Are you in a rut? Are you afraid you may be stuck, but aren’t sure? Stuck in a rut isn’t a good place to be, especially since it takes work to get out.
I heard once that the only difference between a rut and a grave is depth. That stuck with me, mostly because I think it’s true. Any time I feel like I’m in a rut, I work to get out of it, because I don’t want to get so comfortable there it turns into a grave without me realizing it.
How do you know if you’re in a rut?
If you’re asking yourself if you’re in a rut, you probably are. When you start questioning your life, it’s because something doesn’t seem to be working or feeling right. The area of your life your question focuses on is where the issue is: you already know-maybe not consciously, but you know. So if the question you ask is about being stuck, you’re stuck.
When you do the same thing(s) over and over, day after day, without thinking about it, you’re in a rut. A rut is created by moving on the same path over and over, and it only gets deeper with each repetition.
Being bored in general, or restless for longer than a day or so means you’ve got a rut to call home. Wandering around the house aimlessly, turning on the TV only to turn it off because nothing interests you, opening a book then closing it, or flipping through magazine after magazine without actually reading anything are signs that you’re in a rut.
If you think about doing something, but can’t generate the energy to do it, or can’t think of what to do, it means…yep, it’s a rut.
What can you do to get out of a rut?
The best way to get out of a rut is to do something different. The different you do can take many forms:
Break a routine. If you always watch Fringe on Friday, watch a different show, or no TV at all. If you always have pizza on Saturday night, eat something else.
Act different. If you’re the quiet one in meetings or at get-togethers, speak up; if you’re the talker, keep quiet. Force yourself to do it if you have to.
Wear something unusual-for you. If you normally dress in pastels, wear something bright, or vice versa.
Learn something. Gaining new knowledge is a great way to get out of a rut. Even something as simple as a joke can help, though something more substantial will work better. Research something on the Internet or go to the library and get a book on a subject you nothing very little or nothing about.
Go somewhere. Get out of the house and go to a park, a museum, a tourist attraction. Get away from the place you normally spend your time, and open your eyes when you’re there. You need more stimulation than just going to a park and sitting on a bench.
Buy something you wouldn’t normally buy. Whether it be an inexpensive tchotchke, a heavily-patterned scarf, or movie in a different genre, step out of your comfort zone and buy something that’s not traditionally “you.” You might be surprised to find that what you’re attracted to on this mission is you, after all.
Obviously, it’s best not to get stuck in the first place, but it happens. And once it has, the best way to get out of a rut is to, literally, get out of it. The sooner the better, before it gets so deep it’s a grave.
If you feel like you need help identifying or getting out of a rut, here are two good books:
The Comfort Trap, or, What If You’re Riding a Dead Horse, by Judith Sills, Ph.D., 2004, Penguin
If the Buddha got Stuck, by Charlotte Kasl, Ph.D., 2005, Penguin