Stuck in a Rut? Here Are a Few Things That May Help

Joshua TreeI read a friend’s Tweet Wednesday morning: “Stuck in a rut. Uninspired. Unchallenged. Unmotivated. Unfulfilled. New career on the horizon?”

And I couldn’t help but think, “DITTO!” and is there any way I could help this friend?

What tools/nuggets of wisdom might I be able to share with her that she doesn’t already know/have? And being that I continue to grapple with my own career apathy, why would anyone listen to me?

Well, first things first. You’re not alone, D. Maybe we’re over the brutal snowstorms and antsy for spring (excluding us in sunny California of course), maybe it’s the new year and we’re bored with our resolutions, or maybe we just want to experience a momentous change in 2014. Whatever the reason for the doldrums, I decided to curate a bit of inspiration here for all (myself included) when we feel ourselves slipping into the sticky funk.

Some things you can read/do immediately. Some might take a bit more exertion. I’ve shared ideas, quotes and articles I’ve read recently, even job-related tips that may help you re-vamp a dusty resume or network with a long lost friend.

discovered quotes on friend’s instagram feed. scroll to bottom for more details.


*It sounds cliche, but my dad bought me “What Color Is My Parachute?” a long time ago, and I think it’s time for a re-read. I’m hoping despite its big and bold “2008” on the cover, much of what Richard Nelson Bolles had to say then is still relevant.

*Another book staring me in the face is “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I’ve only gotten through the first several pages, as I’m reading two books at the moment, but I plan on finishing it up with a notebook handy.

*”Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. My mother-in-law sent this to me and I hope to find what Sandberg has to say inspiring. It certainly sparked enough debate online. Check out the NYTimes review here. (D, let me know if I can forward it to you when I’m through with it.)

*Pick up an autobiography/biography of someone in history you admire. Scratch that. It does not have to be someone in history. If Tina Fey inspires you, get her book. Artist. Writer. Politician. Anybody. I love reading the journeys of successful people. Often it seems they just stumbled upon success, but this is rarely the case.

*My brother shared this book with me: “Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days.” Again, it’s all about the journey and failure is a part of the process, particularly in the start-up world.

*Other books I’ve heard whisperings of, but have not yet picked up: “Wild,” “The 4-Hour Work Week” and “The Happiness Project.”


*Exercise! It clears my brain. I joined the local YMCA with my husband, and while I admit this makes me feel like a suburban mom, whenever I leave a class (spinning, yoga, etc.) I’m so happy I did something for myself. D, I know you’re a mom of three, so you rarely get these moments. And if you’re housebound because of snow, maybe rent/buy a fun workout DVD and get your sweat on that way. Tracy Anderson and Jillian Michaels are both badass chicks with killer bods and great workout DVDs, but you can even go with some classic Jane Fonda ones. One of my favorite interviews recently was of Evangeline Lilly, who when asked what she did to stay fit, replied, “I’m kind of old school. I’m not into yoga or pilates. I’m on a mat sticking my foot in the air with Jane Fonda.” A girl after my own heart.

*Write lists/goals. I’m a little neurotic when it comes to this, but if it’s not on paper, I forget about it or worse, blow it off. Right next to my keyboard sits a white pad and every day I jot down anywhere from four to 12 things I want to accomplish. So far today I’m 2-2.

*Check out some podcasts you’ve never listened to before. I have a great list a new friend on Twitter sent me. Just ask and I’ll forward it. Once in a while I’ll listen to a TED talk here and there, as well.

*Get your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and connect connect connect. If nothing ever comes of your account, you’ll at least be able to see what your peers have been doing with their lives and who knows, maybe you’ll discover a field you never knew existed. Not to mention, it’s a great resource for resume-building. I checked on several former colleagues to see how they explained their roles at certain companies I’ve been with, and it’s helped me frame my resume bullet-points and objectives tremendously.

*Find a local cause you’re excited about and volunteer. You never know, if you put in the time and heart, there may end up being a permanent position you can apply for. And typically it ends up being just as rewarding for you as it is for the organization/people you donate your time to. VolunteerMatch is a helpful site if the task of choosing an organization sounds daunting.

*Step 1. Subscribe to a few magazines that cater to certain hobbies you like or interests you have. Step 2. Tear them to shreds. This may sound odd, but when I was thinking about starting a dog collar business, I found a lot of neat ideas in various dog and design magazines. I created a corkboard above my desk where I began to tack up pictures and photos. If you want to save paper you can go the Pinterest route.

*Check out a local “meetup” in your area. Since MainMan isn’t really into stand-up paddling, I hope to either create a group in El Segundo or find some people who’d be interested in joining me on a paddle to the Manhattan Beach Pier. I’ve even thought about seeing if there are dog-owners in town who’d like to join Agnes and me on our morning walks. I’m at home alone most of the day and I miss interacting with people. A former New York blogging buddy, Coodence, who coincidentally lives here now, told me before she got her job she was getting coffee with people almost every day. “Meet for coffee, meet for coffee, meet for coffee!” she said.

*If your career path is your main source of angst, maybe see if there’s a career counselor in your area. I find Entrepreneur and Inc. magazines, in addition to the Business section of The New York Times, helpful and inspiring.

*Sometimes simply rearranging a desk, a dresser or even furniture in your home can help change the mood. I keep saying I’m going to buy washi tape and bring some of our old antique wooden furniture to life (our color scheme is blander than a sugarless cookie: white, cream, light brown, dark brown, zzz). If you want to take this a step further, do a big overhaul/clean-out of clothes you don’t wear anymore/things you no longer use in the house/even books you can pass on to the next reader. Spring cleaning always feels therapeutic to me. It symbolizes letting go and starting a new season fresh and lighter. For an extreme take on this concept, read up on Dave Bruno’s 100 thing challenge. There’s no way I could do this, but you might surprise yourself by trying it, if only a little bit.

*Learn something new/take a class. It can be a useful skill like sewing or just plain fun like painting or how to play the banjo! The Olympics in Sochi have inspired me to learn Russian. I’m still working on Italian, so there will be a bit of a lag before that begins.

*Open an Etsy store. Find yourself making particular crafts over and over for friends and relatives? Time to step up and share your talent with the world. You never know, what starts off as a small enterprise could blow up like The Bearded Pigeon. Nasty Gal Sophia Amoruso sold vintage stuff on eBay five years ago and now she has a +$100M brand! Her forthcoming book “Girl Boss” could be a fun read, too (hat tip Fashionista).

*Join an alumni group in your area, whether it’s for your alma mater, high school or even sorority/fraternity. Who knows, there could be like-minded people in your area that you already have a strong bond with simply because of where you went to school.


*Instead of flipping through the channels at 8 p.m. to check out the latest sitcoms, see what’s floating around the documentary channel of your OnDemand, Apple or Roku TV. It can be a Warren Miller film on skiing, or a Ken Burns rerun of “The Civil War.” I find documentaries to be extremely inspiring if done correctly.


*New York Times “You’re the Boss” blog

*Scroll through Kickstarter. Check out what other entrepreneurial/creative people are doing. This could stoke your inner Van Gogh or Victor Hugo.

*Everyone has a story in Humans of New York.

*Inc.’s page “Hiring” has some fun articles.

*Tumblr’s “positivity” feed is great.

*1,000 awesome things

*We’ve already established I like lists. Every few months or so I scroll through “best places to work” and “best places to live” lists. Forbes springboards off of Glassdoor’s list: 10 best places to work. While I prefer Outside Magazine’s list of best places to work. Also, here is some guidance on industries that are hiring right now.

*If you like the quotes seen here, go to my friend Kelly Bechtold’s Instagram feed. She’s a leather bag designer and posts some incredible photos and quotations. (I discovered the last two quote images on my own 🙂

Give us a shout and tell us what you do to feel inspired.

There is one comment

  1. Ian Prichard

    Soooooooooooo I just finished this and said (I think out loud), “Alright alright Jesus I’ll start,” because it’s about the seventeenth thing in the last couple weeks that’s made me feel like I just need to sack up and start pitching my novel even if it isn’t done.

    My deadline for the first draft is March 1, and I think I’m going to get there. It’s going to be rough as rough can be, but it’s going to be cover to cover. I’ve sent the first half out to a couple readers and I even sent it to two different agents, but that’s mostly because the people who recommended those agents hounded me until I did, and I’ve been …hesitant to send it to any other agents.

    I’ve gotten so used to rejection over the last year and a half of not having any of the five stories I’ve submitted to over 50 journals get accepted that I think I’m more worried about the drudgery of searching, researching, and pitching than I am waiting to see what agents have to say. But that, too, is the work of a working writer, isn’t it? And unless I want to actively remain in self-pitying obscurity, that tedious bullshit is the stuff I have to do.

    So, thanks for the spur.

    These posts (wherein the writer says, “I’m talking as much to myself here as I am to you”) are the kinds of things I look for for motivation/inspiration. Or, not even look for so much as USE when the universe is kind enough to stick them in a place where I can’t help but stumble on them. I am physically repelled by “Seven Habits” and “Incredible Comebacks” and “Happiness Gimmicks” type books, but I’m beginning to suspect that’s because I could probably use their advice but taking it would prove I’m just like everyone else – an idea my ego has a hard time comprehending.

    For the most part, I like lines from songs and novels. One of my all time favorites is “Everything will turn out right. The world is built on that.” The devil says it to Margarita towards the end of Bulgakov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’ when she’s worried about what’s going to happen next. It helps with that whole ego thing. It helps me let go of trying to control shit I can’t control (eg, people’s tastes and the entire future) and it helps return me to a frame of mind in which I just do the work. Because that’s really all I can do. We figure out what we need to do, and then we do it. And in the end, we make ourselves right with whatever it is that happens.

    Thanks Monica you’re the best.


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