Stuck in a Rut

How to ride rutted out trails

Have you ever felt like you were?

In a rut, that is…

I know I have. Not just felt like it, but actually in a rut. Not just once, but many times in my life. You’d think I would learn how to avoid those traveling traps.

“Constantly focusing on the limitations, instead of all the possibilities, is how people become stuck in their lives. It only serves to recreate the same old reality from day to day. And soon the days turn into years, and lifetimes.” ― Anthon St. Maarten

I guess it doesn’t help when you can’t see over the edge of your rut…

People, myself included, get stuck in ruts for a number of reasons. I don’t think we intentionally aim for that rut. I’ve woken up at times and realized that I’m not going anywhere because I’m stuck. I also know that sometimes I have stayed in a rut instead of making hard choices and doing difficult work to get out. Staying in a rut can be thought safer or more comfortable than taking the risk to change or move forward. That’s hard to believe.

Sometimes, people find themselves in a rut because of their own mistakes or self-destructive choices. This is the obvious answer. When we hear a story about someone being stuck, the first place we go is a quick examination of their poorly followed road map.

Sometimes, people find themselves in a rut because of choices made by someone else. We all live in a connected world. Our families, friends and work world keep us intertwined with the lives of other people who are making decisions that affect how we act and think. Right now and for years.

Sometimes, people decide to stay in their rut because it’s providing the essential attention, connection and love that they have always needed but never received. That doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? Many times, people aren’t even aware that their life in a rut is producing something they deeply need.

“But there was a difference between being stuck and choosing to stay. Between being found and finding yourself.” ― Martina Boone

Isolation Can Produce Ruts

While some age groups are, not everyone is returning to their churches in these post-pandemic months. If there is such a thing as post-pandemic. Some reports indicate that the return rate is at approximately two-thirds. Going back on a regular basis will do wonders for you on many levels. The weekly “live” connections with others have kept me going in so many ways. During the week we use technology to stay tethered with each other. This has kept my focus on what means the most to me.  Praying, encouraging, sharing our journey has all worked to keep me from that familiar rut of paralyzing self-pity.

“It’s all right to sit on your pity pot every now and again. Just be sure to flush when you are finished.”Debbie Macomber

Don’t Overthink It

Maybe during the locked up period of time we’ve come through, you noticed or even developed some bad habits. Some might even qualify as a rut. I’ve been reading some research about how to replace bad habits with good ones. Very eye-opening. Instead of beating myself up about my lack of will power or low motivation, making a good habit is mostly about changing circumstances and getting into a new routine. Habits, both good and bad, happen because we spend so much of our mental processing on autopilot.

My new routine of walking the neighborhood each evening has hit a summer snag. It never seems to cool off until almost ten o’clock! By then I’ve gotten side tracked with something else. So, I’m working on the timing of this routine so I don’t have to make a conscious decision, it will just happen. Wish me luck.

What routines do you need to fix? Make a change in the right direction, give yourself a reward, make it something you don’t have to think about, and you will probably end up out of that rut sooner rather than later.

“If you continue to dig the same hole in the same place in your life, eventually you will be standing in a grave.” – Shannon Adler

Relationships Need Tending Like a Garden

Don’t you have friends who are in relationship ruts? It’s very difficult to break out and build new friendships, especially lately. Even dysfunctional relationships work for us when they keep us on familiar scripts and protect from the risks of rejection.

Your relationship is in a rut when:

  1. Communication isn’t bringing life
  2. You’re drained most of the time instead of energized
  3. Trust has been deteriorating over time

There are many other signs. I think these are significant. Relationships don’t usually fall apart quickly. Some poisons can take a long time to kill. Everyone has difficulty jumping into new friendships and learning different scripts. Such a hard jump to make – these also take time. We hurt and want relief quickly. I think that’s why some people just stay in their relationship ruts.

“People who have been deeply hurt in their relationships will often devalue love so it doesn’t hurt so much. And they often become resigned to never loving again.” ― Henry Cloud

Getting out of a rut takes an understanding of what got you there in the first place. Helping someone else get out of a rut will probably mean going past the immediate circumstances and addressing larger problems and/or people. Most people, even your close friends, will never let you near enough to have those kinds of conversations. That’s an unfortunate part of life and people these days.

The number one reason that people stay in their ruts is because they try and go it alone. It’s hard to admit failure. Even more difficult to let someone else see mistakes repeated. But the only way up and out is mostly with the help of others. Sometimes, we stay in ruts because we can’s seem to lift that heavy brick of pride up and over the edge.

“Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.” ― Khalil Gibran

Full of Thanks

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. – I Thessalonians 5:18

Much easier said than done, right?

How do you say thanks when your world is coming apart or when bad news is knocking at the door? What happens when your heart has just become dull to eternity all around you? Gratitude is the secret of changing everything and bringing heaven down to earth.

It really is a way of thinking a mindset that you develop over time. It’s all about your perspective and then it’s all about your habits.

Stop and think about someone else. We’re unconscious because we don’t spend the intentional and regular time it takes to cultivate thankful patterns of thought. We spend way too much effort and energy stewing about our losses, grievances and trials. These are so easy to remember. But usually, for most of us, too little time is invested in all that’s gone right in our lives. It just takes the will to stop and think about some truth…where you are, who you are and all the people and experiences that got you here… and are getting you there.

“Life for most of us is full of steep stairs to go puffing up and, later, of shaky stairs to totter down; and very early in the history of stairs must have come the invention of banisters.”
– Louis Kronenberger

Notice the path you’re on, how did you really get here? There are countless blessings, opportunities and significant people all along your way. Say thanks at every turn. Send a note of thanks right out of the blue. Acknowledge what is true, what is right. In so doing you will set things rightways in your own mind and spirit.

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Stop long enough to speak the truth, to others and to yourself – you have so much to be thankful for. Speaking the truth helps to confirm what’s real and to chase away fear, doubt and second-guessing. Try and find a way to interject gratitude into your gossip. Start an email with a thank you. Call someone out of the blue and tell them how much they mean to you. Change the story you’re living by engaging in more truth-telling.

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Build habits, think about thanks and say thanks as often as you can. When you are around people and when you’re busy with your own stuff, you need to stop and notice things. When you do, you will find what needs to be appreciated. What needs to be expressed more often. Make a list. Take names. Keep a roll of stamps in your desk. Buy a box of thank you cards. Send out a handful of text messages every week. Before you start your busy day, think of a way to say thank you to someone and then do it.

“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” – Saint Ambrose

When you fill up with thanks, it doesn’t leave much room for other stuff. “I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart…” (Psalm 138:1) When we are filling up our minds and hearts with thankfulness, it tends to push out the pessimism, anger, and sadness that so often weighs down our daily steps.

“Gratitude is the heart’s memory” – French proverb

Being thankful, no matter what, is God’s will for us. Let’s live today in His will. Let’s live in gratitude.