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How to Invest in Yourself and Break Out of a Career Rut

Laura Gayle Oct 23, 2019
A routine is perfect for many people, but repetition is another matter. When the work you used to like turns into the drudgery of doing the same thing year after year, your incentive to excel can fade. Former dreams can slink into the background, leaving only a well-developed ability to sneak a look at the clock on the wall as you close another spreadsheet.
Of course, you know that attitude isn’t the best for your company, its clients, or yourself. Boredom or dissatisfaction on the job can dull your focus, and you can start losing motivation. The same is true if you always eat the same things, wear the same clothes, or go to the same places. You end up in a classic rut, and your quality of life can suffer.
Make pivots that allow you to explore and reinvigorate your outlook. For example, if you’re wishing for a new set of skills and renewed sense of purpose, sign up for a class or workshop. You might begin this process by increasing the spark in your personal world, then move on to considering whether an entire change of career is in order.

Physical Changes

Physical changes are often the easiest to enact, paving the way for mental changes to follow. It may seem trite, but a haircut, new shoes, or new outfit can make you feel a little more together and give you a sense of renewal physically.
If you don't want to use purchasing and consumption as a tactic, look to the gym, local pool, or summer sports club to help you get outside and get more physical activity.
Making physical changes, either to your body or to your belongings, shakes up your routine. Exercise, in particular, can help you feel healthier and more energetic. Be sure you choose activities you want to do, rather than activities you think you should do.
Do you hate jogging but like playing basketball? Find an informal basketball club. Prefer walking tours of the city even though your neighbor urges you to take an aerobics class instead? Go find those walking tours. Your interest is what will keep you coming back to a physical activity.

Mental Changes

This can be the time to do a little decluttering in your home to free up some mental energy. Or begin from the inside out: Starting a meditation practice is simple, and it can help you sleep better, which itself can improve your emotional outlook and intellectual acuity. To start, sit quietly for a few minutes and concentrate on your breathing.
If your mind drifts and it almost certainly will — just recognize the drift and refocus your attention on your breathing again (over and over, usually). If you'd like to learn about different approaches to meditation and how they might help you, seek out clinical meditation programs.
Another activity that will help you both physically and mentally is to get outdoors into more natural spaces. Whether it's a park, hiking trail, botanical garden, or even a beach, being outside in natural settings can relax you and provide opportunities for you to walk (... and breathe … and think). You'll get sunlight, fresh air, and the sounds of nature.

Career Changes

If your current career path feels like it’s leading you nowhere, consider making upgrades that could lead you somewhere better. Focus only training that aligns with your interests. Take classes or learn new skills in a totally different field. For example, if you long to be more creative, try playing around with web design.
It might be time to give your work tools an upgrade. Consider a new computer, or trying out software that could make your methods more efficient. You can also move files you want to preserve into a cloud computing account, so they’ll be safe but also accessible anytime you need them. Look for new methodologies that could spark a new approach for the future.
If you want out of the 9-to-5 grind entirely, start setting up passive income streams. Buying a vacation rental is a financial investment that also gives you a place to retreat with your family and de-stress periodically. Over time, you might be able to quit your day job.
No matter what career decisions you make, it’s good to improve your online presence. Take stock of how you handle your social media accounts and how they make you feel. Try to increase your network and general contacts with others in education and your specific field. If you've always wanted to start a blog, here's your chance.

Location Changes

Another way to reinvigorate your mind is to travel. It can be international or just to another state, or even a neighboring city. The purpose is a simple change of scenery; you don’t necessarily have to have some lofty purpose for the travel or even an itinerary before you leave.
No matter where you go, the exposure will help you gain a better understanding of how others may see the world. If you can't physically travel, choose a part of the world and read up on it, searching out pictures or virtual tours online, and maybe even learn a bit of the language. You can find at least basic instruction for most languages online.
Play around a bit and look at languages other than the typical French, German, or Spanish that might be relevant for your area; for example, if you're in Southern California, try learning some Tongva.
If you feel you've tried everything, but what you really need is to change your working situation, consider looking not only at other firms, but also other cities. You could find a cheaper city to live in, such as Charlotte, for example, with a cost of living below the national average, or you could find different companies.
Whatever route you choose, please make sure to direct some of your energy towards taking care of yourself. Take some time to reflect on what you want and need, then make the moves to improve your life in that direction. Everyone will benefit.