Let me confess up front: I am not a mountain biker. If possible, I prefer to keep my biking confined to flat pavement and allow my adventurous side to find other outlets. I do have a brother who is an avid mountain biker, as are many of my friends. They seem to thrive on the wild ride the natural trail provides.
A soggy trail makes the ride less than ideal. That’s why mountain bikers are encouraged to avoid wet trails – not only does it create ruts and erode the trail, the mud takes a toll on your bike! It has the potential to destroy your drivetrain, brake pads, shock, fork, and seals – especially if you live where there soil is like clay!
Water will naturally find the path of least resistance and deepen the ruts in a trail created by riders. The deeper the ruts grow, the longer they take to dry out. Even when the bulk of the trail is dry, an unexpected low spot where water has been trapped can grab your front tire and send you head over handlebars. Yikes!
Learning to navigate ruts is an important skill for mountain bikers. It takes practice to do this successfully. In the process of learning this skill, chances are you will experience a crash or two.
Trail ruts are dangerous, and so are the ruts in your life.
By now, you have probably caught on to the fact that I like routine. The positive thing about a routine is that it ensures that the important things you want done every day actually happen. Unfortunately, a routine can become your comfort zone and venturing outside your comfort zone where the exciting opportunities are – that can be challenging.
Maybe you are like me and you gravitate towards routines. Or maybe you are very different from me and struggle to do the same thing two days in a row. Either way, it can become a pattern, and can quickly evolve into a rut.
The dictionary definition of a rut: A habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.
Recently I was struck by this quote: “The opposite of planning is the rut.”
You see, there is a fine line between routine and rut! And rut is really just another way of saying… stuck.
A rut is like doing life on auto pilot (coasting through life without much thought) or endlessly spinning your wheels (frantically working but not getting anywhere). Becoming numb to the danger of the rut doesn’t take long. And when you are in a rut, it is very hard to get the results you desire.
Ruts start in your head – it is your thinking that gets you stuck. When your head is swimming with limiting thoughts your mind is full – “mind-full”. No wonder you slip into autopilot!
Would it be better if you were doing life in an intentional and “mindful” way?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone slips into ruts. The question is, how swiftly do you notice the rut and take the appropriate action to exit the rut? Just like mountain bikers must practice exiting the rut, exiting life’s ruts also takes practice.
How does one exit the rut?
1. Identify the rut
Being willing to admit that you actually are in a rut is the first step. Do you have just one rut or several? Is it a morning routine rut, a work rut, an evening “blob” rut? Whatever your rut is, write about your rut, describing it in detail. Seeing it in black and white will give you fresh insights around your rut.
Not a writer? Share your rut with a trusted friend or family member to help you see the totality of the rut.
2. Listen to your rut
Read back over what you wrote about your rut and notice what your rut is telling you. Is it whispering that you like to keep things safe? Is your rut your haven from the stress in your life? Or is your rut a way of avoiding what’s going on in your life right now? Maybe your rut is protecting you from venturing out into something that you are afraid of? Or perhaps you are clinging to your routine because you are fearful of letting it go and experiencing the unknown. What is your rut telling you?
3. Count the cost
What is your rut costing you? Frustration? Not actually achieving what God’s called you to do? Are you missing out on the opportunity to bless and make life better for others?
4. Reconnect with your purpose
Connect again with God’s purpose for your life. What steps do you need to take to realign with His heart for your life?
Unsure of what your purpose is? Make discovering your unique purpose a priority. Begin seeking God and asking Him to show you your purpose. Work with a coach. Walking in your purpose will be the most fulfilling thing you can do!
5. Reset your goals
Are your goals and your purpose in alignment with one another? Have you been pursuing the wrong results?
What needs to change in order for you to eliminate your rut? What steps will you take to begin making those changes?
Who will hold you accountable? Without accountability the odds are good that before long you will find yourself drifting back into your rut!
Develop some new habits and make plans to do something new or different every day! Expose yourself to new ideas by reading, mingling with interesting people, watching Ted Talks, or participating in an adventure. Plan to take breaks, vacations, or a sabbatical – stepping away from your routine is liberating! Plan to switch up your working environment or the order you do certain activities.
Experiment – plan to try new ways of doing things; practice and see how they feel. Learn from your experiments. Evaluate, try again, tweak and evaluate again.
Ruts can be dangerous to navigate, but not impossible! And the sooner you exit, the less likely it is you will crash! With practice, exiting a rut becomes easier and easier – something you do in stride like a skilled mountain biker!
Even better than a rut is a groove! Grooving is moving with style – that’s the opposite of being stuck in a rut. The more you practice new ways of doing things the easier it gets, and the more “mindful” you will be.
Where in your life or leadership are in a rut? How will you exit the rut and get into a fresh groove?