How to get out of a rut

Reader's Digest Editors

If every day looks the same as the one before it and the one to follow, and you can move through the paces of your daily life with your eyes closed, it’s time to shake it up. Here's how…

Take stock of things

stuck in a rut

Doing the same thing the same way day in and day out can feel safe and familiar and comfortable—but follow the script long enough, and eventually the cocoon starts to feel more like a jail.

Says marketing guru Seth Godin, “We’re human; that’s what we do. We erect boundaries, and we get trapped.”

Take a good, hard look at your life—your schedule, your activities, your relationships— and ask yourself whether anything new ever happens, whether there are ever any surprises, or if you feel like you’re learning and growing personally and professionally.

If the answer is no, you’re in a rut.

 

Take it easy

You don’t have to give yourself a whole life makeover to get unstuck, and you certainly don’t have to do so all at once.

Quitting your job, putting your house up for sale, and dumping your significant other in the same week will certainly throw all your cards in the air, but it won’t necessarily refresh your perspective.

The changes you make can be minute—small but meaningful steps in a brand-new direction—but still end up packing a powerful, rut-busting punch.

 

Take a different route

Sometimes the best way to change gears is simply by varying your routine.

Skip the motorway and follow the back roads to work. Go see a film that’s in a language you’ve never heard before. If you usually head to the gym each Wednesday for a madly energetic spin class, go for a long, thoughtful walk instead. Move everything out of your living room, and put it back in an entirely different arrangement—or switch out half of it with stuff from elsewhere in your house. Pretend to be a tourist in your own hometown; go to restaurants, shops, or museums that aren’t your usual haunts.

The idea is to see the world through new eyes.

 

Take a leap

take a leap

 If little tweaks aren’t moving you forward, maybe you need to try a new career, pull the plug on that stagnant relationship, or relocate to another city. Sure, the shock may take your breath away at first, but that’s the point. As Godin says, just “deal with the pain, and then run forward. Fast.”

Of course, if your goal isn’t to dye your hair a new shade of blonde but rather to shave it off, move to Tibet, and join a Zen monastery, you might want to talk about it first with people you know and trust and then map out a concrete plan.

Think about how you might test-drive your experience. Taking a two-week leave from work to live in Barcelona or to do a volunteer stint on a kibbutz may be all you need to feel engaged in your life again. And if you’re still feeling restless? Go ahead and take the swan dive from the 30ft platform.

After all, as novelist Ellen Glasgow once said, “The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions.”

 

Finding that spark

Christian Parsons works in a field (advertising) where ruts are a professional liability. Here are 10 ways he jump-starts when he's stalled in the same old, same old:

  • Show up to work an hour earlier.
  • Talk to an 8-year-old.
  • Talk to an 80-year-old.
  • Build something with your hands.
  • Dance.
  • Call the smartest person you know and ask him or
  • her to lunch.
  • Write a letter—with a pen.
  • Tour an art gallery.
  • Spend an afternoon at Toys “R” Us. Buy LEGO.
  • Eat a pint of blackberries.