21 December 2011

If you feel like you’re getting into a rut with a song, a night off usually fixes it.

-Levon Helm

 

Every once in a while I find myself in a rut. Generally, the rut is localized to one area in my life, but sometimes it’s an overall rut that affects everything.

The worst thing about a rut, is its propensity to become a habit. If you normally go to the gym 3 times a week, but have been in a rut for a few weeks and haven’t gone, you’re probably at a similar fitness level, but there is a much higher risk that you won’t ever go to the gym again. The frustration we feel from not doing something we were supposed to do strangely makes us feel less inclined to do it instead of more inclined to do it.

My strategy for getting out of these ruts is, as soon as it becomes clear I’m in a rut, to immediately lower my expectations to zero. Then, I just focus on doing the smallest possible positive thing that can get me moving in the right direction. By lowering my expectations to zero, I feel good about doing something instead of feeling bad about not doing enough.

If the rut is a general life rut, I focus on doing something small that has visible progress. My personal favorite is to clean and organize my apartment. The good feelings from getting something accomplished help me gain momentum to get out of the rut.

It normally takes a few days to get out of the rut, but I don’t worry at all about how long it takes. If it takes a month, it will take a month. During the rut, I never make myself feel bad for being in the rut, and instead focus on being happy about the little things I’m doing. It is natural to be in a rut every once in a while, and I try not to stress when it happens to me.