If you're in a rut, do something!

16 Jun 2016

If you’re in a rut, you’re in a coffin with no ends! Do something!

Does this sound familiar: “I was driving home from work after a long day. I pulled out of the car park and then before I knew it, I was turning onto my street. I can’t remember anything about the journey.” Lots of people have said this to me and it’s happened to me loads of times I must admit.

Routine makes time appear to go faster. As we repeat actions over a period of time, the freshness and awareness of our commute to and from work becomes second nature and we go through the same actions as the day/week/month. We don’t register the details of the journey as there is nothing new about it; nothing for us to learn or experience, so the time slips by without us registering it fully. The occasion becomes ‘lost’ in our memories.

When were young, everything was new; we soaked up details in our adventures and learnt from them. As we grow older and settle into a routine with our work life balance, the new and fresh experiences become less. If we’re not careful we can find ourselves in a rut; we don’t register the details of everyday life, so it slips by without us registering it fully.

Routine makes life easier, so, as the path of least resistance we often drift into routines that soon become ruts - I once heard a rut described as a coffin with no ends!.  We then begin to notice how deep the rut has become; we notice every detail of the hole we’ve made for ourselves; we feel every miserable emotion and blame everyone and everything for us being in it. In this state, time slows down, drags as we experience the ‘newness’ of being in a new place – albeit a depressing one.

Actions:  If you find yourself in a rut, get out of it! 

Sounds simple but I know it isn’t easy to do. Here are some steps to help you:

Action 1: Take time out to recognise that you are either heading towards, or are in rut. I don’t mean a quick check in with yourself; I mean a meaningful talk with yourself (or someone you respect). 

  • Take yourself somewhere with no distractions. Go for a walk! The outdoor space is known to have beneficial effects on physical and mental health. It doesn’t have to be as isolated as in the picture; it can even be a place in your head.
  • Have a good talk to yourself & listen to what you say.  Take a notebook with you so you can write thoughts down.  iPads etc. are a ‘no, no’ at this stage as they will be a distraction.  Take, or arrange for something to eat – you may be there a while!
  • When you have discovered exactly where you are, congratulate yourself – you’ve worked well.
  •  Ask yourself if you want to stay where you are. This may sound a bit odd if you find yourself in a rut, but you’d be surprised at how many people recognised they have a problem, but don’t want to put the effort into solving it.

Action 2: If you’re prepared to make the effort, make a plan to get out of the rut. For those of us who don’t like making plans I suggest you re-think. It may be that just letting things happen to you is what got you in the rut in the first place. If you don’t have a plan for your life, there are plenty of people who will have one for you, so take control of your life.

  • Write down where you would like to be.
  • Look for ways to get you there – a list may help.
  • Choose the most appealing way that you want to take. It has to be appealing to you or you will give up and fall back into the rut.
  • Choosing is the easy bit; it’s the doing bit that’s difficult. If you’re doing this under your own steam & not consulting a coach to help you through it you’ll need to adopt the IDWIT approach (I’ll Do Anything It Takes).
  • If you do what you usually do, then you’ll get what you’ve already had. To get out of the rut, you’re going to have to do something different and make changes. People are resistant to change, so recognise this and focus on what it will feel like out of the rut, rather than at the bottom of it.

Action 3: Getting out of a rut is not easy so reach out for as much support as you can.  Asking for help is not a weakness, but an acknowledgment that you are only human and have limitations.

  • Tell those around you what you are doing. Spend more time with those who support you; less time with those who think you’ll never make it out.
  • Use your strengths, not your weaknesses to get you where you want to be
  • Celebrate or reward yourself for every positive step made. No need to throw a party every time, but at the very least give yourself a pat on the back!