There have been endless articles with tips about how to get out of a rut at work. Tips don’t usually make much long-term difference. Putting a plant on your desk or going on a shopping spree isn’t going to solve anything.

The best way to deal with being stuck in a rut is to identify the problem: determine whether it is your job or your life that is stuck in the rut. Is it me or the job? Ask yourself: how much do I enjoy my life outside of work? Do I have adventure, new experiences and fun in my life? Or, do you watch the same TV shows, go to the same restaurants, have the same conversations with the same people over and over? Even movie stars have plenty of routine in their lives. All of us need to take care of the basics. Only you know if it is time to make your life a little juicier. Try new things. Think of what you would love to do but somehow never get around to. Make new friends. Visit new places. Shake out the sameness. It is impossible to know if your job is the main problem if your entire life needs a little more spice. Sometimes adding a little edge to your daily life cures the problem. What can you lose? When was the last time you had such a fabulous homework assignment?

If your life outside of work is fine, then ask, “Is it my job or my career”? Stuck in a rut is an idiom that comes from the days of unpaved roads. It was difficult to avoid the deep grooves in the road left by all the previous buggies that passed by before you.

How much do you enjoy the actual day-to-day work you perform? –the tasks and projects? Each job consists of a few very specific functions. Do most of them come easily and naturally to you? Do you care about the subject matter? If not, consider a career change rather than just moving to a new job doing the same things.

If you like the work but not the workplace environment, your co-workers, the routine, the organization or the management, you may just need a new job.

What seems like a rut may be a symptom of stress. What if you did the same work, in the same place, but were more relaxed and focused. You can train yourself to lower your stress level using a new tracking device called SPIRE ( that measures relaxation, focus and stress and coaches you to improve.


Are you in the wrong career? How about your friends and family? For the first time ever, Rockport Institute, the leading career change advisers and coaches, is giving away one $520 testing program to the winner of our social media contest. More than 14,000 people have paid full price for this program, which measures your natural talents and lets you know what careers fit you best.

This contest is to support our new social media marketing, the first marketing of any kind we have done in more than 30 years. Help us crank up our social media. We’ll help you choose a career you will love.

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Here’s what people in careers that fit well say about their work.

Ask yourself, “If I did the same work I do now in a different environment, would I be able to claim most of these statements for myself?” If so, you may just need a job change. If many of these do not represent your present work, you need a career change. The best way to do do this well is to hire an expert guide: a career coach or career counselor.

  • You feel like a duck in a pond. Your work is a natural expression of your talents and personality.
  • It fits you so well that often, work is play.
  • You are proud of what you do and enjoy telling other people about it.
  • You are highly respected at work because you are so good at what you do.
  • You do not have to pretend to be someone else at work.
  • Your own best and most natural forms of creative expression are what you are paid to do.
  • The environment you work in brings out your best efforts.
  • You enthusiastically look forward to going to work most of the time.
  • Your job rewards your most important values and allows you to fulfill your goals, in
    terms of personal growth and achievement goals, income, stability, etc.
  • The result of your efforts makes a contribution that personally matters to you.
  • You don’t spend your days working for something that you don’t really care about.
  • Your job directly fulfills your work-related goals. It does not create barriers to realizing
    your other goals.
  • You like the people you work with.
  • You are on a winning team that is having a great time getting the job done.
  • A day on the job leaves you feeling energized, not burned out.


Years ago when I stopped smoking I used a technique psychologists call precommitment. I knew that the little voice in my head could easily talk me into just having one. And down the slippery slope I would slide. I made a deal with a friend who wanted to quit as well. We each wrote out checks for hundreds of dollars to the re-election committee of our biggest political nightmare. (We both picked Jesse Helms.) We switched envelopes, stamped, addressed, and ready to go. Then once a week we met, looked each other face-to-face and said whether or not we had kept our promise. If one of us caught the slightest flicker of lie in the other’s eyes, they would mail the envelope. There were times when I would have paid that much money for a cigarette, but knowing it would go to help re-elect Helms kept me on the straight and narrow.

The idea is to make it nearly impossible to crap out on your promise. Odysseus ordered himself lashed to the mast and had his seamen fill their ears with wax so he could listen to the deadly, seductive songs of the Sirens.

What is that huge challenge you want to face that you think your mind will con you out of fulfilling? What is that behavior or habit you want to change?

Find a cost you are not willing to pay and someone to play this powerful game with you.