Many people come to therapy feeling like their life is at a complete standstill. They may say things like:
- “I feel like I’m in exactly the same place I was five years ago.”
- “I just can’t see how things will get better for me.”
- “All my friends are moving forward with their lives but I feel like I’m stuck in quicksand.”
- “I can’t muster the energy I need to create the changes I want to.”
Here, I’ll talk about three strategies to help you break out of a mental rut and approach life with a renewed sense of vim and vigor.
#1. Learn to nurture your inner confidence
Many of us have a mistaken view of confidence. We believe that, like other personality traits such as extroversion or neuroticism, confidence is something you either have or don’t.
But that’s simply not true. Confidence is earned through a process of experimentation, maturation, and learning from your mistakes. So, instead of viewing yourself as a hopelessly unconfident person, think about building your confidence bit by bit.
For example, if your goal is to meet new people, start small by seeing a few of your closest friends. Next, you might join a friend at an event where you have the opportunity to meet a few new people. You might also check out some free events, happy hours, or other social gatherings to see where it leads you.
Sure, there may be a few awkward moments. But, if you keep at it, you may be surprised at how what used to seem intimidating now feels tolerable and perhaps even fun.
The point is that you shouldn’t let your anxiety inhibit your forward motion. When you start to feel this way (and we all do), just remember the basics: start small and build your confidence from there. New possibilities are bound to open up.
#2. Don’t ‘no’ your way out of a ‘yes’ situation
There’s certainly a time and a place to say no to activities and events we are invited to. The fact that you have the wherewithal to pick and choose how you spend your time is a sign that you have healthy boundaries.
However, there comes a point (and most of us have experienced it at one time or another) where we find ourselves too quick to say no to new opportunities. Perhaps we are going through a breakup or we are dealing with another type of loss.
Psychologists advise against the tendency to tunnel inward when we experience adversity as it can have serious consequences for our mental health.
If you find yourself acting this way, do your best to flip at least a few of the no’s (“No, I don’t want to go to that party,” or “No, I can’t attend that happy hour”) to yeses. It’s amazing how even one or two instances of changing a no to a yes can make all the difference, perhaps changing your life entirely.
Psychological research bears this out. One study published in the Journal of Research in Personality showed that making small changes in your day like organizing your workspace or making to-do lists can accumulate to make your personality more conscientious, in a permanent way. Small changes can compound over time to create an entirely different version of you.
#3. Mind the (age) gap
Have you ever heard a person younger than you talking about their dreams and aspirations as if anything was possible? Do you know any old people who seem to reinvent themselves again and again?
Use these examples as inspiration to get your wheels turning again. It’s never too late to make a change — whether that’s moving to a new city, going back to school, starting a family at any age, repairing a soured relationship, or starting a second (or third) career. Anything is possible if you do not abandon your spirit to keep learning.
It might even be argued that being a ‘late bloomer’ can sometimes be more beneficial than throwing yourself into the deep end at a relatively tender age. Chances are, if you are older than your peers in any phase of life, you bring a unique and more experienced perspective.
And, finally, no two people ever take the same journey in their lives. Thinking that you are ‘past your prime’ simply because of a number is a huge disservice.
Having seen and lived more is a trump card. Use it well.