Life in a Rut

Is Your Life in a Rut?

Many of us trundle through life without making definite decisions to change things even when we are not quite satisfied. We seem to go with the flow and end up wherever the current takes us. But if that's not where you want to be, you will not be happy.

A saying used in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) goes something like: If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got. In other words, if what you have been doing already hasn't got you to where you want to be or something you want (and it is a realistic aim for you), you will need to change your approach.

Sometimes people expect that somehow they'll get what they want by waiting for it to come to them, without them actively having to do something about it. But if there is no sign of this happening, you should soon realise that you cannot leave it to chance. Sometimes people have blind faith where they think a higher deity will deliver whatever it is they want. If this is so with you, perhaps there is some saying in your religion about that higher deity helping those who show that they are trying, or can help themselves a long way towards it. Your life is too important to let it go by without trying to get the most out of it.

Imagine you were told you had a terminal illness and only a limited time to live. Would you not have many regrets? Although we cannot consistently live everyday as though it were precious (unless you really have got limited time), just think about the difference you could make to your own life if you truly wanted to change things. And, if you don't, you have only yourself to blame. You might have many disadvantages that have made life hard for you, but most people can improve the quality of their life in some way in the Western world. (If you've lost your home and family through war, famine or pestilence the odds are you cannot think of anything but survival and the trauma you have suffered – but those of you who have access to the Internet and can read this are most likely not in that sorry state.)

Many people who have had something bad happen to them use it as a positive learning experience and can become people they had never imagined possible. We are not all equipped to change the world by educating youngsters about the dangers of illegal drugs when our own child has died from trying them, for example, or using other horrendous events to make that difference. Most of us act in small ways.

Think of your own mistakes and failures – they are only truly mistakes or failures if you cannot use them as learning experiences - if not to help other people, then in your own life.

The first step in doing something to get out of a rut is to identify where you are now and where you want to be. Then work out the difference. What do you have to do, or be, to get where you want? (If there are several areas that need attention, list them all and prioritise them. Work through them gradually rather than all at once which might be too daunting.) Getting to where you want to be or getting something you want might be something that takes years.

Some goals are much smaller and just amount to plucking up the courage to ask someone out, for example. If it is someone you see everyday, you will want to look your best (and so ensure you are clean and well groomed and are wearing clothes that suit you and fit you well). The next step might be to smile at the person when you pass him or her. If you get a smile back, try saying hello or good morning. Then comment on the weather or something that has occurred in your mutual place of work, for example. Over the course of a couple of weeks you can build up to suggesting you go for a coffee somewhere at lunchtime, and then a drink after work. When these go well, you can ask the person out for a meal or to see a film.

Of course, you can go straight up to person and ask him or her out immediately, but if you are reading this because that is what you want to do but haven't, the chances are you are shy or fear rejection. A gradual testing of the water, as described, is safer for your self-esteem and lets you progress in little stages.

A larger goal might be to have a change in career. You will have to work out what you want to do and whether the skills you have now are transferable. If not, you will have to gain skills by either working up from a basic level within the company, for example, or by re-training. You need to write down every step in your goal so that you know it is achievable. Then, as you pass each step, you can feel motivated to go on to the next – if you hadn't written the stages down, you might find that you lose heart as the gap between where you are now and where you want to be might be huge.

For more help on getting out of a rut and setting goals, read my book, Take Charge of Your Future Banish Your Past (Right Way Books, Constable & Robinson).