How I Found My Way Out of a Deep Motivational Rut

Earlier in the month, you were killing the game. Working out every day, waking up at 7 a.m. naturally, fueling yourself with pristinely clean food, and reading every day. You felt on top of the world and that nothing could stop you, being driven by a deep sense of purpose and motivation. But then… something happened. It almost felt as if overnight, all of the motivation that had been driving you with such ferocity for the last couple of weeks spontaneously evaporated. You now find yourself not wanting to do any work whatsoever. One day missed at the gym turned into a week, that time now being replaced by binge-watching your favorite show for hours on end while being swallowed alive by blankets in a pitch-black room. (Sounds oddly specific? Yeah, I’m speaking from personal experience.) 

What happened? 

It’s a common pattern for many people. After a wave of productivity and success, we’re dragged into a period of self-destruction, dissatisfaction, and purposelessness – a motivational rut. We’re often left wondering how we got into this state, but more importantly, how exactly we can get out. I’ve had my fair share of motivational ruts of my life so far and I wanted to share some of the ways I have been able to get myself out, which could potentially be helpful to you all.

I want to preface this article by emphasizing that if you are in an actual depression, for which you have had symptoms of loss of motivation, hopelessness, disrupted sleep and diet, and general low mood for more than 2 weeks, please reach out to professional help resources. There is a big difference between actual depression and being in a motivational rut and this article is in no way meant to replace professional therapy. Make use of your resources and take care of yourself in the way that you deserve! With that, being said here are three ways that I got out of a motivational rut that could potentially help you as well 

  1. Take an intentional, GUILT-FREE, break. 

It seems counterintuitive that when we have been in an unproductive period the first thing we should do is to take a break. However, taking a break is actually one of the best things that you can do to get yourself out of a rut, because of the silver-lining between a break and an INTENTIONAL, GUILT-FREE break. 

When you’re in a rut, you’re likely stuck in this constant stage of what I like to call a “fake-break.” While mindlessly scrolling on your phone seems like a break, you mind is prone to thoughts of guilt, overwhelmed with the idea that you should be using that time more productively. Not only are you not getting anything actually done, but your brain is also not getting the rest that it needs. 

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to take an intentional, planned, guilt-free break during which you exactly whatever you please for a period of time. Read that book that you’ve been wanting to read, FaceTime a friend that you’ve been wanting to call, watch that TV show that you’ve been wanting to watch, bake the cake you’ve been wanting to bake- and don’t you dare feel guilty while doing any of that.  When you’re doing things during the break that you genuinely enjoy simply for the sake of doing,  you will come out of it feeling refreshed and ready. In our busy lives, it’s understandably difficult to find a period of time to take a break, but I urge you to try and carve out the most time your schedule allows, whether it be a couple of days, one day, or just an hour. You are in control of both what you do during this break and for how long you do it for- let your desires naturally guide you.

  1. Actively reflecting and organizing my thoughts, then using that to identify what’s holding you back

During a rut, I always experienced brain fog, struggling to make sense of my emotions and think clearly. The most effective way I’ve found to tackle this is through “brain dumping.” All you need is a piece of paper and a writing utensil and just start writing everything that comes to your mind, collecting your thoughts onto paper. If writing isn’t your thing, use voice memo or text to speech with the app “otter.” Use this opportunity to check in on yourself and answer some questions: what am I feeling right now? What is going well? What is preventing me from achieving what I want? Use these questions to guide you to better understand the place where you are now so you can get back on track. 

  1. The marathon starts with one step: Utilizing the “Do something Principle”

Exactly like it sounds, the “Do Something Principle” is a empirically proven concept which notions that motivation comes after we do something, not before it as one may intuitively believe. Based on evidence, exactly like it sounds, the “Do Something Principle” says that motivation often comes after we do something, not the other way around like commonly believed. Something doesn’t have to be big,  it can simply be one small step, as the hardest part is to get started and once we do, the ball just rolls by itself. Specific applications of this include: 

→ Struggling to write an essay→ “Ok, I’ll just write the outline. “ 

→ Struggling to work out→ “ Ok, I’ll set a timer to walk outside for 5 minutes.”

→ Struggling to know what to do→ “ Ok, I’ll simply jot down my work on a sheet of paper.”

You can read more about the “Do Something Principle” here: https://markmanson.net/how-to-get-motivated

The most important of all is not allowing this rut to define you and weigh you down for a long time. Always remember that you are more capable and stronger than you think.

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