The next time you notice yourself stuck in a rut — or any time you feel like you’re not experiencing sustained momentum towards your goals — ask yourself three important questions:

1) Am I certain this is what I want?
2) Am I expecting to get it?
3) Am I open to receiving it in new and unexpected ways?

I was reminded of these questions at a lecture I attended recently by Dr. Larkin of the Applied Neuroscience Institute. His talk was a reminder that, when you listen to and act on your inner answers to these questions, you can snap right out of a rut and get back on the road. Here’s why these questions are more powerful than you might think:

1) Am I certain this is what I want?

This is a big one. Do you really want this thing? If so, why? Oftentimes we find ourselves pursuing things because we think we have to, not because we really want to. You can’t fight against yourself, so stop trying. It just won’t work.

The hard part can be discerning what it is you truly want – and often feeling trapped by circumstances, or the belief that can’t have what you truly want. Neither of these is true. You know in your heart what it is you truly want (versus what your family, friends, the “experts,” or the media tell you to want). Ultimately, it’s a question of how clear you are on your true desire and how committed you are to making it happen. The key here is getting in touch with your higher-order goal.

Let me explain. For the past several weeks I’ve had a goal to do a dozen pre-recorded webinars. It’s been one frustrating circle jerk of incompletions.

First I wrote the scripts. Partially. Then I changed gears and started designing the power points. Again, only in part. Then I decided to hire a videographer to help me. Then I realized I wasn’t clear on my overall strategy so I canceled the shoot date (sorry for being such a futz, Jason Argyropoulos). Then I went down a rabbit’s hole designing a self-service SAAS model for the webinars to feed into. Incomplete. Let me tell you, being me for the past few weeks was exhausting. Start. Stop. Turn around. Confusion. Sigh. Rut.

I’ve been in this pattern enough times in my life to know what I needed to do. “OK, Lex, if I knew that I was supported perfectly, what is it that I truly would want?” My answer was: “I’d want three in-bound inquiries per week from people I’m excited to help.”

Now I don’t know if I can capture the difference adequately but the feeling I get between the low-order goal of “I want a dozen pre-recorded webinars” and the higher-order goal of “I want three in-bound inquires per week from people I’m excited to help” feels like the difference between being held captive in a Turkish prison or streaking naked through a field of mountain flowers in Switzerland with Helga.

Notice that I don’t yet know how I can create the goal. Just notice that I feel much lighter, more confident, and capable when I tap into what I truly want, versus being stuck in what I think I have to do. Great work comes when your natural genius, creativity, and desire come together – and you are much more capable to spot and act on the right opportunities when you’re feeling open and positive.

2) Am I expecting to get it?

Expectation is incredibly powerful. When you desire something you don’t expect, that’s called “wishful thinking.” However, the reason you’re not expecting to get what you desire may surprise you. It’s because you’re not playing to your strengths!

In Organizational Physics, we call your strengths “Your Genius ZoneTM” — which is a fusion of your strengths or natural talents with your life purpose that provides a sense of meaning and direction. When you’re operating within Your Genius Zone, you are highly confident, capable, and purposeful – and you produce outstanding work. When you’re operating in this zone most of the time, how can you not expect to achieve what you want?

Not surprisingly, when you get outside this zone and stop playing to your strengths, you feel less confident (even incompetent), you lose your sense of inner purpose and direction, and the work isn’t that great. Of course you don’t expect to be successful!

What I realized about my own rut was that creating webinars is outside my Genius Zone. I’m competent at it but definitely not a genius. More importantly, I don’t enjoy doing marketing. On top of that, my internal story at the time was: “I’m going to put all this effort into making these webinars and no one will watch them anyway so why even bother?”

So I was both operating outside my own Genius Zone and desiring to achieve something without expecting a positive outcome. I can contrast that with my new higher-order goal – to get three inbound calls each week from people I’m excited to work with – which I have total confidence in achieving. Why? Because I can operate within my Genius Zone to make that happen and so I have a high level of expectation that I’ll be successful. It’s a done deal.

3) Am I open to receiving it in new and unexpected ways?

When you’re stuck in a rut, your ego is your worst enemy. This is because your ego wants things delivered in a certain way, at a certain time. If you let it, your ego will say “no” to a multitude of opportunities and resources that could catapult you out of your rut just because they don’t look like the ego thinks they should.

The secret here is to learn to say “yes” to what shows up, even if it’s not showing up how the ego tells you it should. Put another way, there are infinite ways for your desire to be made real. When you allow yourself to be open to those possibilities, rather than the tight and narrow confines of the ego, you increase your probability of success.

In my own example, when I was able to drop the need for new clients to show up via webinar, I started to get excited again about my work. I started to get back into my Genius Zone and trust that the right next steps would emerge because I’m playing to my strengths and saying “yes” to those people and opportunities that present themselves. I’m writing this blog post as a reminder to myself (and to you) that when you’re ready to make a change, and you’re open to how it shows up, the right resources arrive in serendipitous ways.

How You Can Tell If You’ve Escaped a Rut

Time will tell if you’ve escaped a rut permanently, but the key thing to pay attention to immediately is whether, as a result of going through these questions, you experience a change in your own mind-set.

Your mind-set precedes every action you take. Without a change in your perspective, you’ll keep getting stuck in that same rut. But with a change, you can take new actions, which in turn will create new results.

You can tell if you’ve enabled a change in your perspective by how you’re thinking and feeling after earnestly answering those questions. How do you feel? More peace, confidence, and power – or less? Are you able to see the big picture or are you stuck down in the details? Positive shifts create positive results. No shift creates no new results.

If you haven’t been able to shift your perspective after sincerely going through these questions, then I highly recommend you work with a coach, or even better, work with a coach to go through these questions together. We all need support and perspective on the path of life, especially when we’re trying to create a positive shift. So get support from someone you trust and be free of that old rut forever.