rock bottom, the only way is up, climbing out of the hole, pulling yourself out of a rut, getting out a rut

From rock bottom: the only way is up!

For some people, speaking of “rock bottom” refers to alcoholism or addiction. Yet, for others, it will be the emotional place of grief and suffering caused by losing a loved one or going through a divorce. There are others that will consider rock bottom to have been a financial crisis that they suffered.

What most of them will agree upon, however, is that rock bottom is that place where you finally say “Something has to change, because I just can’t keep living this way.”

More often than not, when we find ourselves at rock bottom, we finally have to admit that we just don’t know HOW.

“When I’m at the bottom looking up, the main question may not be ‘how do I get out of this hole?’ In reality, the main question might be ‘how do I get rid of the shovel that I used to dig it?”

― Craig D. Lounsbrough

What is your shovel?

Each of us has a shovel that we used to dig the hole. That shovel is often our “survival behaviour”. It might even be a defence mechanism you developed in life to avoid pain.

Our worst habits are usually behavioural choices that in the past served us well and effectively. We’ve adapted and survived by avoiding pain. Now, unfortunately, they are the shovel we’re using to dig the hole!

For many business owners, it’s probably the very same self-reliance and working harder that has brought you success in the past. My experience as a business owner was that it was lonely at the top, with few people that I trusted or could turn to for advice. Unfortunately, for some businesses, that means that when things go wrong, they tend to work longer hours, rather than asking for help and advice.

What is your shovel?

Wishing and wanting the situation to get better won’t make it so. When was the last time you examined your beliefs and fears?

Why are you grasping the shovel so tightly?

I can relate to the shovel being the reason for my success in the past. It takes a lot to pry it from my hands when it was the reason for my success. For example, being completely independent and self-sufficient allowed me to go far in life. I’ve travelled internationally and never had a fear of the stage. However, it also meant that when I got into trouble, I didn’t know how to reach out and ask for help. My success had come because I was independent and self-sufficient, not because I had built a network of support.

Another shovel that you might hold onto tightly is your fear. Your fear serves to protect you. Most of the time it does a great job of doing so. Nonetheless, ongoing fear and anxiety can distort your perception and responses. This same fear that is meant to protect then overemphasizes threats, until you get stuck.

As a child, you might have learnt that you should not be seen or heard. Children that were seen or stood out could have been punished or singled out for ridicule. The children that did well were those that kept quiet and stood in the shadows. Unfortunately, these skills are not necessarily useful in our careers, when we need to be seen by those above us in order to advance. What is the shovel in your hand that you are grasping tightly to?

What do you need to release in order to climb the ladder of success?

Pride comes before a fall

We all know that in many respects ego and pride are responsible for our fall: pride stops us from acknowledging we are wrong. Ego says we can do it alone, so we don’t ask for help.

My experience has been that it is my stubborn pride that says “I’ll do it my way, over and over again, getting the same results and knowing it’s not working. But I will not ask for help!” Being dead set on “I did it my way” has taken me straight to the bottom of the cliff.

Unfortunately, the dastardly trio of pride, vanity & ego stops you from seeing reality, taking good advice, or growing and adapting to change.

The first casualty of hitting rock bottom is vanity.     

Richard Paul Evans

If you’re lucky, your pride and ego shatter when you hit the bottom. Or at least bend enough for you to learn to be humble.

For better or worse, humility is a great teacher.

Humility allows you to admit there’s a problem. When you push aside your ego, you can ask for help and support, as well as move forward in a new direction. Being humble means you can admit what is not working.

I’m not getting the results I expected and need to learn how to do things differently.”

“Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying.”

― St. Vincent de Paul

They say that the truth will set up free: and from rock bottom, the truth allows us to start to rise up.

from rock bottom the only way is up

Climbing up and out

In some cases, we have to build the steps that allow us to get up from rock bottom.

Learn from what went wrong

Be humble enough to see your role and actions in what went wrong. There could be a lot of circumstances, situation and others that are involved in getting you to rock bottom. But open your eyes to understanding the decisions you participated in that lead to where you are.

Perhaps there are relationships that were built with unhealthy boundaries. While the other person overstepped and abused, recognise the part in the relationship you might have taken a different role.

Don’t allow yourself to get caught in the role of victim and helplessness. Own your control and creative process.

Accept what was and what is

It’s no good wishing things were different. You have to start where you are, not where you wish you were!

The first step is accepting where you are.

Recognise the stories you are telling yourself

We all tell ourselves stories. We make up excuses for our behaviour and our bad decisions.

Put a stop to the stories and start to look at the facts. Consider the results of the decisions you have made and recognise how owning your role in the decision-making process could change outcomes.

What do you control?

I get it – there’s a long list of factors that are beyond your control. By all means, sit down and write up that list of all the things you have no control over. Throw it in the trash, because there’s nothing you can do with that list.

Now, sit down and put some thought and effort into a list of all the things that are within your control. This is the only list that matters. Focus all your attention and energy on these things, and stop wasting your energy worrying about all the things the “might happen”.

Build for the future, not the past

Rock bottom might be your past and present, but it doesn’t have to be your future.

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

― J.K. Rowling

How will you learn to make new decisions that build a solid foundation for your future?

Building to help others

You aren’t the only one to hit rock bottom. Many will come after you and they have so much to learn from your story and experience.

Every life can teach and everyone can grow.


As you make your way up from rock bottom, consider the ways that you can use this experience to inspire others on their journey.

  • What are the lessons you have to share?
  • Where did you find gems that others could benefit from hearing of?

Remember that life is simply too short to learn only from our own mistakes. It is so much richer if we share with each other our experiences and help each other up.

“I think this is what we all want to hear: that we are not alone in hitting the bottom and that it is possible to come out of that place courageous, beautiful, and strong.”

― Anna White

If you’ve hit rock bottom, you know that the only way is up. But on your way up, help someone else as well.

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