How to Unleash Your Creativity When You are Stuck in a Rut

- | 28 Aha! comments | Posted in category: Work & Career

Man in office thinking a creative idea to get out of the rut

Can you relate to any of these thoughts and feelings?

You feel stuck in a rut. Trapped! 

You have had enough of being where you are but just don’t seem to be able to break out of it. 

You feel annoyed, frustrated and helpless and think of others who seem happier and more fulfilled in their lives. 

There is an underlying fear,  “I will never get out of this, and maybe I don’t have what it takes!” 

Feelings of anxiety and panic abound at not being able to see a different future. 

This was my experience when I felt stuck in a rut earlier in my career and life.

As some of you would know, being stuck in a rut without any sense of verve, excitement or creativity, sucks!  And it is hard to know where to start when you are in it.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

There are things we can do to re-connect with our creative energies and catapult us out of the rut we are in.

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

6 Actions You Can Take To Get Out Of The Rut

You may be saying to yourself, “Oh, but I am in such a rut that I don’t feel like doing anything!”  And you won’t be the only one feeling like that!

However, the best antidote to getting out of this uninspired place is to take action.

Believe me; the following actions will help you get out of the rut and have your creativity flowing again.

1. Identify Your Sources of Creativity

Our creative expression is personal. What does creativity mean to you?

If you were not in a rut and had more creativity in your life right now, what will be present? What might it look sound, look and feel like?

If you feel unclear about this, notice what you are drawn to. What do you have some energy and passion for, even if it is a flicker right now?

Allow your mind to roam, dream and visualize. Capture your thoughts, ideas, and feelings as doodles, mind-map, lists or a story.

For example, I worked with a client once who was extremely successful in the advertising industry and yet deep down she felt she was stuck in a rut. The thrill of the job had long gone, and she was left yearning for greater creativity in her daily life.

In one of the exercises we did, she identified her creative call as the need for greater body movement, having a stronger health focus and being outdoors.

This seemed a radical thought at the time as she was in a sedentary job but this inner call kept nudging her until she was ready to make the change.

She subsequently moved into the health and wellness area and has made a great success of that.

Similarly, you may get ideas that seem alien and far-fetched, and that is okay.   Don’t make any quick judgments or critiques such as “Oh, that won’t work because….”

Just notice, as you don’t have to take any immediate action, unless, of course, you want to! 

If you find yourself thinking, “I don’t have a passion for anything,” recall what things you did enjoy in the past. When we are in a rut our creativity goes dormant, and it needs gentle tending to! 

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” ~ Walt Disney

2. Mind the Gaps

It is hard to be mindful of any creative urges or inklings when we are embedded in a job or life that consumes most of our energy. Hand in hand with a negative emotional state, there is little room left for our creativity to be unleashed.

Another way to welcome more creativity in your life is to create gaps and “chill times” in your day for new ideas to emerge.

You might feel like you are wasting time and not doing anything purposeful but your brain will be gestating thoughts and ideas, which will come forth later.

Listen out for those fleeting whispers, the tug of the heart, the sparks of inspiration, the momentary uplifting feeling of the soul….these are all your subtle and yet not so subtle signs, pointing the way.

It is your muse, guiding!

Here are a few other questions, which might help:

What is something – a thought, feeling, sensation or idea that has plagued you for a long time but you have not paid it attention?

Is there something you are pretending not to know? In my own case, I was heading to burn out, but I was switched off from the full impact of this.

As you mind the gap and follow your curiosity, pay close attention to what, like young shoots in the spring, are trying to emerge!  Your creativity lies here!

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” ~ Patanjali

3. Take Action…Now!

Once you have re-connected with your creativity, make time for it. Your creativity is your lifeblood – give it expression. If you are in touch with what energizes and inspires you, then don’t wait for the perfect time to be able to do this.

No matter how small, start to take action now!

What might this be for you? 

You will be breaking out of the rut just by doing this.  Small actions will not only regenerate energy but will lead to other insights and actions you could take.

For one client, starting an exercise program and getting more physical did wonders in his otherwise sedentary lifestyle.

He found the almost automatic, repetitive strokes of swimming, freed and refreshed his mind.  Not only was he able to get rid of his stress and tension but also he emerged with new ideas for both work and home and that made him feel like he was tapping into his creativity again.

Given your current situation, what idea/s could you implement straight away to experience greater creative expression in your daily life?

A great exercise to prompt you into action is to imagine this – a great aunt you did not even know existed has passed away and left you a few millions! What will you do? 

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” ~ Steve Jobs

4. What Are You Afraid Of

This is an internal thought action!  Ask yourself, “What might I be afraid of?”

Our fears STOP us living fully and creatively.

Look at your past conditioning that might be keeping you in a rut.  Some of our thinking patterns go awry.

Become more conscious of your thought patterns and see if these are keeping you in a rut such as, “I am … or I should or should not…or I can’t.”

A past conditioning I had to relinquish was, “You don’t throw away a good job, no matter what.”  Being unhappy and in a rut did not count! 

Replace the ‘I can’t” or “I am unable to” with a more growth mindset, as per Dr. Carol Dweck’s work of “I can’t just YET!” or “I am unable to just YET!”

As you may well know, being in a rut can provide its own comfort because it is familiar and less scary than stepping out.

Yet – disruption is happening all around us and to us!

Whatever domain you are feeling in a rut – relationships, family, socially, community, recreationally – what might help inject some freshness, so you are able to see things with “new eyes of wonder” and creativity?

Give yourself permission to step out and embrace greater creativity as you acknowledge and put aside any past injunctions be it from parents, spouse or siblings. 

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.

5.  Get Support

Who are the people you relate to well and who ‘get you’?  They understand your make up, needs and desires and whatever feelings you are having.

Share your thoughts, ideas with them. Brainstorm. Nothing is off limits in sharing and listening to different ideas on what you can do to express yourself more creatively and get out of the rut. 

If you are in a rut in your job, can you share your development needs with your manager or mentor?

For one client, this led to her developing her leadership skills through courses and coaching thus landing a new job she would not have previously.

Are you using your talents and strengths in your current role?  Not being able to do what we are good at naturally dampens not only dampens our creativity but is not sustainable.  Are there some unidentified opportunities at work you could get involved with?

Or perhaps you have under-utilized strengths which are yet to meet your new future or creativity. You could be sitting on untapped potential here!

Learning and developing such skills will also facilitate your creativity and have you hopping out of the rut sooner. 

“To be successful we must live from our imaginations, not from our memories.” ~ Steven Covey

6. Be Your Own Best Friend Through This Transition

It is also likely that you are in a job or life transition but haven’t recognized it. Transitions are a natural process in the journey of our lives.

Acknowledging that you are going through a transition provides a different frame to the stuck feeling of being in a rut as after all when we are in a transition, we are in between here and there!

Give yourself permission to be in this space and to make use of it. Being in a rut with awareness is an essential precursor to creative change.

Notice what has changed. Is it what you are doing? Or how you feel about what you’re doing?  You need to know that before you can get out of the rut, you’re in.

The answers to your creative call may not be immediately clear but in time, being stuck in a rut will be behind you.

Just recognizing and acknowledging your own transition can unleash your energy and creativity in unprecedented ways.

Ask, “What’s the difference that will make a difference?”

Give things a try and back yourself in how you start to unleash your creativity. Finding creative fulfillment is part of the journey; perfectionism NOT!

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” ~ Albert Einstein

Summary

It is natural that from time to time we find ourselves stuck in some form of a monotonous rut.

Begin to explore and express your creativity on a daily or weekly basis and do as much of this as you can!

Rather than feel stuck in your work, career or life with your dreams abandoned, postponed or forgotten, use the above strategies to re-ignite your creativity and derive more joy, pleasure, and creative engagement again.

Over to You

Which of these six points resonates with you the most? What is the first thing you are going to start doing to unleash your creativity and break out of the rut? Share in the comments.



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28 Comments - Read and share thoughts

  1. Obinna Onyenali

    April 28, 2016 at 11:55 pm

    Wow! Take Action… Now! Once you discover what inspire and work best for you, the best thing to do is act on maximising them. The problem of getting stuck in a rut is compounded when we choose not to take initiative. Thanks for the wake-up call.

    • Jasbindar Singh

      April 29, 2016 at 2:24 am

      Thanks for your comments Obinna. Great points about maximising what works for us and not compounding the ‘being in a rut feeling’ through lack of initiative. Appreciated.

  2. Mi Muba

    April 29, 2016 at 12:44 am

    Hi Jasbindar
    A warm welcome to you here. I heard a lot about you on other online places.

    You discussed an important topic when people do have a lot to express but are not sure if they really have.

    It is well said that things are not created; just their ideas are explored and then executed into a product or system. So while doing a same kind of work in a same way for long time surely it hits one’s creativity but many people forget that creativity should itself be used in a creative way.

    It is observed due to load of work and specially because of series of sales order many professionals don’t do a task in a creative way and prefer to follow a herd instinct just to meet the deadlines. While doing so they forget that diversity and innovation could not be put into a thing with stereotyped methods.

    Your points to unleash creativity and come out of the rut are very practical and nowhere I found any bookish approach and that’s called the spirit of down-to-earth professionalism.

    Many thanks for sharing this very very useful post.

    Have a super fabulous weekend ahead.

    • Jasbindar Singh

      April 29, 2016 at 8:22 am

      Thanks for your comments, Mi. Appreciated. That is a good point about where we have work which is pretty systematised and routine and remembering to still bring a creative mindset. If we are open, we see opportunities that we don’t if we have a fixed mindset.

  3. Jasbindar Singh

    April 29, 2016 at 2:20 am

    Hi everyone!

    This is my first guest post on Aha!Now and I am delighted to be part of this great community. Thank you Vinay and Harleena for both your professionalism and care in making this happen.

    I am also delighted to be writing on the topic of being in a rut and unleashing our creativity as we can all find ourselves in that space from time to time.

    If you can relate to the above, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments and what worked for you.

    Do something different today! I look forward to hearing.

    Many thanks, Jasbindar

  4. Sherman Smith

    April 29, 2016 at 3:23 am

    Hey Jasbindar,

    One thing I do is to try to figure out what’s been keeping me in a rit and to take necessary actions. It relates to point #3.

    So I stead focusing on big goals I break a big goal into smaller ones. This is so I can stay motivated after each small advancement and at the same time my creative juices get back into rhythm.

    With that said you can look back and see how much you accomplished which is a great motivating factor to keep going!

    Thanks for sharing! Have a great rest of the week!

    • Jasbindar Singh

      April 29, 2016 at 8:29 am

      Sherman – that is an excellent point you make. Tessa Amabile, Psychologist from Harvard talks about the progress principle and how necessary and important it is for us to acknowledge our small wins along the path of our bigger goals and intentions. Love your expression – “This is so I can stay motivated after each small advancement and at the same time my creative juices get back into rhythm.” Nice!

  5. Shawn Lim

    April 29, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Cool, you got me inspired here.
    Half way through reading, I come to understand what will boost my creativity and motivation – through songs and music.
    So I’m going to use this to boost my motivation and drive me into taking the small action every single day.

    Thanks.. 🙂

    • Jasbindar Singh

      April 29, 2016 at 3:24 pm

      Hi Shawn. Using songs and music to boost your motivation and taking that small action everyday sounds a good plan! Have fun with it. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Swadhin Agrawal

    April 29, 2016 at 9:59 am

    Hello Jasbindar,
    That was a great post!
    Being in a rut is what everyone of us can relate to. 🙂

    These steps are spot on. I believe identifying your creative self in a rut-time is definitely a good thing. It helps to rejuvenate and bring back the self that might get destroyed in the mean time.

    Getting support is what many of us hesitate. But the truth is asking help and helping someone is both easy and available. This will help us bring escape the bad time sooner and with less destruction.

    • Jasbindar Singh

      April 29, 2016 at 3:29 pm

      Asking for help and helping someone can certainly help us get out of our funk. Helping someone or talking to a trusted other – be it a wise family member, friend, colleague, counsellor, coach or mentor gives us the benefit of another perspective. We don’t always see things clearly especially when we are in a down, feeling in a rut phase. Appreciate your thoughts and comments, Swadhin.

  7. Nizeyimana

    April 29, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    interesting article and so much helpful… I think I’ll be using all of above from now and forth!
    thanks tough, for sharing:)

    • Jasbindar Singh

      April 30, 2016 at 2:08 am

      Hello Nizeyimana – Glad you found the post helpful. Perhaps pick one point that you are drawn to the most and start with that? Here’s to your unleashed creativity!

    • jasbindar singh

      May 8, 2016 at 2:45 am

      All the very best with your creativity, Nizeyimana. Thank you!

  8. Ikechi Awazie

    April 30, 2016 at 7:55 am

    Hi Jasbindar

    Now I know that this post will definitely spark creativity in everyone. There is a point in time when our creativity goes crazy and we are so down.

    You have shared some awesome tips of what we can do to get back our creative drive. Finding our sources is a cool way to get our creativity. I also agree with minding the gaps; we definitely need to chill and if we find people who can remind us of what it means to be creative, that is a gem.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a swell week. Take Care

    • Jasbindar Singh

      May 1, 2016 at 3:25 am

      Thanks for sharing Ikechi and great to connect. “Finding our sources is a cool way to get our creativity” – indeed and that which inspires us has embedded in it a call to our creativity! You have a swell week also.

  9. Lucy Chen

    May 1, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    What I do and find most effective, is to take the action. The action itself will shift the energy vibration, and help me unstuck.

    • jasbindar singh

      May 2, 2016 at 10:23 am

      Hi Lucy – You are absolutely right. A change in energy vibration, however small, in the right direction, can be like a circuit breaker. It moves the stuck energy and we can then build on this. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Ramesh Sood

    May 1, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    I write one small post every day…and some haiku every week on my blog.. Am I being creative.. Yes, to think something new and put that in words makes me feel good..A creative hobby is a sure way to live with full energy and joy of the moments…

    Thanks Jasbindar, for a beautiful write..It helps when I read you..

    RS

    • jasbindar singh

      May 2, 2016 at 10:29 am

      Hello Ramesh!
      Thanks for your share. That is really wonderful how you nurture your creativity on a daily basis. Have a creative week!

  11. stefany

    May 6, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Every single one of your suggestions are right to the T. I struggled with taking action, the fear and the and getting support. Wow how everything changed when I started to take action, the fear faded away and thanks to the support I got I know know exactly what to do. Thanks Jasbinder for this beautiful post.

  12. Nworgu Izuzu

    May 7, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    Taking action is certainly the best. Sometimes, I find out that I’m stuck and at the same time, I find it difficult to do something but as soon as I take action, creativity comes back again.
    Awesome post Jasbindar Singh.

    • jasbindar singh

      May 8, 2016 at 2:53 am

      Hi Nworgu – Thanks for your comments. And remember there are phases in our creative journey. Sometimes, there is high energy and momentum, other times a lull or what feels like mediocrity. That is all okay and we just need to keep going with our set goals and intentions. Reaching out to others when we get stuck is good too! All good wishes to you.

  13. jasbindar singh

    May 8, 2016 at 2:51 am

    Stefany – that is great to hear! All the very best with your creations! Appreciate you sharing.

  14. Sylviane Nuccio

    June 2, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    Hi Jasbindar,

    Just found your post here.

    For me I find that my creativity happens most when I relax and do something with my body rather than my head, so I agree with you that taking some time off will be beneficial for creativity.

    Hi Harleena, hope you’re doing well.

    ~Sylviane

  15. Louis Lh.

    June 4, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Hi Jasbindar,

    One of the biggest problem is that people willing take in the information but seems there is something wrong that won’t help readers to take action or they don’t really actions or apply what they had learn at all. I believe taking action would be the most important.

    Thank you,
    Louis

  16. Jasbindar singh

    June 5, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Sylviiane – thanks for your excellent comment. That is so true. We do tend to get locked into our heads too much. There is much to be tapped into by tuning out / tuning off from the focused mind to a more free flow state. Daniel Levitin’s work in neuroscience also endorses this. There is much to be accessed not only through nature but also our heart and gut intelligence!

  17. Jasbindar singh

    June 5, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Indeed Louis. Action is what makes all the difference. All good wishes.




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How to Unleash Your Creativity When You are Stuck in a Rut

by Jasbindar Singh time to read: 8 min