It happens to all of us. You wake up. You go to work. You come home. You’re probably tired. You find something to eat and sit on the couch. Maybe you pick up your children, maybe you have crammed so much into your life you feel like you can’t breathe. You do what you have to do to get through the day. Maybe you plan things for the weekend. You do the same things every week. Hang out with the same people. Eat the same foods. Visit the same places.
And your life starts to feel like a rut. Days blend together. Our lives become the same thing, again and again. And we don’t notice it because we’re busy living. Until one day you realize you’re stuck in a rut.
But realizing and getting out of the rut are two separate issues. The truth is, to leave a rut you have to be active. You have to make plans. You have to move forward boldly. Try these five things to break free from your life rut.
1. SET A GOAL
Reconnect with what you want. Sometimes in our day to day we lose sight of what we want and what our purpose is. Whether it’s an old goal that you have lost track of or you want to start something new, create a goal.
Don’t know what goal to create? Consider your life values, your dreams, your plans. What specific goal can you do to make one of these things a reality. If one of your life values is putting your family first, maybe your goal is to create a family fun night. Have a dream of writing a novel, maybe your goal is to write 200 words 5 days a week. Always wanted to travel to Spain, perhaps your goal is to save an extra $100 a month and learn Spanish.
Set the goal.
Make it specific – lose weight isn’t a great specific goal. Lose ten pounds in a month is a good specific goal.
Make an action plan – List specific steps to make your goal happen.
Do something to work towards your goal every day. – Even if it’s just ten minutes a day, do something that pushes you further towards your goal.
Concentrate on why you want this goal and allow yourself to feel how you’ll feel when you’ve achieved it. Setting a goal is a great way to put purpose back into your rut of a life.
2. DO SOMETHING YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO TRY
Maybe you have something you want to do. Something you’ve never tried. Try it. If you’ve always been curious about an activity and have been meaning to try it, go ahead and do it. Curious about sky diving? Give it a shot. Always planning to hike a 14ner but never got around to it? Strap on your hiking shoes and get to climbing.
Is there an activity from your childhood you want to get back into? Maybe you used to be obsessed with coloring, take up a painting class. Most of us have some nagging activity we’ve always meant to try, whether it’s attempting a triathlon or rebuilding a car. Somewhere inside you is a nagging something, you have to unearth that thing and give it a shot. Maybe it’s a new spiritual practice or you’ve always wanted to be able to play the piano.
Unearth that little nugget of ‘what if’ ness, that nagging thing that you always make a ‘one day I might’ and take the freaking leap already, okay.
3. DO SOMETHING THAT SCARES YOU
We stay in our little bubble because it’s comfortable. When was the last time that you’ve done something that really scared you? That you were afraid to try?
Growth happens when we step outside our comfortable little bubble and do something that makes us feel prickles of fear. When you think about what’s helped you grow as a person it’s not sitting on the couch and starting up your fifth viewing of the Goonies. (Never seen the Goonies? You should see it.)
Pick something that makes you uncomfortable. Try an event that If you’re a shy person try an improv class. If you’re worried about working out with a bunch of toned hotties while you look like you’ve been eating carbs since 1997, try Crossfit. Go out to intentionally put yourself in a situation where you might have to stretch. That you’re not going to be great at right away. Have two left feet, join a salsa class.
I’m usually reluctant to try something because I’m afraid I’ll look stupid or that I won’t get it right away. But then I finally get around to doing it and it wasn’t that hard. It certainly wasn’t this monster idea I had formed in my head. Try something new, something you’re probably going to fail at, at first, that pushes you well out of your comfort bubble. At the worst you’ll see that being bad at something didn’t kill you. Best case scenario, you walk away having conquered something you feared. Either way, you’ll have grown.
4. EXPERIENCE A NEW ENVIRONMENT
How many places do you visit in a week? You go to work, the grocery store, maybe your favorite restaurant, the library, the convenience store, your favorite bar, your kid’s school, Target and home. You drive the same route to work everyday, shop at the same places, visit the same locations.
Step out of your routine. Go somewhere you’ve never gone, whether that means planning a trip to a country you’ve never been to, doing a weekend get away in your state to a place you’ve never been, going on a short road trip to try a restaurant in a different city you’ve never tried.
Or just pick a place in your city you’ve never been and go there. Stimulate your brain. There’s a reason people are more likely to break a bad habit or get pregnant when they’re on vacation. Jumping out of your standard routine helps shake things up, relieve stress and break old patterns. Go somewhere new, even if it’s just for a few hours. If you go to a coffee shop to work, try a different one. Convince your boss to have a meeting outside. Do a short hike in a new place after work. Instead of the gym go to a lake and run around it.
Venture out into the great unknown, even if just means going to a different grocery store.
5. FORM A NEW RELATIONSHIP OR RECONNECT WITH AN OLD ONE
The relationships we form in our lives are one of the greatest indicators of our happiness. Meaningful relationships are one of the best ways to gain joy in our life.
To have a meaningful relationship with other people, first you have to form a relationship. There are ways you can make new friends as an adult. That means stepping outside of the little box you’ve allowed yourself to be in and trying new things. Join meet-ups, be friendly, approach other people at all these new hobbies that you’ve created for yourself. Start meaningful conversations with other people. Making new friends can be a bear but having people you can count on, that you have fun with and who share your interests can open up a whole new part of your life.
If you don’t need to make new friends, you can also deepen the relationships you already have. Who hasn’t lost touch with a person from high school or college you used to hang out with all the time. Instead of just liking someone’s Facebook post, send them an email or a card or give them a call and find out what they have been up to. Concentrate on deepening the relationship with your spouse or significant other. Deep dive into your parents lives and learn about them before you were even a fully formed human being. What were they like as teenagers? What was their relationship with their own parents like?
Gaining new relationships or working on your existing ones is a great way to open your heart and generally improve your life.
Listen, we all get into a rut. We all love our little routines because it’s safe there. But I promise you, getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things, doing something you’ve always wanted to do, setting a goal for yourself, doing something that scares you and creating new relationships are the best ways to break out of your sad rut. They’re not always easy but they are always worth it.
Get off your couch and get started now. Sign up for a class, set a goal, join a meet up. Do one thing a day to help break out of the comfortable little box you’ve put yourself into.
How are you going to break out of your rut? Let me know in the comments below.