The first step in learning how to get out of a funk is understanding what a ‘funk’ is.
In short, being in a funk is an interpretation you’re making about your life and your circumstances. It probably goes something like this.
Almost every day, you have that little thought and inkling in the back of your mind that you could-possibly-maybe-eventually change your life. And then, when you don’t take any steps toward doing it that day, you add a little check to your ‘loss’ column.
The more you add to the loss column, the more you create inertia. Doing the wrong thing accrues a harsher penalty, faster, than doing the right thing. Fitness is a great microcosm for this — eating poorly is much more effective for gaining weight than eating healthy is for losing it.
You’ve probably experienced this before — you’ve been eating right and exercising for a while, but a lapse of a week or two seems to set you back disproportionately far. Eventually, inertia sets in when you stop working out for a long enough time. The longer you wait, the harder it gets, so you just quit.
This is what happens in life, too.
At some point in life, you were all bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and idealistic. But now, you’ve gone through the motions so many times you feel paralyzed to change. Being in a funk is a stark reminder of the overall fact that you’ve stalled in life.
You can tolerate life for a while. You don’t feel like you’re in a funk and you’re maintaining. But once in a while, it hits you, so what do you about it?
Sometimes I don’t even believe what I used to be like. That’s why I’m so optimistic for you. I’ve been in the deepest pits of laziness and several points in my life — funk personified.
But I haven’t been in a true rut for the past half-decade or so.
How did I do it?
Those of you who’ve read me religiously know my story, but I changed my life because of the opportunities other people gave me. The first was a manager’s job at a video store, which seemed like a great opportunity compared to working in a crappy factory. The second was a friend asking me to write for his website.
Before those opportunities came my way, I didn’t really see a way out. I felt like my life would get better eventually, somehow, but I didn’t know how.
Life can throw you a life raft sometimes — a seemingly innocuous opportunity, something that inspires you, something that makes you want to change. If you happen to see it, grab it. Start being aware of what those opportunities might be.
Just focus on being aware over trying super hard to motivate yourself right now. Knowing something is wrong in the first place, even though you’re not doing anything about it, is a first step.
The next step is finding one of those things. People are pretty good at this, actually. You see it all the time. They start working out, join this new club, become a pyramid scheme salesperson, join a dance class, start watching YouTube videos about online business and personal development, volunteer, something.
I’ve always worked on self-improvement from the outside in. You’re not just going to magically self-actualize one day, for no reason. Finding something to do and something to aim at that compels you to be more motivated gives you that inner motivation that’s hard to conjure up yourself.
What is an activity you’ve been meaning to try? Could be anything — rock climbing, reading, painting, guitar, Yoga, ToastMasters, traveling, going back to church, doesn’t matter.
The goal is to inevitably change this crucial factor for why you seem to be in a funk.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.Who knows if Einstein said it or not, but most people get in a funk because they do the same shit every single day.” – Albert Einstein
Of course, you’re going to get into a rut or a funk if you’ve been actively building it.
When I started focusing more on my writing and personal development, I stopped doing a lot of ‘normal’ activities – mainly watching a lot of T.V. and drinking every weekend. I noticed those two things specifically tend to have this ‘reset’ effect in people’s minds.
Doing something you hate, tolerate, or maybe kind of like, a little bit, five days a week at a job would be hard to deal with if you didn’t have these novacane-like activities to numb you enough to go back.
So when you stop doing them, you’re forced to confront yourself and your life, mainly the fact that you’re a little boring and lack purpose.
Also, just switching things up, in general, helps you get out of a rut regardless of the activities you’re doing. You don’t have to become some self-improvement robot like me, travel the world, or become some laptop entrepreneur to get yourself out of a rut, just stop watching Netflix five hours a night and go ride your bike, do a puzzle, something.
Too many consecutive days of doing the same thing over and over again, in a row, create ruts. You need a pattern interruption — something that shocks you a little bit out of your routine — to add some freshness to your life.
Also, it helps to understand the consequences of not learning how to get out of a funk — the deep, dire, and even tragic consequences.
I went to a winery with some friends a few months ago. One of my friend’s father in law was there, alone. I don’t know how it came up, but I found out he had been recently divorced after multiple decades of marriage.
I’m just guessing, but I’m sure both partners had been in a funk for quite some time. And who knows whether or not this was the case in his specific situation, but the diagnosis is accurate for someone out there.
Both partners have this low-level malaise, but the marriage is stable, boring and stale, but solid. Until it isn’t.
So, what are the consequences of being in a funk in a scenario like this? One person decides to leave and the other person is totally flat-footed.
This is just one example of how dangerous it is to be stagnant. Lately, I’ve been promoting the concept that complacency, comfort, safety, security, is one of the most dangerous possible positions to be in. People think it’s tolerable yet solid. No, you’re susceptible to fall off a major psychological or physical cliff.
The marriage example is just one of many. You stay moderately out of shape, not obese, you’re in a funk physically, you age, gain a little more weight, and boom — a major health complication comes your way.
You’re in a funk at work and haven’t been keeping up with any level of self-education, but you have a good salary that’s paying for all those liabilities — house, car, loans, credit cards, kids college.
Your industry has slowly become obsolete, but you didn’t notice it. One day, the carpet is ripped from underneath you, laid off, and now no one wants to hire you. The lack of money plus the debt snowballs, throw in a medical scare with no insurance and you’re bankrupt.
Or, in general, you live your life in this malaise, this funk, until you reach a point where you just don’t have any ‘get up’ left.
Intellectually, what you’ve done to yourself and your life has finally become apparent to you, but emotionally and physically, you’re not going to do anything about it and your whole fucking life becomes a permanent funk.
Nobody becomes defeated overnight. It just…sort of…happens.
So, just know, if you find yourself in a funk, especially a long-term one, you’re in a bad spot and you need to fix it.
Jolting yourself out of complacency with something like a hobby is cute, but it’s just a bandaid solution. A purpose-driven life where you’re always working on something that truly matters to you keeps you from falling back into these funks.
And how do you get there?
Look, there’s a series of steps that I’ve talked about at length. I wrote a whole book about it, perhaps you could start there.
But really, it comes down to this. You have to make it click in your mind that wasting your life is stupid. And then you have to keep feeding your inspiration well and understand you’re way better than this. Way better.
It seems like a dream. I don’t even know how I’ve done all of this. But I’ll tell you what I felt deeply when I was at my worst moments in life. I just thought to myself “This can’t be it. Can’t be. Not me. How? No.”
And I felt what you feel — this giant task ahead of you that seems improbable. But it’s not improbable at all. Actually, it’s reasonable and easy to do so long as you start and never quit. Super motivational, I know.
But that’s the truth. All the tools are there. You know how to do so many cool things or have the ability to learn how to do them. You have unique aspects of your personality and skillset the world wants and needs.
You’re powerful. Understanding that however you have to get there, will help you get out of your funk.
I mean what I say. If you know me, you know I’m not your happy go lucky sunshine and roses self-help guru.
I’m saying you’re powerful because I myself have first been weak and transformed into something my past self couldn’t imagine. You can’t see it right now, so don’t even try to see it.
Just start, see what happens, and keep doing it.
Do it long enough and you’ll see.