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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

What to Do When You're in a Serious Rut

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Rut: a fixed or established mode of procedure or course of life, usually dull or unpromising.

Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

It would be a different story if that “fixed or established mode” was whiling away at a luxury beach-front house on a South Seas island, while nubile young things pandered to your every whim and a Michelin-starred chef fed you truffles by hand.

But it’s not that. At all.

What it is, is commonplace. Everyone gets into a rut from time to time (no matter how much we might pretend that we’re not), and if you don’t do anything to escape one, life can quickly shrink down to nothing.

So, let’s see how we can get you out of that rut, shall we?

Switch Up Your Routine

You probably have your route to work all set; an efficient route you don’t have to think about that gets you where you need to go with minimal thought and fuss.

This week, try mixing it up. Take a different road. Go to a different bus stop. Walk along different streets. Instead of writing off this part of your day, look at it as an exciting or interesting journey, and be sure to notice what’s around you on your travels.

Truthfully, it’s through patterns, routines, and habits that life can lose its sparkle—so changing your route to and from work can be a literal first step to getting out of a rut and doing things a little differently.

Do Something That Lifts You Up

It happens by increment. Bit by bit. Inch by inch. Things settle. Your sight gets lowered onto the detail of what’s right in front of your nose rather than what could be.

When you’re deep in a rut, you first of all have to look upward to see that there is an “out.” So, spend a moment today thinking about what’s out there that might be more fun than you’ve known in a while. What is there that could excite you? What is there that could lift you?

Try that evening cookery class. Take a friend to the coast for a couple of days. Pick up a paintbrush or put pen to paper and play around with some creative expression. No matter what you choose, add wonder, exploration, or the unpredictable into your schedule. Go where the promise is.

Be Selfish in the Right Ways

We’ve all been there. Those times when you’re running on empty, feeling like you’ve got nothing left and like you just want a damn vacation already—those are the times when you’ve spent your energy and are slipping face-first into that rut.

This is why, even if you’re really, really busy, you need to be selfish and prioritize yourself. I call it nourishment—making sure you’re nourishing your head, heart, and body by feeding yourself with the things that allow you to live a rich life. There’s no way you can climb out of a rut if you don’t.

What makes you feel like you again? What makes you smile from the inside out? What soothes you? What energizes you? What makes your mind spark? What makes your body glow? This could be anything, big or small. Listen to a favorite song, give your partner a hug, become a regular at that yoga class, learn a language, get an extra hour of sleep, start a reading habit, practice meditation, take a long walk—anything.

There’s no downside to nourishment, and as it fuels every endeavour in your life, it’s chief among your responsibilities as a human being.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

A rut’s formed by treading the same old ground, again and again and again, and once you’re in one, it can feel as comfortable as a giant marshmallow bed with buttercream pillows.

The comfort and safety in clinging to something familiar is compelling indeed, but if you’ve outgrown something, or if the thing you’re keeping close no longer gives you anything other than the familiar, perhaps it’s time to let something go.

Maybe you’ve been in the same role or same company for too long. Maybe there’s a friendship that’s gone stale. Maybe the town you’re in, while familiar, is just too small for you now.

To feel free again, what do you need to let go of?

Finally, remember that when you’re in a rut, keeping on doing what you’ve been doing only digs those grooves deeper. So perhaps the most important thing you need to recognize is that staying still, treading water, or “waiting to see what happens” isn’t going to work.

When you get right down to it, it comes down to this: Do something.

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