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Stuck in a Rut? Follow the ‘4-D’ Rule to Start Learning and Growing Again

This is the one rule to rule them all for getting yourself out of a rut

When we stop learning at work, it begins a vicious cycle. We become demotivated and uninspired, then just outright bored, then complacent, then stuck in a rut, which makes us check out further, which means we learn even less. Sorry to sound all shrink-like but it takes an intervention.

It takes the “4-D Rule.”

The D stands for “Declaration.” Four declarations, very powerful self-commitments, that when taken as a collective set comprise a potent rule to enact when you’re in a rut or have hit a plateau.

It took me a while to admit to myself that I was in a rut in the corporate world–not really growing and learning anymore, not feeling like I was making enough of an impact on things that mattered. This set of four assertions pushed me to make the leap from corporate to my entrepreneurial venture.

Try these declarations (say them out loud if it helps) and move from a vicious cycle to a virtuous one.

1. “I will take responsibility.”

Unstuck starts with “U.” You have to realize you’re in a rut before you can pull yourself out of one. American humorist Will Rogers said, “The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking spaces.” Admit it if you’ve put yourself in “park” and take ownership to get yourself back in “drive.” 

Shaking off the doldrums and taking responsibility was unquestionably the first and most important step in my journey.

2. “I will ascertain the pattern, then airlift myself out.”

When you get stuck, by definition, you’re caught in a pattern of some sort. This is about being self-aware enough to recognize the specifics of the pattern that you’ve fallen into and the corresponding habits that are weighing you down. 

If someone else was examining the behaviors that have you stuck, what would they point out? Are you repeatedly telling yourself “just a few more years of this”? Are you continually avoiding new challenges when they arise or dodging conversations with friends on how you’re doing?

This step is about embracing a state of awareness of the patterns and behaviors that have you stuck. Then, and only then, can you change your behaviors and begin working to yank yourself out of it.

3. “I will recommit to the concept of challenge.”

Think of what it means to challenge. It’s to put opposition against or test the abilities of something. When we’re stuck in a rut, we tend to push the very idea of challenge out of our peripheral zone so we can numbly stay in our false comfort zone. We’re in a mode of repetition and path of least resistance. We aren’t challenging much of anything, our assumptions, the status quo, or ourselves. 

If this is you, you can remind yourself that you weren’t always like this. Recall how exhilarating it is to be challenged by simply starting with a small, doable challenge. But mostly, just start. Think of challenge as a curious notion in and of itself and pique your interest in the idea and its potential once again.

4. “I will get ‘next’ going.”

It’s hard to change course if you don’t have a destination. You might be stuck simply because you haven’t envisioned the next re-energizing step in your path. But you have to take that first step on what’s next to move things from a rut to a reinvigorating route.

Is your heart and gut telling you to start your own business? Get “next” going. Do you want to switch from marketing to human resources? Get “next” going. It’s here that you begin to take some risks, embrace learning and growth experiences, and to create your own opportunities.

If your record is stuck in a groove on the turntable of life, it’s time to change the tune. The 4-D Rule will move the needle. 

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