How To Shake Yourself Out Of The Status Quo

Bigstock Images

Bigstock Images

Last week was going to be different. Maybe you made the decision to start exercising, or to more effectively plan your day. You really wanted things to be different. You're tired of the constant pressure of trying to get everything done or feeling like there's something more important you should be doing with your time. Your new activities lasted about a week... and then you slipped quietly back into old habits and old ways of thinking.

While I wish I could say I was immune to such experiences, I can't. There are times when I recognize the need for change in my work or life, can clearly articulate the benefits of it, and even identify some potential actions I should take. The comfort of the status quo is just too alluring.

If you're ready to finally make some real progress on improving some aspect of your work or life, here are some of the strategies that work for me (most of the time):

Read Seth Godin's Blog, Are You Certain That You're Trapped?
It's only four sentences, but it has that kind of "in my face" honesty that I need when I keep making excuses about not having any options to improve my situation.

Ask Yourself A Question
My coaching work continually affirms the power of asking the right question to bring clarity or a fresh perspective when I'm stuck in a rut. Some of my favorite ones include:

  • What are you doing that's hindering you from where you want to go? Shared with me by my friend Chris Longstreet, this question reminds me that not making a change limits my ability to have the future I most want. As someone who doesn't want to look back on their life with regret, this question really rattles me.
  • What value are you not honoring by remaining where you are? From the time I took my first time management course in 1988, I've always been a big believer in aligning my daily activities with my governing values. If I've allowed my choices to get out of sync with them, I need to change. For more related to this idea, read my blog, Are You Losing YOU In The Struggle Of Too Much To Do?
  • What are you willing to fail at... so you can succeed at something more important? This question helps me drop some of the "nice but unnecessary" activities in my life to create space for the more strategic and/or relationship-building routines or events.
What are you doing-Chris Longstreet.jpg

Make a Engage/React Chart
I find that one of the reasons I get stuck in the status quo is that I am reacting compulsively too often in my day instead of engaging consciously. When I need to give myself a mental "wake up" slap, I use a note card at my desk and keep score of when I engage or react to various situations throughout the day. If the "react" column wins or is even close to winning, it reminds me that I need to make some changes.

Use Daily Questions
As John Maxwell so powerfully said, "You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of success is found in your daily routine." I find that holding myself accountable by asking a series of questions about how I invested my time each day helps me make those small consistent changes. To see some of the questions I asked myself earlier this year, click here.

Take An Intermission
I'm as guilty as anyone about getting so wrapped up in the urgencies of my work and life that I rationalize I can't stop long enough to look at the bigger picture. When I finally drag myself away and embrace those moments of sacred idleness, it's amazing how the motivation to change improves exponentially. I find myself saying, "I want to feel like this more often!"

And if all those strategies still don't have me working or living differently, I can usually benefit from rereading the quote by the icon of motivational speaking, Zig Ziglar: "The basic goal-reaching principle to understand is that you go as far as you can see, and when you get there you will always be able to see farther."

How do you shake yourself out of the status quo? Share your comments below or email me at I'm always looking for a fresh idea.