Category Archives: Joyful living

When does a routine become a rut?

When I've fallen into a rut, I feel as lively as my barely awake cat
When I’ve fallen into a rut, I feel as lively as my barely awake cat

Healthy routines are good.

They keep you moving through your day without having to think about every little thing you need and want to do.

You exercise, eat your breakfast, brush your teeth, shower, and start the day strong.  Somewhere in there you might do your daily meditation or prayer practice.  You check your planner (or phone app), and get down to the work of the day somewhere in there as well.  All good, right?

You also have some routines that may not be as healthy.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • sitting on the couch after dinner for 3-4 hours watching whatever happens to be on cable
  • binging on a Netflix show just because you want to finish it
  • doing the same old things with your beloved spouse because you ‘know’ that’s all he wants to do
  • preparing the same meals you have for decades because it’s what you like to eat – even though your health needs demand a different diet

When a routine becomes unchanging, not energizing, and detrimental to your spirit, it’s no longer just a routine.

 You are in a rut, friend.

And the worst part about being in a rut is that you become used to doing that same old thing over and over again.  You feel uninspired to do anything different.  In fact, you feel uninspired to do anything at all.

When you’re in a rut you lose your creative energy.  It feels like your mind grinds to a halt.  When you’re in a rut at work, you can’t think of new solutions for problems as they arise.  When you’re in a rut in a relationship, you might start to wonder whether you want to be in that relationship, because you can’t think of a way for it to change.

You’re boring, others are boring, so you might as well just take a nap and not think about it, since no one’s coming along to fix the situation.

 Stop.

Since the problem of being bored and boring is yours, you have to do something about it.  Maybe the other people in your life are happy with the current routines.  Maybe they think you’re happy, and don’t want to upset you by suggesting any change.

Really, how would you feel if your husband said to you, “Can we eat something healthier tonight?”  Be honest – you wouldn’t feel criticized, would you?  Of course you would, even if you know you should eat healthier.  Especially if you know you should eat healthier.

Anyway…..you bear the responsibility of making a change, because you’re bothered by feeling like you’re in a rut.

But how do you come up with ideas when you’re feeling uninspired and out of creative ideas?

There are lots of ways to jump start a leap (or step) out of a rut.

Start making changes in your day.

  • Take a different route home from work. 
  • Grab a cookbook from the shelf and choose a recipe you’ve never tried before
  • Instead of sitting on the couch after dinner, pull out an abandoned craft project and work on it for a short while

Get a different perspective.

  • Read something different than you usually choose – fiction if you prefer nonfiction, or a different fiction genre than your favorite
  • Read a news magazine or newspaper with the opposite political slant than you usually read (Please don’t say that news reporting is neutral.  Please.)
  • Ask someone your children’s age what music they like and listen to it – you know, the music you usually turn off in the car because you don’t recognize it

Generate some new ideas for things that are fun to do

  • Talk about what a ‘dream vacation’ would look like to your spouse – you may be surprised to hear what he would most like to do if he could
  • Go to a local event you would normally skip – small live theater, an art exhibit at the community college, a county fair, powering a paddleboat at the local lake
  • Volunteer to help at a local event (concert, 5k race, Special Olympics)

 If you want to get out of your rut, you have to do something different.

Lately I’ve been having trouble finding topics of conversation that my husband and I both enjoy.  What happened to me at work during the day can only go so far.  (My husband teases me that my favorite phrase is, “I have a new student.  He’s so cute!”)  His recounting of what chores he completed around the house and yard similarly are summarized quickly.

My friend, Michelle (@Michellewolff11 on Periscope and Twitter), advised our Periscope group the other day to read something completely out of our norm – engineering, if we like fiction, for example!  She lamented that the new algorithms used by Google and Facebook only add items to our feeds related to articles we’ve already read and items we’ve already purchased.  We keep getting more of the same, nothing novel, which expands our awareness not at all.

Taking that advice to heart, I picked up a magazine I nearly always recycle without reading.  For some reason that is a mystery to me, I have been receiving in the mail the magazine, “Wired.”  I didn’t order it, I’m almost certain that I didn’t receive it as a gift with the purchase of something else.  Yet, it comes to me every month.  It is obviously a magazine geared to twenty-something technologically savvy men.  I usually thumb through it quickly and place it in the recycle bin without a second thought.

Yesterday, though, I decided to look at it more thoroughly.  I read a very interesting article on artificial  intelligence, including Deep Blue (which beat the all-time champ on Jeopardy!) and AlphaGo, which seems to be using intuition, and almost never loses a game of Go. 

I read a fun article on Justin Lin, who directed the next Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond (can’t wait to see it), as well as some of the latest Fast and Furious movies (still don’t think I’ll see one of these).  A lot of the article explored Lin’s life history and his view on what it’s like to be a power player and Asian American in Hollywood.

And I read a fascinating article on interrogation methods developed as a result of abandoning torture as a method for interrogating terrorists.  These methods are changing how police departments gain information from criminal suspects.

I would never have guessed that there was that much in “Wired” to engage me.

My husband and I had more conversation around what I had read in the articles than anything else we’ve discussed lately (besides the ever interesting topic of what our children are doing).  This was just a small step, but I have felt a small shift already.

  • I’m thinking of topics I’ve never considered before.
  • I have a new appreciation for some films I would never have gone to see in the theater – or have watched on cable for that matter.
  • I’m thinking about how I could talk and listen to others in a way that would help me understand them better.

Wow.

When you do the same things over and over, nothing shifts or changes.  It is boring.

So there you go.  When you feel bored and boring, do something a little different.  Challenge yourself a little or a lot.  Do you usually turn your nose up at doing some particular thing?  Do that thing.  Call your friend and invite her for coffee, even if you think she might be too busy.

Don’t make assumptions.  They’re boring.  You don’t know what someone else is thinking, you only (hopefully) know what you’re thinking.  So if you think your husband or friend would hate to do something you want to try, give it a shot.  Doesn’t hurt to ask, and if they say no, ask again some other time.  Or do it by yourself.  Or ask someone else.

The world is too full of possibility to stay in a rut, doing the same old same old.

What new thing are you going to do this week?

Are you in a rut in any area of your life?

What does it feel like to think about doing something different?  Scary?  Startling?  Obvious?

Let me know what you think!

Until next time,

 

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