It happens to just about everybody at some point; the dreaded rut. You seem to be mired in doing the same thing over and over, or you can’t find a way to make any progress on a project or even possibly your career. Sometimes it’s even as little as having to take the same route to and from work twice a day and it just seems you don’t even appreciate what’s around you anymore because you simply know it too well.
Finding yourself in a rut about the route you take to work can be something that is relatively easily overcome. You drive a different way, you walk to another bus stop and take a different bus, or you get off the train and walk a few blocks in a different direction and then head to your workplace. However, what if the rut you find yourself in is a loss in enthusiasm for even going to work in the first place?
Over time, many things we do seem to lose their lustre, and we settle in for routine. Some people thrive on routine and order of course. These people like knowing what their day will look like while they are brushing their teeth at home. They take strength from knowing who they will chat with because it’s the same group of staff, and they know exactly what they have to accomplish. For others, this predictability is nothing short of a mundane trap of ritual behaviour. Inside those people, there’s a conflict raging between keeping a job and doing the status quo, and breaking free to look for new challenges and stimulation.
So first of all, what makes you happiest? You might be constrained by having responsibilities including a partner, a mortgage, a loan, people to support etc. but, what would you be happiest doing on a daily basis if your income was assured? If the answer to that question is ANYTHING different from what you are currently doing, well, you’ve identified your source of turmoil and inner conflict. It may be that by staying put and playing it safe, you even grow to resent not only the job, but the responsibilities that keep you from pursuing your interests. Yes that could mean growing to resent your partner, your house, and whatever seems to trap you in your current work.
To get out of a rut, you’ve got to first realize you are in one. Identifying what it is that you are feeling this way about is crucial, otherwise you can’t move forward by addressing it. Now it may not be that you need an entire career or job change at all. It could simply be that when you started your current job, it was exciting because you had so much to learn. That buzz you got from learning is what is missing now, and maybe it’s some further training that is needed. If that’s the case, look into what training would fit with where you want to head with your career within or beyond your current position in a company. You might be lucky enough to have an employer that will even help you financially or with time to take the training you want.
If the source of your unhappiness or lack of fulfillment is something else, such as loving your job but not being able to move forward with a project, then perhaps what’s needed is some brainstorming. Limit yourself to what makes sense and you aren’t really brainstorming. Get all ideas on the table from the predictable all the way to the goofiest idea. Sometimes releasing the boundaries of what might work creates an atmosphere in which alternative solutions come out that otherwise would be suppressed. If this stimulates new ideas and moves the project along, you might find yourself looking back at the rut instead of still being trapped by it.
Apply this same kind of thinking to other ruts you may find yourself in. Don’t like your office set-up? Okay then imagine the funiture in a different configuration. Changing the direction of your view from the desk might be what it takes. Would a transfer to a different team in the office change the dynamics of your relationships and productivity? Would that be positive for you?
And if it turns out that your career, once so energized and budding is now fading and stale, consider the choice you always have to do something else. You may argue that all those responsibilities keep you from doing something else but that’s just passing the buck and nothing but an excuse. Find something to really kickstart your enthusiasm again. If something inside is screaming for change, it might be well time to explore what it is that’s urging you to pay attention. Maybe it’s drastic like re-inventing yourself.
Think of a car driving literally in a rut. It’s a muddy track that is sunk lower than the rest of the road and you’re driving in it. You only have two choices; drive in the rut until you eventually emerge, or turn the wheel and rise out of the rut. When you turn the wheel you get out of the rut much quicker than continually driving in the rut where you may actually get stuck and become immobile.
Best of luck to you today who read this if you find yourself in a rut, or if you know someone who is just spinning their wheels, considering passing this on in an effort to help.
All the best!