Choose your “rut” wisely; you might be in it for a while

During a sermon last week at church, I was inspired by my leader’s counsel to “choose your rut wisely; you might be in it for a while.” To illustrate the point, he shared that back in the days of the Model T car, many roads were unpaved and prone to developing ruts. He shared that a sign is posted in Alaska at the beginning of a long dirt road full of ruts warning drivers to pick their rut wisely, because they might be in it for a while.

Of course, this message made me think of the (past, present, and future) ruts in my own life, and as with anything else I do, my thoughts drifted to my work with credit unions.

Are you in a rut?

Ruts are hard to get out of – and very easy to fall into! Once you are in one, you hope that the end of it is somewhere near where you want to go, but usually that’s not the case. Regardless of how motivated we are, each of us at some point gets trapped in a rut.

Here are a few signs that you may be slowing down or just plain stuck in a rut:

  • You get lost in the “now,” and your “vision” takes a back seat to survival.
  • You run out of gas easier, can’t sleep, and get sick a lot.
  • You become indecisive and confused. You worry about everything.
  • Everything seems harder than it should be, and everything you try to do is a huge effort.
  • The more you try, the more things stay the same.
  • You lack joy and enthusiasm.

If any of the above describes you, then it’s time to reexamine your life, who you are, and what you want.

Help! Ive fallen into a rut and I cant get out!

So how can we break free of the ruts in which we have become stuck? Here are a few suggestions to consider:

  • Take responsibility for the rut you have selected. Empower yourself to change course. Seriously, think things through. If you do, you’re likely to find that you have most of the things you need to get back on the right track to pursuing the goals that inspire you. Accomplishing your dreams is more about you and less about the environment around you. Don’t waste time waiting for a lucky break.
  • Change the company you keep. There are times in my life when I was stuck in a rut largely because of the negative energy of the people and culture around me. If you are stuck in a rut, look around you. Do you have positive role models that you admire, trust, and respect who can help you see the truth? Choose your friends, colleagues, and coworkers wisely! You spend a lot of time with them, and you look to them for approval and support. They have influenced who are you are today. It has been said that you can judge a person by the company they keep.
  • Connect with people. Depending on the depth or length of the rut, it’s easy to withdraw from others at a time when we need them most. Reconnect with positive past influences in your life, including family, professional, and spiritual contacts. They will provide the greatest support, and they may help remind you of what you were once so passionate about. Connect and make new friends through professional networking events, hobbies, community service, etc. Getting out will help you gain firm footing on who you are and who you want to become. It’s important to get your dreams, goals, and vision out in the open to increase your commitment to making them a reality, but it’s equally important to talk to the right people. Only discuss your future with those who will support and encourage you. Pick your support team wisely.
  • Get Excited! What are you passionate about? What would you do if failure wasn’t a possibility? Deep down, what inspires and motivates you? Reconnect with what you believe to be true: your personal “” If you do, you will be happier. It will drive you to experiment with new things, take new risk and push the envelope of what you are capable of. Besides living your best life, you will help others and you will attract similar souls who believe what you believe. The greatest strength is found here.

Why it matters

Eventually, we all find ourselves in a rut. Unfortunately, some of us remain in those ruts far too long. Ruts can last years, decades, and even most of one’s adult life. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t want a better, more productive life. Yet, I have met a lot of people who remain frozen in ruts that are clearly deteriorating their quality of life. It’s not worth it.

I’m not ashamed to admit that, over the years, I have found myself in several deep career ruts. There are ruts I’ve abandoned using the advice I’ve offered you above, and there was even a rut that I was “guided” out of. The most amazing thing I experienced each time I broke free of a rut was the roaring return of my vision, my hope, and my ambitions. Each time, the personal growth was exponential and there was abundant happiness and sense of accomplishment. My best and most rewarding work has always come after I have moved out of a rut.

It takes courage to make hard decisions and embrace change to follow what you believe. If you are in a rut, do whatever you need to do to get yourself out and on the best path for you. If someone you care about is in a rut – friend, family, or coworker – I hope you will be that person who will provide the support they need, help remind them of what they were once so passionate about, and encourage them to walk out of the rut to a better quality of life.