Stuck in a Rut: How to Journal the Spark Back in Your Life


Image Credit: Photo by Swaraj Tiwari on Unsplash

No one wants to feel stuck. When this emotion washes over us, it plays tricks on our minds, makes us think we’re inadequate, that we don’t have the skill set to reach the next level, or we that don’t deserve happiness in our lives. It’s a dark gray cloud that can seem to follow us everywhere we go.

How do we move past this funk?

As you browse online for articles to help you shift out of this moment, you may find responses such as, “Let go of the past,” or “Make tiny changes in your daily routine,” but they don’t take into consideration that even those grandiose suggestions can be difficult for someone who doesn’t know what immediate next step to make.

However, there is one practical solution you can begin to implement as soon as you finish this article — journaling.

Journaling has been scientifically proven to make a positive impact. According to University of Rochester Medical Center, “One of the ways to deal with any overwhelming emotion is to find a healthy outlet in which to express yourself, which makes a journal a helpful tool in managing your mental health.”

You may be wondering, “All I have to do is write in a journal and my motivation will come back?” Well, that’s only half of it. The other half is being intentional about what you’re journaling about.

To begin the process of journaling the spark back in your life, consider the following steps:

Step 1: Pick a journal you’ll enjoy using.

Humans are visual creatures. If you have a journal that doesn’t look appealing to you, you may feel less inclined to use it. Select a journal with an inspirational message, your favorite color, or something that makes you feel joy. Or, if you have extra notebooks laying around the house, create some art and change the front cover of the notebook; for instance, you can turn the front page of the notebook into a miniature vision board with magazine clippings.

Step 2: Schedule a time to journal every day for at least 10 minutes.

It’s easy to get distracted with the day-to-day happenings in our lives. When you set a schedule, you are making yourself a priority. Keep in mind you can always add more time as you see fit.

Step 3: Let go of perfection.

Journaling is not meant to be perfect. Let go of the idea that you shouldn’t have misspelled words, sentence fragments, etc. Your journal is for your eyes only.

Step 4: Use intentional journal prompts.

The key to bringing the spark back in your life is to have journal prompts that nudge you to think holistically about your stuckness. Here are four topics to write about:

What am I feeling in this moment? This prompt allows you to lay it all on the paper without judgement. Your writing may include your emotions, how you feel you got to this place, questions or scenarios that you play in your mind repetitively, your lack of understanding, your frustrations, etc. Don’t hold back. And if you go over the 10 minute timer that you’ve set, it’s perfectly fine.

What is my current state versus desired state? In your journal, create a “t” chart. At the top of one side, write, “My current state.” On the other side, write “My desired state”. Under the current state, list what is currently happening. On the other side, list what you would like for it to be. For example, under “current state” you may list, “I don’t have room to grow at my job.”

Under desired state, you may write, “Work for a company with the opportunity to grow and be promoted.” This journaling exercise helps simplify your wants and desires. It’s essentially showing you this is where you are, and this is where you want to be.

What am I grateful for? You may be wondering, “What’s the point of showing that I’m grateful, when I’m feeling like I don’t have anything to be grateful for? Psychology Today writes, “Gratitude improves psychological health…and reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret.” When expressing gratitude, I challenge you to think about things directly related to where you’re feeling stuck. For example, “Although I feel stuck at my job, I’m grateful to have a job.”

If you find that you are unable to express gratitude for the things directly related to your areas of stuckness, express gratitude for anything else in your life. Don’t discount the “little things,” either. For example, I’m grateful that there wasn’t a traffic jam on the way to work today.”

What can I accomplish over the next week? Make a list of three things that you will accomplish over the next week to move you towards your desired state. If you want to get out of a career fog, maybe you add to your list: Sign up for a professional development course, sign up for job alerts, and apply for three jobs. When you break seemingly large tasks into bite-sized chunks, it feels easier to tackle.

What can I affirm about myself? Write one to three affirmations that you will repeat to yourself. Affirmations are belief statements that rewire your brain to help you manifest a desired outcome. For example, “I am excited for this new job opportunity,” “I am ready to go to the next level of my career,” “I am skilled and qualified enough to get my dream job.”

Over time you’ll find that the feelings of lack of motivation, frustration, helplessness will eventually dissipate and you’ll feel empowered because you have developed an action plan to follow.

*Please note that journaling is not a practice meant to replace the guidance and treatment of a mental health professional.