I’m stuck. Or at least, I’ve realized lately that I’m feeling stuck. I never seem to know what day it is…because each day seems the same. And I feel like I’m making zero progress. I’m just spinning my wheels. This is also something that has been coming up with my clients regularly of late. Whether it’s the pandemic lingering, the effects of the constant new cycle that seems to go from bad to worse, or a shift in the stars, people are feeling stuck. It’s like we’ve all found ourselves in the doldrums and just can’t break free. If you’re feeling stuck with your money, or just in general, let’s talk about four things you can do right now to break yourself out of a rut!
What are the Doldrums?
First, are you familiar with the doldrums? I wasn’t, until a few years ago. Late one night, I stumbled upon a documentary “Losing Sight of Shore”. It’s an incredible film about four British Women who row across the Pacific Ocean from the United States to Australia. Talk about inspiring!
At one point in their journey, they reached the Intertropical Convergence Zone, and their journey stalls. NOAA defines this region as “a belt around the Earth near the equator where sailing ships sometimes get stuck in windless waters.”
These are the doldrums. When the women rowing across the pacific reached the doldrums, their progress was SLOW…. sometimes it was even BACKWARD! But they kept rowing. And eventually they broke free. This shows us that if we stick it out, and keep taking the steps we need to take, we also can break out of the doldrums and crush our goals! So, let’s talk about the four things you can do right now to break yourself out of a rut!
First – Go Back to Your “Why”
Typically, I don’t see clients stuck at the start of coaching. Instead, it happens once they have a plan for their money and a system they are trying to work. This makes sense to me. In the beginning, you’re motivated and you’re excited. But over time, the excitement and motivation fade. This is usually the time you start to feel stuck. When this happens, it is important to go back and reflect on why you started. What is your why?
Finding your why is something I help clients with at the very beginning of our coaching relationship. Your why drives your spending plan, your debt repayment strategy, and your goals going forward. If you haven’t identified your why, it should be the first thing you do when you find yourself stuck in the doldrums of personal finance monotony. If you have defined your why, revisit it. Write it down and put it somewhere you will see it daily. Incorporate it into your day. Set it (or a reminder of it) as the lock screen on your phone, as your desktop background, on the bathroom mirror, or on the fridge. Seeing why you are taking the steps despite feeling stuck will help you keep moving. Coming back to your why is a very easy step you can take to break yourself out of a rut.
This is a technique I use in my own life. One of the things that we value in our family is travel. And I know that working hard as a coach and an instructor helps pay for travel. So, I try to surround myself with reminders of trips we’ve taken. On my computer desktop and my phone lock screen I have pictures from trips we loved. When I lose focus or motivation, I remember I’m working to help provide my family the freedom to travel. It helps me keep going.
Second – Shift Your Focus
Another key thing to do to break yourself out of a rut is to shift your focus. I don’t mean change your goals. Instead, change what you focus on. Often, when you feel stuck your thoughts will reflect this. You are hyper focused on what isn’t going right or how things aren’t working out. This kind of thinking keeps you stuck. Instead, look for what is working. Find things, even if they are small, that are going right. Shifting your focus to these things can lead to a bigger mindset shift that can help you push forward.
One of my favorite ways to shift my focus is to practice gratitude. When I find myself stuck, I go back to basics. I write down three things each day that I am grateful for. As I write them down, I try to soak in the feeling of gratitude. It helps me change my mindset and makes things seem less bleak. So, if you are feeling stuck with your money, spend a few minutes a day practicing gratitude for the things, people, animals, and opportunities you do have. You’ll be amazed at how over time your perspective shifts from what is lacking to what isn’t.
Third – Find Some Fun
Another thing I see in my clients who are stuck – they are working the system, but they aren’t having any fun. I get it, when you are changing things in your life, there isn’t always a way to make it fun. Especially when you are realigning your spending to work towards goals or pay down debt, there isn’t always a lot of wiggle room. But, when you’re stuck in a rut, finding fun can help. It breaks up the monotony and gives you things to look forward to. This is one reason that it is important to build some fun into your spending plan. Even if things are tight, giving yourself $5 or $10 a month to spend with no strings can go a long way.
How a Client Added in Some Fun
A year or two ago I was working with a client who was stuck. She was making progress on her savings goals, had already paid of all her debt except her mortgage and student loans, and really was working the plan…but she was so bored. So, I asked her what something fun and cheap was that she could do for fun. She paused and gave it some serious thought and responded “I really want to buy some popsicles, you know the orange cream ones. But I didn’t last week because they weren’t on my grocery list.” We decided on the spot that to create a bit of fun in her week, she was going to get a box of popsicles. The popsicles didn’t magically fix anything, but it brought her joy. And sometimes, that is reason enough to do something.
It’s important to remember, fun also doesn’t have to cost money. Go for a walk or to the park. Take a picnic to a pretty spot. Sometimes just stepping out of your routine and doing something just for the sake of doing it can help you get out of a rut. It’s like changing your focus. Having fun shakes things up and reminds you that life is about more than the dollars and cents. It’s about the memories you make and the people by your side.
One of My Favorite Memories – How We Added in Some Fun
Every time I think of building fun into life, one memory stands out for me. My husband and I were newlyweds living in Michigan, I was in graduate school, and money was tight. We both came home on a Friday night of a three-day weekend, tired, cranky, and feeling stuck. And we discovered the heat in our apartment had broken…in the on position. It was maybe 70 degrees outside and over 80 in our small studio. So, we did what anyone in their twenties would do. We ran to the grocery store and picked up a six pack, some chips, and salsa. We had a late-night fiesta in our sweltering apartment. The drinks and snacks fixed nothing. But it gave us some fun and helped us remember that things wouldn’t always be this way.
Fourth – Take the Next Small Step
The final thing to do to break yourself out of a rut is take the next small step. Sometimes, when you feel stuck, part of the problem is that you are looking at the problem or situation as a whole. Take for example a savings goal of building up an emergency fund. When you think about needing to save up 3-6 months of take-home pay, you feel immediately stuck.
The mountain seems so big from the bottom. This is normal. And this is the time when micro goals or action steps are your friend. The only way to climb out of a rut is one step at a time. So, instead of thinking about the big overall goal, think of one thing you could do today to get closer to the goal. Maybe you can throw $5 into your savings account, or you can log your expenses for the week to see if you’re on track. Just find a small step you can take. And take it. Then do it again. Momentum will build, and you’ll move forward. Remember, motivation doesn’t always show up, but you still can!
Break Yourself Out of A Rut
We all feel stuck sometimes. It’s a natural part of life. But staying stuck is a choice. I’ve just walked you through four things you can do right now to break yourself out of a rut. As you start to act, you’ll find more things along the way to keep you going. I think when we feel stuck, the tendency is to give in to the feeling, and effectively stay stuck. Honestly, sometimes this is the easiest thing to do. But it leaves us feeling unproductive and ultimately isn’t the best way to live life. So if you find yourself feeling stuck, whether with your finances, your workout routine, or your 9-5 take a deep breath, remember your why, refocus your thoughts, find some fun, and just take the next small step. And before you know it, you’ll be out of your rut and on your way up the mountain!
If you are ready to break yourself out of a rut and fix your finances, but need some help, financial coaching might be the answer, schedule your free 30-minute clarity call today and let’s get the process started!