It’s easy to spend too long working in a role that doesn’t satisfy you. Before you know it, your motivation is shot, you have no energy and feel no sense of progress – face it, you’re stuck in a rut. Fortunately, RSNG has the hacks to help you dig yourself out...
1. Admit To Yourself That You Are In A Rut
‘In my experience, men do generally realise they are in a career rut, but they are often unwilling to admit it,’ says Kedge Martin, CEO of Rutbusters. She finds that the business leaders she mentors, and advises, are often held back by their own emotions.
‘Fear of change is the great inhibitor. If they acknowledge the problem, then it follows that they'll have to do something about it. This can throw up all sorts of insecurities about their abilities and it can feel like an existential threat – excuses for not making a change quickly flood in.’
2. Create A Roadmap For Your Life Rather Than Your Career
The problem with mapping out your career, whether within an organisation or your own startup, is that career paths are becoming massively unpredictable. Jobs exist now that didn’t even five years ago, and we’re quicker change our minds about what we like.
‘The emphasis needs to be on creating a roadmap for our lives rather than plotting a job progression. You do this by understanding clearly what sort of person you are deep down, and then thinking hard about what you really want in your life. Ruts happen when people are doing jobs that have lost their meaning,’ says Martin.
She also points out that millennials will have 17 jobs, on average, in their lives. This means you really do need to be aware about what drives you. ‘To get back on track you need to decide what meaning you want your job to have, then go and find it. Put aside other people's expectations and build your plan from the inside out.’
‘Then audit your current skills levels and work out what you need to learn to offer value in your chosen field. Never has self-awareness been so essential.’
‘Don't waste your one precious life doing something you don't value’
3. Channel Some Optimism
‘The emperor Napoleon famously said he always chose generals who were 'heureux', meaning both happy and lucky,’ says Martin. ‘He recognised that optimistic people seem to experience better outcomes. The foundation of good self-esteem is cultivating a happy (lucky) outlook on life, a mindset that believes that good things happen, and they will happen to you.’
Crucially, you don’t need to go from a starting point of being hugely self-confident. ‘You don't need to have a high opinion of yourself, just cultivate optimism to fuel action. Start by writing a list of all the good things you enjoy in your life, the reasons to be happy. Then list your achievements, being generous to yourself. Consult the lists daily and you will begin to live with positive expectations, which will make you braver.’
4. Set Up An Ideas Shooting Gallery
Launching your own business can definitely blast you out of a rut. ‘It’s equally exciting, motivating, and terrifying. It forces you out of a cosy routine and stretches your skills, imagination and determination. The optimism provides the necessary rocket fuel,’ says Martin.
As with any meaningful endeavour, the stakes are high, so make sure you challenge your assumptions. ‘You must be brave enough to test your idea to destruction and be willing to consider all the ways in which you could fail,’ says Martin, who recommends recruiting some trustworthy friends to run a three-person role play from The Disney Corporation.
‘The Optimist explains the idea, the Critic then shoots it down in flames and the Realist looks for practical solutions to the criticism. Eventually the idea passes or fails the test of repeated examination.’
5. Prepare To Be Knocked Back
No lasting success goes smoothly, so prepare for set backs. ‘If you've tested your idea thoroughly you should have a deep inner conviction that can carry you past the heartache. Each time you fail, ask what you can learn from the experience and feel happy therefore that you are now better equipped to succeed,’ urges Martin.
6. Watch For Mental Health Warning Signs
Rutbusters recently ran a survey of men in business to find out if they felt stuck in a rut. Alarmingly, 13% said they consistently felt stuck in a rut at work, with a further 28.5% often stuck in a rut.
‘If you feel demoralised at work and lacking in energy, you're in a rut. Why does this matter? People need a sense of purpose each day and if that is lost because you are miserable in your job you can quickly fall into depression because you feel powerless to change things,’ warns Martin.
‘Firstly, realise that it is a passing mood rather than the rest of your life. Ideally take a few days off, get yourself a journal and write down everything you don't like about your situation. Then write down as many solutions as you can think of without limiting them to the practical or seemingly achievable. Be inventive, even a little crazy,’ recommends Martin.
‘Then start whittling the list down to what you could or would want to do. The mere fact of providing options will lighten your mood. You almost certainly can change aspects of your job or find another, regardless of what your inner critic is whispering in your ear.’
‘The one mantra you must repeat to yourself is: I can change this, I may not know how yet, but I will do’
7. Adopt A Mantra
Positive self-talk might feel a little awkward but it as consistently been shown to work, says Martin: ‘The one mantra you must repeat to yourself is: “I can change this. I may not know how yet, but I will do.”’
8. Don’t Be A One-Man Army
We often see ourselves as standing alone against the world – this isn’t so, says Martin: ‘The mistake many men make is to believe they must do everything on their own. The first thing to do is create a support group, trusted friends and family with whom you can discuss your plans.’
It can be difficult to big yourself up, and decide what you have to offer the world if you’re feeling a bit defeated, so ask your support group for feedback. ‘They may come up with aspects of yourself that you've taken for granted all your life, but which could provide the seed of a new career or business,’ Martin adds.
‘Coaches are trained to provide this intuitive feedback and I have seen many clients come alive and been astonished about what they've learned about themselves. This can utterly transform your life.’
9. Watch Out For The Biggest Pitfalls
Once you start down the path of digging yourself out of a rut, don’t fall victim to the common pitfalls that Martin sees some men tripping into. ‘Losing faith in yourself is the greatest pitfall,’ she says.
‘I've also seen men swapping one job for another very similar one and being surprised that within weeks they were just as unhappy but on higher pay. They had not spent any time working out what they truly wanted in life.’
‘Another pitfall is starting a business without sufficiently testing the idea and then being so committed that they are trapped.’
10. Bring It Back To You
If you don’t believe in what you do then your work life is unlikely to satisfy you. ‘To thine own self be true’ (Hamlet) is essential when choosing your career,’ says Martin. ‘If you believe in what you do, you'll do it with energy and commitment and be successful. Don't waste your one precious life doing something you don't value.’
WHAT NEXT? Want to take control of your destiny and become financially independent? Then read the RSNG guide for the 6 essential steps you need to take.
Kedge Martin is the CEO of Executive mentors Rutbusters provides support to partners, managers and senior executives across who are stuck in a rut and want to get out of it.
Comments are for information only and should not replace mental health care or recommendations.
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