine my life takes place on a pirate ship, sailing onward through epic adventures – so what?)That said, my lifestyle is incredibly rewarding. The real secret is that I refuse to let myself get stuck in a rut.

Stuck in a rut.

See, I’ve been stuck in ruts before. In my case, it had a lot to do with a career I wasn’t actually interested in holding.

You may have found this post because you feel stuck. Frozen in one place. You dug a trench, throwing grenades at anything new coming your way to protect yourself. It’s too dangerous out there, you have to be cautious!


As a reader of these words, I hereby declare you a part of our crew, at least for the duration of this article. As your captain, I ask you to listen very carefully to what I have to say next.

Don’t Be Afraid to Live Your Own Life

The great part of living without boxes, is that we know where our priorities lie.

  1. Our honor is in living freely.
  2. Our success lies in learning obsessively.
  3. Our happiness lies in loving how we live.

It’s a simple life, but that doesn’t make it easy. The hard part is getting over the fear of living our own lives. It is all to easy to let the world we live in paralyze us.

Yes, the world is daunting. There are many ways to fail. Society places expectation after expectation on you by family, friends and everyone else. No matter how well intentioned they are!

If I were a liar, this is the part where I would tell you this can all go away. Your problems, your responsibilities: all gone.

I am no liar. I am, however, a problem solver. In a few minutes, you’ll be one too.

Live your own life.

You’re Stuck Because You Stopped Moving

Sometimes you have to try something that scares you.

For one reason or another, you stopped moving. And that’s okay.

It happens to the best of us! That doesn’t mean you should stop making progress forever. As a temporary member of the crew, you should consider the code we live by around here.

The Without Boxes Code states that you never settle for living in a box. There is never a good time for anything, so there is no time like the present to make your move.

Tell me, what better time to make a commitment to keep making progress than now?

You can’t just walk onto our ship without taking at least one step up the boarding ramp. A tiny baby step today will get you closer by sunrise tomorrow. If you make one small step every day, you’ll have boarded by the time we set sail on our next adventure.

It’s time to figure out what your next step is going to be.

Unstick Yourself by Setting a Goal

We like kickass characters who get things done. Take a look at every pirate, ninja, and go-getter in the history books. What do they all have in common?

Damn straight: They all had a specific purpose in life.

Think about it. Is life confusing when there is a singular purpose driving each of your decisions? No! If you keep your focus on the goal at all times, the little stuff falls into place on its own. Right into perspective.

When you forget the big picture, those little things start feeling overwhelming. Forgetting the the right pair of shoes for work spins you into disaster mode. An extra cookie spirals you into depression.

In contrast, when you are confident about your purpose, everything starts fitting together. There is a certain peace that comes with knowing what is important or not, in the scheme of things. You are less likely to spazz out over things that don’t matter.

Choose a Life Dream to Follow

Your dreams and childhood imagination are a great place to start when cooking up goals.

The craziest dreams may eventually lead you somewhere you never imagined possible.

It’s the craziest dreams that are most likely to lead somewhere you never imagined possible.

It will take time to decide what your overall directive in life should be, but right now the idea is to break you out of your rut.

In fact, your new directive is to pick two goals to complete in the next 30 days. It is your duty as a crew member to strive towards these goals!

How to Choose a Goal

There are a few principles to choosing goals that get you out of the rut you’re in, without making the situation worse. Choose these two types of goals for best results.

Goal #1: Learn Something New

Base your first goal on our primary way of life: Learning obsessively.

Pick out one thing you have always wanted to learn (or relearn), but you’ve been putting off.

Write down a 4-5 week plan on how to collect the resources you need, and how much time you can dedicate to it. Break it down into weekly goals to make the planning easier.

Goal #2: One Little Life Change

Base your second goal on the idea that we live life on our own terms. It can be about anything that gets your life back on track.

Do you want to eat healthier, write a book, build better relationships, or clean the house more often? It can be anything, but pick a specific improvement to get started on over the next month.

Write another 4-5 week plan on how you can achieve this. Think small and keep it simple. If you go too big too fast, you’ll drop out in the first couple of days.

For example, don’t try to stop eating desserts cold turkey. Start by eating one extra fruit per day instead.

Commit to Only One Month

Dedicating yourself to a lifelong decision is intimidating. Your directive is to only commit to 30 days of change.

30 days: No more, no less.

Start Every Day Fresh

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day rush of responsibilities.

This is why it’s so important to start every day by taking 5 minutes to review your mission. That mission consists of the mini-goals for the day that bring you closer to your 30 day mission before the sun sets. Or you know, whenever you go to bed.

You must not forget your goals or your purpose.

You set the tone for the day by dedicating your waking moments to reviewing the game plan. It means you are proactively taking steps towards the life you want, instead of settling for the life you have.

It means you’re making progress. You are leaving the rut.

Video Document Your Progress

Do you have a smartphone? Yes? You can make a 2 minute video of yourself every day. The first minute is a review of the successes/failures from the day before. The second minute is dedicated to your goals for the day.

Tracking your intentions on video accomplishes a few critical things:

  1. You are creating a permanent record of your goals.

By creating a video, you’re making a log of your progress and daily status. This is something you can always look back on to see how far you’ve come. It’s great for encouragement when you feel like you never accomplished anything. 2. Stating your intentions make you more likely to follow them through.
If you take enough time to think about your mission for the day to actually put it on camera, it means your mission will be in your head the rest of the day. Your day will have a clear mission, and life will feel a little less confusing. 3. Summing up your mission in less than a minute means that it’s concise enough.
The minute deadline is important. If you can’t sum up your goals for the day in under a minute, it probably means you’re trying to do too many things. 4. You can share your video with accountability partners.
A short daily video is easy to share with your accountability partners. Declaring your goals on video and then sharing it means that not only have you thought your day through, you are committing it people who will help you stay on track.

Why video? We don’t all have the time to sit and write our goals down every day. Taking a video is less time and effort. You don’t even have to sit up in bed.

First published October 22, 2012

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