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Feeling Stuck in a Rut? Here's How to Burst Out and Thrive. Find your groove with these habits that build courage and personal strength.

By Anne Grady Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Tom Merton | Getty Images

Anyone who has ever started a business has faced fear. A little bit actually can be a very positive catalyst. But when fear overwhelms your ability to make decisions, it can become paralyzing and leave you feeling stuck. That's a sign you need to take action and restore the sense of confidence you once had.

When we're young, we think we're invincible. We can do anything (just ask my teenagers!). Yet for many of us, that confidence and self-assurance erodes over time as we get older. We wake up one day confronted by thoughts we can't shake: "I can't. I shouldn't. I couldn't possibly." We start to question our choices and ourselves. We second-guess our gut instincts and overthink things.

The stories we tell ourselves limit or enhance potential.

Fear and self-limiting beliefs create imaginary boundaries that can keep us from acting in our own best interests. There's a reason: Our brains are wired to resist change. They will process anything we repeatedly think, say or do and formalize it into a habit. It's easier for our brains to depend on habits because they don't have to work as hard. It's comfortable. But if those habits aren't serving you, where does that leave you?

We don't get stuck overnight. We slowly dig a rut that gets deeper every time we think or behave the same way. It doesn't take much imagination to get complacent and content with the status quo. If we stay in a rut long enough, it can feel as if we'll never climb out.

Singer/songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard urges us to "get out of your rut and get in a groove." But how do you shock yourself back into that wonderful state where creativity, courage and passion seem to flow effortlessly?

Related: This Entrepreneur's Inspiring Journey Shows Success Comes From the Courage to Dream Big

Creating new habits takes courage.

Know that hitting the reset button requires courage and determination. You'll need to take risks to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and go after what you really want.

If you don't feel particularly courageous, there's good news: Courage is a moral habit we can develop with practice. How? By choosing new habits. When we think and behave in new ways, we create new neural pathways in our brains. The more we think that way, the stronger those pathways become. This is why it's so important to push beyond what seems comfortable, familiar and safe.

Related: Why You Shouldn't Confuse Comfort With Safety

Here are three ways to create new habits and act more courageously.

  1. Name where you're stuck. Identity any patterns you've settled into that might be holding you back. What imaginary barriers have you created for yourself? What can you do to break through these self-limiting barriers?
  2. Visualize goals. Most people hold back because they can't figure out how they're going to accomplish their goals. Thankfully, you don't have to know how. That's not the way your brain works. If you have a clear picture of your goal and visualize it, your brain will work backward to find ways to make it happen.
  3. Beware of courage-killing words. When you're in a rut, two words will kill courage faster than any others: "What if?" As in, "What if I can't do it? What if I'm not smart enough? What if I don't have what it takes?" I've learned to challenge this voice, and so can you.

Meaningful change demands practice and patience.

Shifting your thinking doesn't happen overnight. It takes practice. Start by paying attention to how you talk to yourself about yourself. Would you talk to your best friend the way you talk to yourself? If your friend came to you, sharing the challenges you are facing, what advice would you give?

Although simple in concept, shifting our thoughts can be extraordinarily difficult. We have conditioned ourselves to think the way we do. If we want to behave differently, we must think differently. We have to retrain our brains. This requires us to be thankful for what we have, appreciate the little things and look for the right things. When we talk to ourselves, it's easy to go back to what we have habitually said. It takes practice to send ourselves new, more productive messages.

Related: 10 Habits That Will Dramatically Improve Your Life

My son lives with severe mental illness and behaviors. I used to think to myself, "This sucks. Why me? It's not fair!" As true as these statements might have been, they certainly weren't serving me. So in their place, I began to use three little sayings regularly:

  • I've got this.
  • All I can do is all I can do.
  • It is what it is, and it will become what I make it.

Here are some additional phrases and affirmations that you may find helpful as you strive to develop habits of courage:

  • I have handled everything that has come my way so far. I will handle this, too.
  • I believe in myself and my abilities.
  • I choose to see the good in things.
  • I am grateful for the blessings in my life.
  • I eliminate obstacles and negativity around me.
  • I embrace opportunities with an open heart and open mind.
  • I feel better when I help others.
  • I take risks and get out of my comfort zone.

Related: Don't Count on 4-Leaf Clovers: 10 Ways to Make Your Own Luck

Personal strength builds over time.

Courage is something we can develop and build throughout a lifetime. Think of it as a byproduct of all that life presents to you -- the victories and the losses.

When you're in the midst of crisis or desperation, you're challenged to tap into strengths you might not realize you possess. Finding courage in these times is no fun, but it's often how we discover inner resilience.

One final thought: Inspiration is a key to unmasking strength and courage. When you are motivated enough, you'll find a way. Fostering courageous habits will help you unleash passion and inspiration that propels you out of your rut and into the groove.

Anne Grady

Author, corporate leadership consultant, and expert in personal and organizational transformation

Anne Grady is an author, corporate leadership consultant and expert in personal and organizational communication. She grew her business as a nationally recognized speaker and consultant while raising her severely mentally ill son. Grady shares lessons she has learned in her new book, 52 Strategies for Life, Love and Work.

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