Have you ever felt stuck in a rut? Are you just going through the motions and not living your life? If so, you’re not alone. Many people experience this feeling at some point in their lives.

There are several reasons why you might feel stuck. You may not know what you want to do with your life right now. Maybe you’re afraid of change. Or you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything happening personally, professionally, and in the world.   Dr Jena Field, Psychologist in her article The Science of Stuckness contends that fear is the prevailing feature of being stuck in a rut. 

Whatever the reason, feeling stuck can be a very frustrating and demoralizing experience. It can feel like you’re spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere.

The Neuroscience of Being Stuck In A Rut

From a neuroscience perspective, the brain operates as a complex network where neurons actively communicate with each other through synapses. As we learn new things or solve problems, these neurons establish new connections, thereby creating neural pathways. However, when we find ourselves stuck, it’s typically due to these neural pathways becoming rigid or overused, which results in a lack of thinking flexibility. This rigidity often stems from the brain’s inclination to depend on familiar patterns and resist change, a phenomenon we refer to as cognitive bias.

Transitioning to the role of the prefrontal cortex, this brain region is responsible for higher cognitive functions such as decision-making and problem-solving. It plays a pivotal role in the process of getting stuck. Specifically, an overactive prefrontal cortex tends to focus excessively on the minutiae of the problem, neglecting the broader picture. Consequently, this tunnel vision obstructs our ability to perceive alternative solutions or approaches.

Lastly, let’s consider the role of the brain’s dopamine system when we’re stuck in a rut. Dopamine, a crucial neurotransmitter, significantly influences how we learn and adapt. In situations where we’re stuck, the dopamine system in our brain often reinforces the overused neural pathways. This reinforcement makes it increasingly challenging for us to break away from our habitual thinking patterns.

How To Get Unstuck

But there is good news. There are things you can do to move the energy and get unstuck. Try any of these tips:

1. Identify the root cause of your stuckness

What is it that’s holding you back? Once you know the problem, you can start developing a plan to address it.

2. Take some time for yourself

When you’re feeling stuck, it’s essential to relax and recharge. This could mean walking, reading a book, or spending time in nature.

3. Talk to someone you trust for a broader perspective

Talking to someone you trust can help you to get some perspective and to develop a plan to move forward. And spending time with positive and supportive people can help you to feel more motivated and inspired.

4. Set some goals

Once you know what you want to achieve, setting some goals is essential. This will give you something to work towards and help you stay motivated.

5. Take action

The most important thing is to take action. Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Just start taking small steps toward your goals. The more you take action, the more momentum you will build, and the easier to keep going. Remember, action breeds success.

6. Change your environment

Sometimes, the best way to get unstuck is to change your environment. This could mean going on vacation, moving to a new city, or simply redecorating your home.

7. Try something new

When you’re feeling stuck, it can be helpful to try something new. This could mean taking a class, learning a new skill, or travelling to a new place.

8. Seek professional help

If you’re struggling to get unstuck, seek professional help. A therapist can help you to identify the root cause of your stuckness and develop a plan to address it. Hiring an executive coach could also be a smart move. Or join a mastermind group where you get support from others going through similar things.

Remember, you are not alone. Feeling stuck is a shared experience. Getting unstuck is not always easy, but it is possible. You can overcome this challenge and move forward with a little effort and the tips above.

Rúna Bouius is a former CEO and entrepreneur from Iceland and the founder of the True Power Institute. As a keynote speaker, bestselling author, mentor, and advisor to visionary leaders and progressive entrepreneurs, she is on the vanguard of the new-business-paradigm thinking, creating better workplaces, and developing the emerging leaders. Rúna is a co-author of the bestselling book, “The Successful Mind,” a contributing author to several other books and publishing platforms, and sits on advisory boards. She is a co-founder of several social-impact platforms, including the Conscious Capitalism LA Chapter and Coventina Foundation. She specializes in helping CEOs, and C-Suite leaders accelerate their journey towards greater consciousness and TRUE Power.