Stuck in a Rut

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Stuck in a Rut

Black Belt Leadership
Stuck in a Rut
John L. Terry, III - The Black Belt Leader

Growing up in rural Arkansas, 4-wheeling (or "Mudding" as we called it) was a right of passage. I remember climbing my friend's Jeep or on one of my dad's 4-wheelers and going off-road. It was ALWAYS better after a hard rain, and slipping and sliding up and down trails (or making our own trails) was loads of fun, until you got stuck.

I remember one evening four of us were in my friend's Jeep when we lost control going down an embankment. One of the front tires found its way into a rut, bouncing the Jeep to the left. As a result, we ended up getting a solitary pine tree caught between the front bumper and the frame of the Jeep. It was a time before cell phones, and it was cold, dark, and wet.

The tree was only about 4" thick, but thick enough it held us in place. After rocking back and forth to no avail, and only sinking the Jeep deeper into the muddy ground, one of the guys had the idea to bend the tree over. Being the smallest of the crew, I was hoisted up into the tree to get the tree leaning. After a couple of failed attempts, we were finally able to bow the tree over far enough, and with the help of a couple of large rocks under the front tire to lift the Jeep up and over, we freed ourselves from a true to life "log jam".

We ALL get stuck in a rut. And most of us are stuck right now. Maybe it's a level of income or success you've achieved but can't go any higher. Maybe it's a job you're in and you can't get a promotion. Maybe it's an idea or a business venture you want to pursue, but you can't quite figure out how to do it.

We all get stuck in a rut. The question is how do we get out?

It starts with a thought.

Every decision we make, every action we take, every emotion we feel, and every outcome we experience...each begins as a thought. The car you drive, the house you live in, the clothes you wear, even the device you're using to read this blog all started with a thought. Nothing exists in this world that did not begin as a thought.

The problem is that most of us put a limit on our thinking. That limit places a lid on our ability to advance beyond a certain point. I was recently speaking to a group of sales professionals in Nashville TN about how they grow their business. As I opened my session, I asked how many of them were making essentially the same level of income year after year. Most raised their hands.

They were stuck, unable to move forward.

As the session continued, I asked how many of these sales professionals were engaging in personal growth and development, and only one out of over twenty in the room raised their hand. I began to talk about how we limit our potential by the lid we place on our ability. I reminded them that we all get stuck in a rut, a habitual way of thinking, that limits our opportunity to grow and improve the level of success in our lives.

Author James Allen's book "As a Man Thinketh" puts it simply, "As you think, you become." Whatever doubts or limits you place on your thinking manifest themselves in the choices you make and the consequences you live out in your daily life. Limited thinking will reveal itself in limited opportunity and limited success. As you think, you are!

To put it another way, your life will never outperform the level of thinking you put into it.

If you're making $100,000 a year, and you believe that's all you're worth, you'll never earn more than $100,000. If you believe you're never destined to own a nice home, live in a nice neighborhood, travel globally, climb Mt. Everest, run a Marathon, or achieve real success, it will never happen for you. If you can't see yourself becoming a millionaire, it will never happen for you. Until you visualize it, you can't achieve it.

As you think, you become.

I recently wrote a blog looking at the life of Kobe Bryant from a Leader's Perspective. Kobe had one of the most intentional work ethics of anyone in professional basketball. It's what made him an elite among the elite. He refused to believe the impossible was possible, and with that level of thinking, took his practice to an entirely different level that truly made him a world-class athlete. Kobe "knew" that he could make the clutch basketball shot because he was confident in his ability, having planned, trained and drilled himself to pull off the impossible, last-minute win-the-game shot over 1,000 times in practice.

So what about you? What level of limited thinking has capped your potential? Where have you intentionally stuck yourself in the mud, limiting your ability to move forward and see success? As one of my old mentors, Charles Capps, used to say, "Your faith (opportunity) ends where your but (doubt) begins." Limited thinking bogs you down. It keeps you stuck in the status quo.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to spend time with a concert pianist. As we talked about his career I asked him how he became a world-class pianist. He told me that at an early age, he saw (visualized) himself on stage, playing before a packed auditorium of thousands. He heard (visualized) himself playing the compositions of the great composers like Motzart. Brahams, and Bach. It was that visualization that provided the passion and the drive to "do the work" to bring his vision into reality.

As he thought, he became.

Every belief, action, and emotion begins with a thought. Limited thinking (aka doubt) puts a lid on your ability to truly become all that you were capable of believing, doing, and becoming. Sir Edmund Hillary first visualized himself standing on the summit of Mt. Everest before he ever summited to the top of the world. Before anything can come to pass, it must first be visualized in your mind as a thought.

Whatever limits you place on your thinking manifest themselves in the choices you make and the consequences you live out in your daily life.
So if you find yourself stuck in a rut (and at times we all do), what do you do? Bring a higher level of thinking to the situation you're facing to achieve a better outcome. Until you can see something different, things will always look the same. The answers to our questions and the opportunities that lead to our success are already before you. It's only when you upscale the level of your thinking that these are revealed.

Improving your thinking only comes through training yourself to think differently. Just like you can't hit the gym one time and expect to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, you can't expect your thinking to improve overnight. That's why personal growth and development has to become a lifestyle habit. Reading thought leaders, listening to podcasts, hiring a mentor or coach, attending conferences...these are the intentional things you must do to expand your thinking, your opportunity, and your success.

To expand your opportunities, you've got to expand your thinking. Whatever limits you place on your thinking, you place on your ability. Your beliefs (thoughts) shape your choices. Your choices determine your actions, and the consequences of your life.

As you think, you become.

What are you thinking?


2X martial arts Hall of Fame inductee, John Terry (The Black Belt Leader) is passionate about helping others become Black Belt Leaders in Life. He is a motivational speaker, leadership, sales & communication coach and trainer.   

Jessie Terry, John's daughter, is a Certified Speaker, Coach, and Trainer with the John Maxwell Team and is actively involved in the JMT Global Youth Initiative. She is also a Real-Life Management trained coach and a certified Women-Safe Self-Defense Instructor.

For more information, schedule John (or Jessie) to speak to your organization or to book a personal, group or corporate coaching session, visit our website at:  

If you are a faith-based organization, learn more about John and Jessie's outreach to churches, para-church organizations or faith-based volunteer groups by visiting

John is an Executive Director with the John Maxwell Team and is passionate about helping others pursue excellence as they become "Leaders in Life". He is also a Master Coach & Trainer with Real Life Management, a human behavioral training organization helping people learn how to live "Real Life" and make better choices when it comes to relationships, money, health, and wellness. John is also a certified DISC Human Behavior Consultant.

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