How to Cure Stuck-in-a-Rut Syndrome


Sylvia Hendershott.jpgNo one is safe. The reality is that anybody pursuing their passion, whether it’s photography, acting or crocodile wrangling, can be susceptible to developing a mild to severe case of Stuck-in-a-Rut Syndrome (SIARS).

Common Symptoms: Fatigue, indifference, apathy, resentment, blame, complaining whining, general crankiness and feeling “off”.

Possible Causes: Comparing yourself to others, a recent string of disappointments, or suddenly realizing you’re way off-course. Can involve hurt pride, shaken up self-confidence, or a nagging feeling that you’ve outgrown your current situation.

Diagnosis: Time to tune in and do some inner detective work to get to the bottom of this one. Ask yourself:

What about this situation is really making me so unhappy?

What do I want or need that I’m not getting?

Is the present situation a stepping stone to a greater goal?

Is my end goal still something that I want and will create a happy, fulfilling life?


Case Study, Mild SIARS

In the midst of wedding planning, I got a part-time retail job while my fiancé’s photography career was taking off, and a movie he was in had its national theatrical release. I remember being so resentful that he got to make amazing money while having all the fun (pursuing two of his passions), while I made pennies compared to him and had to work hard at something I didn’t love. Needless to say, the first few months at the job were difficult. I dreaded going to work, and once I was there, I was annoyed at everybody I was supposed to be helping. I was cranky all the time. I wasn’t being my best self at home or at work, and I knew it.

One day I had a major mind-shift. I remembered that I had chosen that specific job because I needed a flexible schedule, health insurance, and a lifestyle that would enable me to participate in Adam’s photo shoots, make some money and plan a wedding. Nobody had handcuffed me to the job or put a gun to my head, threatening me to go to work every day. If I was truly so unhappy, I had the power to quit and choose something else. Since that wasn’t the case, I made a conscious decision to make the best of what was actually an ideal situation.


There are two treatment options for SIARS: 

Cure #1: Change Your Mind

Once you diagnose your SIARS, you might realize that you simply need an attitude adjustment. If you’re unclear, make a pros and cons list about your present situation. Do the pros outweigh the cons? Is your current situation enabling you to get to your next goal?

If so, remember that you are simply on a temporary stepping stone, and empower yourself to leverage it as such. Remind yourself to be grateful that you have this current opportunity to work towards your end goal, and use it to practice bringing your most awesome superstar self to the table RIGHT NOW.

Action Steps: Working within your current situation, renew your commitment to pursuing your passion and bringing your most awesome self to your life.

Examples: Work out, schedule a headshot session, go to a commercial workshop, research local cooking classes.


Cure #2: Change Your Situation

If you make the pros and cons list only to realize your current situation is no longer serving you, remember that you have the power to change it. Identify exactly what is not working. What do you envision for yourself instead?

Action Steps: Now that you know where you are and where you want to go, work backwards and make a roadmap for yourself.

Examples: Ask for a raise, submit your resume for a new job, ask for a recommendation, plan an exit strategy, have a conversation with somebody about your new boundaries and expectations.


Either way, it’s going to take shaking things up to get rid of SIARS. Try to be patient with yourself, because even though change isn’t going to happen overnight, you can still do something every day to get you closer to where you want to be. Try to be patient with friends and family, because they might need time to get used to your new outlook, identity or action plan. Some people might not understand why you are changing something they thought worked. Others will be excited for you and will want to know how they can help. Don’t be afraid to take them up on it!