How to get out of your rut/race

Maybe you know the feeling: you’re really good at what you do, and successful, too, but it just feels… empty. You have this good job (or business) but you feel like the only reason you show up is to pay the bills. You used to love what you do, but now you have to keep reminding yourself why you’re doing it. You’re racing your motor (work to churn out, people to see, presentations to give — it’s endless), and that only makes the wheels spin faster (and yes, you do meet all the deadlines), which digs the rut deeper. You’re in a pretty good place, but you’re going nowhere — and going there fast, and maybe burning out the motor at the same time.

I have a few clients like that right now, men and women both. They’re all experts at different facets of marketing, mid-life, quite successful. Each is on his or her own personal growth path, though the paths are as varied as the people: Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, non-denominational spirituality, Masters Degrees in psychology or related fields, certificates in different types of healing.

My rule is that when something shows up 3 or more times in quick succession, it’s time to look at it. And since I’m quite clear that this lesson isn’t for me, it must be for you!

What you’re telling me is that success for its own sake just doesn’t satisfy any more. Because I’ve been working with marketers, success is, in an odd way, proof of their value — if you’re successful, that means you’re good at marketing, which makes a prima facie case that others should listen to you (and pay you) to tell them how to succeed. The money, the trappings, though they’re great, don’t mean all that much. Even helping other people succeed and get money and trappings, just seems pretty empty. So your success becomes a trap — success begets success begets success — hey, this wheel pretty much turns on its own momentum now! But your deepest need to do something else gnaws at you constantly.

Here’s something else I know from working with people for more than 15 years. If you don’t listen to that sense that it’s time to shift, the shift will come to you, often in a less than pleasant way. Perhaps you’ll get sick, so you’ll sit still and pay attention. Maybe you’ll lose your biggest client. Maybe you’ll lose your job. In fact, I met an abbot once, the ‘father’ of a religious order, who opened up to me, and told me he was really sick of his job, tired of running the monastery. I told him that if he didn’t instigate a change, the change would come to him. And he didn’t do anything, because he felt secure. The monks had taken vows of obedience, and he had no superior. The monks got together and rebelled and he was out on his ear!

So pay attention to that nagging sensation that something has to change. But what to do?

Here are a few ideas, presented in no particular order. Pick and choose the ones that work for you:

Ask yourself, what is frustrating me? Create a vision of your own future that eliminates, or at least works around, all your current frustrations, while incorporating all the things you love (and probably take for granted) now, and move toward that.
Create a vision for how you would like the world to be, and let that guide you in shifting your job or business, so that your larger vision for the world gives meaning to your daily activities. If you want a sustainable future for society, shift your job or business to support that, perhaps by actively seeking ‘green’ clients.
If you’re feeling stifled, limited, or undervalued, then shift your business focus to something related to what you’re already good at, but that uses other skills you’re not using now. If you have lots of people skills, use them in HR or recruiting for a marketing firm.
Start a side business doing something you love to do, that seems more important than what you’re doing now. If connecting people to each other seems more important than teaching them how to do search engine optimization, start a networking group. Play around with business models till you find one that will eventually support you so you can stop what you now think of as your main job or business.
Get help! There are coaches out there (including me) who have processes to help you clarify what you’re choosing to create.

Hollis Polk is a personal coach (, who has been helping people create lives they love for 15 years, using neurolinguistic & hypnotherapy techniques, decision science, clairvoyance & the common sense learned in 20+ years of business. She is an NLP Master Practitioner, hypnotherapist & has a BSE in engineering from Princeton & a Harvard MBA. She is also a successful real estate broker, investor & business owner.