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At some point, everyone is likely to feel as though they are in a slump. Famously, professional athletes can find themselves slumping despite considerable talent, effort, and practice. Inventors, writers, actors, entrepreneurs, and artists—and just about anyone else who is committed to progressing, performing, and producing—are likely to find themselves in a slump at some point.

Educators are no different. We may feel as though we have fallen into a rut and are performing on autopilot. We may be feeling as though we have lost our energy and passion for our work. We may even wonder if it is time for a professional change.

The reasons for sinking into a slump can be varied. We may have neglected to keep growing and learning. The work we do and students we teach may have changed and might demand new strategies and approaches. We may be relying on tools and tactics that have served us well in the past but no longer seem to work like they once did. We may feel caught in an environment that is no longer fresh, nurturing, and challenging. The list could go on.

The question is how to break out of the slump and crawl out of the rut. Of course, the nature and cause (or causes) of our situation matter. The strategies we choose to shift our situation will depend on how we understand the challenges we face. Here are eight options to get started:

  • Accept that you feel stuck and need to change. We need to resist blaming others—or ourselves—for our circumstances. The first step in breaking out of a slump is to accept where we are and take responsibility for moving forward. We can start by identifying an aspect of our “stuckness” that we control and making it our initial focus. Claiming our agency can be an empowering force for change.
  • Take some time to reflect on what may be creating the slump. We can start by asking ourselves questions like: “Do I need a new challenge? Do I find myself circling back to old habits and approaches that no longer seem to work as well? Is it time to learn some new skills and build new competencies? Is my social network stagnant and in need of renewal or expansion?”
  • Identify what you really want. Slumps are frequently times of vagueness, restlessness, and ambiguity. We can help ourselves break out of them by clarifying what we would like to happen. Revisiting our values and contemplating what really matters can create focus and build energy. Often, too, creating a visual representation of what matters to us and what we want from life can bring clarity and build commitment.
  • Identify a few initial steps you can take. While the change that lies ahead may be large and require considerable effort and planning, taking a few small steps can build confidence and create momentum.
  • Mark and celebrate even small progress. Rewarding ourselves for progress can build motivation, especially early on in our efforts. Setting goals, making progress, and recognizing our power can sustain our commitment.
  • Resist comparing yourself, your talent, or your potential to others. There will always be people who seem to be able to do what we envision with confidence and ease. Comparing ourselves to others can rob us of confidence, undermine our commitment, and leave us stuck where we are.
  • Avoid perfectionism. New learning, new behaviors, and pursuing new goals will bring mistakes, missteps, and setbacks. Perfectionism can create guilt, procrastination, and doubt—these are powerful enemies of progress. We need to focus on getting things done and moving forward rather than being perfect, especially early in the process of breaking our slump.
  • Add novelty, spontaneity, and adventure. Change can be hard work, but it can also be exciting and fun if we allow ourselves to be present in it. We can choose to focus on the now and appreciate the unexpected irony and hilarity that life has to offer. Giving ourselves permission to enjoy the journey can also improve our mental health and happiness.

It is true that slumps and ruts are part of life. They may be inevitable, but they do not have to be permanent. When we claim our power, clarify our priorities, and commit to creating the life we deserve, nothing is beyond our reach.

Thought for the Week

When we understand another person’s perspective, what they are thinking and feeling, we are better able to relate to them and understand their needs.

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