How to Get Out of a Funk

UPDATED: May 10, 2023
PUBLISHED: August 8, 2018

Whether it’s career burnout, general aimlessness or a craving for a new path, most people will hear a call for a positive life change at some point in their lives.

This isn’t about the National Institutes of Health report that 16 million U.S. adults suffer from at least one major depressive episode each year, but rather about a healthy need to jar oneself out of a rut. What to do?

Related: 10 Clever Tricks to Trigger Positive Emotions

The case studies that follow offer excellent anecdotes that work. The key is to focus on the roots of your doldrums, recognize your power to get on the other side, and map out concrete action steps for moving through this phase and on to your greatness. If you find yourself in a rut, try these tactics to move forward.

1. Identify the forces in your life that make you truly happy. Science finds that connection to loved ones, health (exercise specifically), and giving back are all closely connected to happiness. Create goals that include these themes.

2. Focus on change. Write down the steps that you will take to move out of your rut. These might be specific things related to the results you want—for example, signing up for a class that introduces you to new people and experiences—but change can be found everywhere. Take a different route to work. Drink your coffee after breakfast instead of before. If you always tackle the elliptical machine at the gym, take on the treadmill. Buy an outfit that is outside of your comfort zone, or travel to new lands. Tackle a new skill that challenges your self-identity. Think of yourself as an introvert? Sign up for improv classes. Convinced you’re not athletically inclined? Enroll in tennis lessons. Are you a confident loudmouth? Go on a silent retreat.

3. Get a goal buddy. This might mean asking a close friend, perhaps someone who also wants to make life alterations, or telling your entire network about your plans. Fear of public humiliation can be a powerful, positive force for adherence.

4. Be open. You might start this journey with a clear idea of your desired outcomes. But if you do hard internal work and open yourself to the possibilities of positive change, even more amazing evolutions will be revealed. Stay nimble, and say yes.


The key is to focus on the roots of your doldrums, recognize your power to get on the other side, and map out concrete action steps for moving through this phase and on to your greatness.


Anis Qizilbash

44; motivational speaker, founder of Mindful Sales Training and author of the upcoming book, Mindful Selling; London

I was in a yearlong funk after starting my first business. My confidence was at rock bottom. I couldn’t put myself out there, and my business was failing. I climbed out of the funk after hiking with my wife in Wales, where we tackled a steep ridge. I have a longtime fear of heights, so facing and overcoming a physical fear by walking down the ridge filled me with tremendous confidence. This resulted in me closing down the failing business and starting a new business that thrives.

Eric Gorges

47; host of A Craftsman’s Legacy on PBS and Create TV, owner of Voodoo Choppers custom motorcycle shop; Detroit

In my 20s, I started having debilitating panic attacks that began while scuba diving, and within a few months it progressed to agoraphobia. A friend asked me: If money wasn’t an issue, and I could do anything, what would it be? I loved bikes, loved working with my hands and needed a job. I found someone to apprentice with to learn metal shaping and eventually was able to open my own custom motorcycle shop. Metal shaping went from a hobby to a successful business, and working with my hands helped heal me. I still suffer panic attacks occasionally, but reinventing my life to pursue my passion has given me a way to work through them.

Clarence McFerren

36; author, athlete and academic; Memphis, Tennessee

I was in a funk after my former spouse unexpectedly left me by leaving a letter on the kitchen counter with my credit card and keys to the house. During the two-year divorce process that followed, I lost my job, became overly occupied with therapy and psychologist and psychiatrist appointments—all of which had a negative impact on my life, socially, emotionally and financially. To recover, I learned to love myself and live for me first by doing things that I enjoy or always wanted to try, such as writing and publishing a children’s book, kickboxing, competing in bodybuilding competitions, adopting a vegan diet, traveling abroad and removing myself from negative entities. After getting out of that funk, I’ve been able to get back on track building my success, land a new job and spend time with like-minded, business-oriented, creative, healthy individuals who help me to stay grounded.

Related10 Tips to Change Your Life for the Better


This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

Emma Johnson is a business journalist, gender-equality activist, and founder of the world's largest community of single moms, Emma and her best-selling book, The Kickass Single Mom, and her organization, Moms for Shared Parenting, have been featured in hundreds of national and international media outlets.