In a rut? Break out in 3 steps

Life Lessons

In a rut? Break out in 3 steps

Ruts suck. They zap our energy and convince us we’re stuck. But loops of lameness need not be eternal.

If your days scream “been there, done that,” hit refresh with these steps:

1. Be okay with bored.
A rut is just a routine that’s no longer appreciated — it’s not unequivocally awful. At one time, your rut served you well. Why? Because there’s comfort in consistency. Yet more evidence: Traditions are routines we create to embrace things important to us.

So be lazy — and be okay with it. No one is pumped 100% of the time, so it’s useless, if not detrimental, to bully yourself into feeling you should be. Accept “what is” for several days. After that, you’ll probably be tired of wallowing in your funk.

2. Shake things up.
At this point, you’ll likely be inclined toward change, even if you’re not motivated to make it.

To help, do several small, novel and fun things. They can be completely unrelated to the pattern you want to end. Cook a recipe you’ve never tried, break out a board game you haven’t seen in ages, walk through a neighborhood you’ve never set foot in. Doing something new stimulates your neural networks and boosts creativity, which can coax you out of your rut.

If you’re up for it and able, do something major: Upheave your life for a week to stay with a friend or family member who needs a hand. Or hop in your car for a trip to that cute town a few hours away you’ve never visited. These experiences will shift your perspective, allowing you to see your ho-hum circumstances in a new light. You might find an “aha” moment, and it could be the nudge you need to shift things around. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, it might rekindle your gratitude for your routine (aka your so-called rut).

3. Ditch your goals.
This step will be controversial. Goal-setting can be great, but not always. Often, it’s better to have an intention instead. Here’s what I mean: A goal is something like Earn $100,000 a year. An intention is something like Earn a living that allows me to live the life I want. The goal has a single outcome, without any consideration for what it takes to achieve it. The intention encourages you to explore options and offers flexibility.

Goals matter if you’re in a rut because they might be what put you there. Here’s why:

● You have one thing you want to do or be, and to achieve it, you’ve got mono-vision. That means you’re not paying attention to distractions, many of which could be interesting (terrific for ripping you from your rut) or lead you down a different path (punting your rut altogether).

● If all you’re focused on is a goal — the end result — you’re less likely to enjoy the process, which will last a lot longer than hitting your goal.

● Goals are usually tied to dates. In turn, we often feel inadequate if we don’t meet them by deadlines. What’s more, unexpected things happen en route to goals, so it’s hard to know if we can actually achieve something by a certain date.

These steps can help any time you’re mired in malaise. But if you’re also not a fan of New Year resolutions, let the exercise lead you toward a gratifying 2020. (Note: If step 1 lasts for weeks, or steps 2 or 3 feel impossible or overwhelming, it could be a sign of depression, in which case consulting a professional therapist might be in order.)

Mitra Malek writes and edits content related to wellness, including for Yoga Journal, where she is a contributing editor. Connect at

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