A psychotherapist offers tips on how to get out of cycles that continue to disappoint.

You know those times when you feel stuck in a rut? It’s when you feel like things just aren’t moving forward in the life the way you want them to. You feel stuck in your job and got passed over for a promotion again. You keep dating the same type of guy, and he’s never the right fit. You’ve been feeling overwhelmed as a new mom for ages. Nothing seems to change.

You've heard the phrase, "the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result"; but do we realize when we're doing it in our own lives?

It’s easy to get frustrated when life seems to deal you the same hand, over and over again. And it can be discouraging. Will you ever get promoted, meet the right guy, and feel in control instead of feeling overwhelmed, you might wonder? The answer is yes. Yes, you can take control of your life. Yes, you can create change in your life. It takes some honest soul-searching but it is definitely possible. If you’re ready to break out of your rut and do something different for a change, keep the following tips in mind.

Internal vs. External Locus of Control

When something happens to you, let’s say you weren’t selected for a job you interviewed for, what’s your first thought? Does your brain immediately jump to wondering what’s wrong with you? Or, does your mind go straight to how the interviewer was at fault and didn’t give you a fair shot? While it differs from person to person, we all tend to see things that happen to us from a certain worldview. In the world of psychology, this is called your “locus of control” which describes how you explain events that happen to you. If you tend to attribute the causes to your own actions or characteristics, you have an “internal locus of control” (e.g. “I didn’t get the job because I’m not smart enough or I didn’t answer that last question well.”). If you tend to attribute the causes to things outside of your own actions or characteristics, you have an “external locus of control” (e.g. “I didn’t get the job because the interviewer didn’t like me or had someone else in mind”.)

When you’re feeling stuck in life, it’s as if everything is outside of your control, like there’s nothing you can do change things. This is a paralyzing feeling. This is particularly true if you are only focusing on what’s outside of your control. If you only focus on what has gone wrong in your past relationships and if you don’t think you can change your approach to dating, you’ll continue to feel stuck. But if instead of focusing on what you can’t control, you focus on what you can, you can start to approach things differently in life. Which leads us to the concept of mindset.

What’s Your Mindset?

Similar to having an internal versus external locus of control, your mindset can also play a factor when feeling stuck in a rut. There are two types of mindset: fixed and growth. Someone with a fixed mindset believes that nothing will change, that things are fixed. For example, with a fixed mindset, you might feel that you will never be good enough and that you’ll never feel confident. A growth mindset, on the other hand, generally means that someone believes things can change, that there is a possibility of growth. For example, even though you don’t feel as confident as you’d like about yourself, you know that there are things you can do to move you closer to that goal. A fixed mindset can hold you back but a growth mindset can propel you forward.

When you start to do things differently by taking a look at what you can control (versus what you can’t) and by believing that change is possible, you create opportunities for good things to happen. For example, if you are feeling trapped in your job with no room for advancement, instead of focusing on the reasons why you aren’t moving up, focus on what you can do to make that change happen. Can you talk to your boss to find out what you can do to show that you are ready for a promotion? Maybe talking to the mentors in your life whose opinion you value to find out what they suggest. It may even be time to look for another job.

Or, if it seems like you are always attracted to guys who are emotionally unavailable, maybe it’s time to take a step back and ask yourself why you seem to gravitate toward these type of men (therapy could be a helpful tool for exploring this.) You could also talk to family and friends to find out what they’ve observed (be prepared for their honesty). You could change your approach to dating. There are many things you can do.

The point is, there are things you can do to move closer to realizing your goals. You don’t always have to passively wait for the stars to align. Even if you believe something is meant to be, don’t sit back in the passenger seat. Take control of your life and do what you can to create the opportunities you need to achieve your goals no matter what they are.