Are You Stuck in a Rut?

I congratulate you! Not because you are in a rut, but because you know you are. Knowing you’re in a rut is the normal prelude to self reinvention. Many get stuck in a rut without realizing it and just drone on in a less than fulfilling life.

I read in a running magazine about a 40-something, urban Australian businessman who didn’t realize he was in a rut until a massive heart attack caught his attention.

After recovering from the heart attack, he left the business world to take up cattle ranching. Every morning he would let the cattle out of their enclosure to graze. He stayed with them on the range all day, running around in front of them to keep the herd together. Since the grass was wet in the morning, he wore his wellies. He had reinvented himself as a rancher, less the dog.

After about four years of running around with his cattle, he read about a multi-day, 700+ kilometer cross-country race. He said to himself, “That’s what I do all day,” so he registered for the race. He showed up at the starting point in his wellies, ran and won the race, outlapping his nearest competitor by a day. He again had reinvented himself, this time as a long-distance runner.

If this man had not become aware he was in a rut (in his case it took a heart attack), none of this might have happened.

There is a big difference between correcting yourself and reinventing yourself. If you’re out of shape and know you need exercise, you could join a gym to correct the problem. But if you really enjoyed going to a gym, you probably would be already doing it. If hiking is something you have always wanted to do, however, and you pursue it and find you love it, you have reinvented yourself and corrected the problem along the way.

Likewise, if an alcoholic wants to overcome his problem and simply stops drinking, he may have achieved a temporary fix. He may even be able to maintain the abstinence with a support group and a sponsor. If he wants to overcome his alcoholism permanently, however, a major self-reinvention is in order.

You can get into a rut in various areas of life: your thinking, your relationship, your work, your politics, etc. What matters is that you become aware that something isn’t working for you, confront it, and to be open to whatever changes will inevitably accompany your reinventing yourself on that dimension.

The only certainty is that you will emerge from the rut a more complex person than you were before you got into it. Growth is certain; the form it will take is unknowable. Kind of scary!

If you know you are stuck and you want things to change, there are some things you can do to help yourself move forward.

At the top of the list is self-reflection. Make this one a lifelong habit, because working on yourself, with or without professional help, is never wasted.

Reflect often on the things in your life that you really appreciate and let yourself feel that gratitude.

Love is a great healer and transformer. If you are in a relationship, renew that love. If you are single, be open to new love and the unknown new life that will follow when you find it.

Finally, it’s emotionally and mentally rejuvenating to spend time around nature, around growing things. It is no accident that so many throughout history have had transformational experiences while gardening. An old girlfriend told me how as a little girl she used to spend hours with her neighbour as he tended his garden. His name was Albert Einstein.

Dr. Neill Neill is a registered psychologist in Qualicum Beach. He helps capable people who feel stuck… trauma, relationships, addictions.