How to Avoid and Get Out of an Entrepreneurial Rut

Tricks you use to motivate yourself will eventually stop working. Here's how to stay ahead.

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How to Avoid and Get Out of an Entrepreneurial Rut
Image credit: Shapecharge | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Performance and Transformational Coach
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Something I've previously noticed about my clients is as they grew and developed, they rarely thought beyond their initial goal. Oftentimes once they hit that milestone, they found themselves asking, “what’s next?”

It's something I've dealt with myself: When I committed to improving my nutrition, I ended up losing a lot of body fat and total weight. I lost weight quickly, but when I reached my more “natural” weight, I wasn’t able to see as much changes and as quickly. I plateaued. 

In the past, this realization would've left me defeated and lost. I would've given up on the new habits I created. It's something I see all too frequently in business and entrepreneurship. You set goals, achieve them and then at a certain point, it stops. You don’t see changes and feel stuck or lost in what to do next.

Related: Feeling Stuck in a Rut? Here's How to Burst Out and Thrive

Entrepreneurs tend to live by a "growth or bust" mentality — plateuing scares us. Here's why this happens and what you can do about it. 

Your current strategies are outdated

After losing nearly 20 pounds, once I plateaued I couldn't figure out why I wasn't continuing to shed fat. Why wasn't what I was doing working anymore?

In my case, the strategies I was using, which were new just weeks ago, were now old. Nutrition was no longer the solution. It wasn’t that it stopped working; it just wasn’t  the solution for getting to my next level of health and fitness. In your case, what you've been using that has brought you success may actually no longer work. It has become obsolete, outdated, overdone or does not apply to where you are now. 

The older version of you was stuck and needed that solution. Now the new version of you is stuck in a new place and needs a new solution.

Your commitment has decreased

The idea you can repeatedly do what’s working for the rest of your life and not need to change things up is absurd. But when you're not seeing the kind of results you were seeing before, you could start to question if something is worth the effort. Sometimes, you’ll think the solution is to push yourself even more. “Try harder,” you’ll say. Or the opposite kicks in – laziness. “Oh, I'll skip a day.” The next thing you know, your new commitment is to NOT do it. 

You may not even be aware that change needs to happen. When I was feeling stuck, I didn't realize where I was failing to adapt. Fortunately, I had enough awareness to see a specialist for answers. In my case, my personal trainer advised me to do specific strength training and in that moment, a new solution emerged. Even though I changed so much about my nutrition and my diet, I wasn’t aware changing my workout routine would influence more results. 

Related: Don't Lose That 'A+' Employee to a Performance Rut

The deeper problem was I saw results, became complacent and lacked desire to do something different to produce more results.

Your mindset needs (more) work

Eventually, my body was in great shape and I had a confident mindset, but I no longer felt as stressed or desperate as I had at the start of this journey. Now that I was living a healthier life, it was easy to feel no real sense of urgency — unless I created it. 

This urgency allowed me to be open to possibilities to keep improving my health. Though it felt extreme to me, I thought about it this way:  If I stop, my health will decline and I could die, leaving my family without a husband and father.

If you or your business live month-to-month, this is all too familiar. As the bank account approaches zero, you enter in what I like to call resourceful mode. You find ways to trim the budget and make enough money to pay the bills. When you're down to your last dollar, all of a sudden, a deposit hits your account and you feel great relief. 

Related: 11 Signs You're in a Rut — and How to Get Unstuck (Infographic)

But with that relief comes less incentive to continue busting your butt to save and generate more money. So you end up stuck in this loop, comfortable for half of the month and then resourceful (read: survival) mode for the other half.

Your mindset creates this seemingly endless cycle and stunts your ability to grow or scale.

So what needs to change?

Three things: The first is your mindset. When I make new challenges for myself every quarter, I think about what will put me in constant state of urgency and mandate growth. Giving yourself 90 days to complete things will do that for you.

The second is choosing what strategy will help you get there. If you have a strategy that has worked in the past, what's a new strategy you can implement? Here, I’d also consider support — who could help you with this?

The last piece, which is the most important piece, is to recommit. Setting your sights on what goal you desire will give you energy. The commitment will give you certainty.

When I see my clients reach high levels of accomplishment, especially professionally, there tends to be a lack of fulfillment and awareness around the next move. They believe if they keep doing what they're doing, it'll allow them to cruise and hopefully stumble upon the next thing. 

That's not what happens. In fact, it’s the opposite — you decline in performance, results and success. Building a sense of awareness and continuing to challenge yourself with urgency will put you in better position to create new strategies, develop a stronger mindset and double down on your commitment in ways you’ve never done before.

Related: Getting Out of a Professional Rut

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