Stagnation is one of the biggest perceived threats to ambitious professionals anywhere. If you are someone who thrives on taking action and achieving your goals, you might not be used to the feeling of being stagnant, or in a “rut”. These phases inevitably affect everyone at some point, and the best way forward is to have a proactive system in place. Whether you are stuck in a job you dislike, in a relationship you need to move away from, or if you simply need a change in your life, action is the solution to end all “ruts” and help you move back to the place you want to be. Follow these steps the next time you feel stagnant and create positive change in your life.

Understand Your “Rut”

Being in a rut can occur out of nowhere or it can be triggered by negative life events. Personally, you may feel less energetic or unwilling to engage in healthy habits or social activities. Professionally, you might feel stuck in a job or anxious to find something more fulfilling. You may feel some confusion or negative thinking, especially if you are unsure where to go from that state of mind. Taking the time to understand your stagnation can help you figure out the cause or decide if your negative mindset is a warning sign of more serious mental health challenges. Once you understand why you are feeling a certain way, you can take actions related to the area of frustration.

Make a Real Change

Taking a real step forward means doing something differently than you have done in the past. Being in a rut may cause you to feel like you “should” be in a different place, but this is useless until you do something about it. Making the first real change can cause a “snowball” effect into more actions that lead into a more positive place. Perhaps you initiate a conversation with your boss to overcome a challenge at work. Maybe you put yourself out in a social situation to finally meet someone new. Even cooking a healthy meal for yourself can initiate the process of bringing you out of your rut and into a productive place.

Decide Where You Want to Be

If your feelings of stagnation are confusing you about what to do next, work backwards and decide where you’d like to be first. Get as clear as possible and visualize whatever it means to you to get out of your rut. Are you in a better job? Are you practicing habits that make you feel better? What do your relationships look like? How do you talk to yourself? Building the details in your mind will make it far easier to then take the first steps to achieve your new goal. Most people who are in ruts have simply not taken the time to visualize where they’d like to be instead.

Map the Steps to Achieve Your Goal

Once you’ve visualized what it truly looks like to move past your stagnation, it’s time to map the steps necessary to take action. It likely took some time for you to fall into your rut in the first place, so be patient and allow yourself time to pick yourself back up. Action is the antidote to stagnation, and the steps you map will make your path forward clear. Set realistic goals that truly work with your motivation levels and lifestyle. If you’d love to perform better in your work projects, work backwards and map the first milestone needed for you to feel like you are making progress. If you’d like to move to a new place for a fresh start, spend a day researching neighborhoods with the goal of choosing one. From there, you can move forward at your own pace. These small actions strengthen your confidence and reinforce the mentality that you are perfectly capable of creating change.

Let yourself feel confident in your abilities as an ambitious human being if you find yourself suffering in stagnation. Know that you are not alone and that taking strategic action will bring you back to where you’d like to be over time. By learning to understand the causes of your stagnation and proactively knowing how you’ll move forward, you will adapt and overcome and rut you experience in the future.