Are you doing the same things week after week? Commuting to work, having lunch with the same people, going through similar work tasks, picking up the kids, cooking an identical version of dinner that you made only last week? Being stuck in a rut can feel like you’re not moving anywhere, not going places, and it can be frustrating. Perhaps you struggle to remember who you once were, before all these external demands molded you into a proper adult. Perhaps you can hardly remember what makes you feel alive, or how to carve out time for it. Perhaps you have no idea how to break free.
The key to breaking your rut is to do something unexpected. Surprise your body, shake your mind back into participating fully. You can do this in many ways, but the most effective and long-lasting are those that are also good for you. Think ‘run in the woods even though you’re not a runner’ rather than ‘drink five cocktails and hit the dance floor’. I know, the latter can be a lot of fun (I love it, too), and you can do that too – it’s just unlikely to produce longtime result or change.
When a routine – which can be a good thing – turns into a rut, it’s basically comfort taken too far. You feel safe when you know the next move, you’re less likely to be challenged during your day when you stick to what’s known. Here’s something that may be uncomfortable to think about, but I’m going to say it nevertheless: You created your rut. Only you can undo it so you can break free. While you’re digesting that slightly unpleasant thought, here are some ideas you can think about next that may help you break free from your particular rut.
Train for a marathon. You’re not a runner, right? Well neither was I. None of us, in fact, are born runners. We all learn to walk; we can all learn to run. Far. You take this in small steps, celebrating your important milestones. You can really do this. Having a giant goal such as a marathon to work towards will increase your motivation, especially if you add another factor, such as doing this with a friend or raising money for a cause. Once you’ve reached the finish line, you’ll be amazed at what your body has been able to accomplish. You may feel such awe that you’ll wonder ‘if I can do this, what else can I do?’ And that, my friend, can open the floodgates.
Travel alone. This is a scary one for many of us, and I understand why. Not all of us have the desire to stutter along in a foreign language, trying to communicate an unknown address to a taxi driver, or grope around in our purse for coins that look like something out of Monopoly. But when you travel, you remove yourself out of your known surroundings, and this in itself is enough to make you notice things. Your senses sharpen because of a natural need to become more alert. You become more present. When you travel alone, you have only yourself to rely on, and once you complete task after task on your own (trust me, you will), your confidence grows. Then, you may start meeting new people, say yes to things you wouldn’t at home, and open yourself up to new experiences. Or, you choose to spend the time reading, thinking, eating, letting your mind open and close. In that silence, something will emerge. Something you already knew, perhaps, but had forgotten.
Volunteer at your local soup kitchen. This can be something else, such as signing up to help disadvantaged children with their home work, as long as it involves a connection with other human being. It cannot be just giving money. Giving is admirable, but it won’t force you into interactions. It won’t open you in the same way that speaking with another person will, and it doesn’t have the same power to change you on a basic level. Everyone we meet in this life is a person that has the potential to teach us something. This is true even if it feels like, in the moment, you’re the one giving something to the other.
Sign up for a swing dance course/learn to wrestle/learn to paint. Pick something that you wouldn’t have ordinarily been drawn to. If you’re a tall, thin, gracious kind of person, pick the wrestling, or carate. If you’ve got two left feet, pick swing dance. Give yourself the gift of being a beginner, the absolute worst in the course, and see what that teaches you about yourself. Is it fun? hy not? Do you end up liking it? Who are the other participants and how do you feel about them? Walk away from the experience questioning what you learned, how and why. Is there even a dimension to yourself that you didn’t know about?
Spend a day with a child. This can be your own child or someone else’s. If you have kids, you may think ‘but I do this all the time, it’s nothing new’. Is this really true? If you’re anything like the majority of parents, you probably do a hundred other things while you’re with your child. Send ten messages, make plans for the weekend, ring your husband, check your work email, order a coffee… and on it goes. Turn your phone off, head towards an unrestricted area like a park or a playground, and let your child set the pace for the day. Play hide and seek. It’s actually fun, if you fully participate. Have a picnic. Try all the ice cream flavours at a café. Cycle home together. Cook dinner, together. Your child will likely be on his or her best behaviour during a day like this, because you’re not demanding much and you’re not pushing to go places or make it on a certain time. It’s all about what children do best – play – and what it can teach you, the adult, about how to reintegrate this into life.
I hope you’ll pick one of above – or a sixth idea that you’ve creatively come up with on your own – to help you overcome your stuck-in-a-rut feeling. We’re not meant to plod along, silently cursing all external factors that make us bend our heads; we’re meant to turn our faces towards the rain and be amazed. It may make us wet and uncomfortable, but it also made the flowers beneath the soles of our feet bloom.