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The Rut Cracker

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Why is it so easy to get into a rut and so hard to get out of one? Here are some options ranging from common sense to deeper perspectives.

This is a pre-emptive strike!  I’m taking on the malaise that’s sure to strike soon for many.

 Whether you call it the “mid-January blues,” or just the downward swing from the holiday season, the monster commonly known as “the rut” typically sets in about this time.

A Bored Person

The Rut Monster – in all it’s glory.

For Christmas, you get the Nutcracker.  For this time of year, The Rut Cracker might be a bit more appropriate.

So what is a “rut?”

The dictionary lists it as “a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.”  Also known as a “habit” or a dead-end.

So to crack a rut, first you must identify it’s true nature.

  1. It’s something that is old and familiar.
  2. It’s habitual, meaning you do it regularly whether you’re aware of it or not.
  3. It is “dull and unproductive.”  However, this can be expanded upon a bit – it is a behavior that likely served something in the past and is not serving your current goal.

Now, let’s throw in a bit of common sense, aka “good ol’ fashioned grandma wisdom.”  To break a rut, you must first do something different.  You must be willing to do something that takes you off the familiar track.

In most cases, the word that comes to mind next is motivation.  Yet motivation in and of itself typically is not enough to crack the rut.  It is an important component, yet motivation can typically be boiled down to a very simple element.  Human beings, in general, are motivated to move away from pain and toward pleasure.  This can be experience, or it can simply be something much simpler.  The mouse that’s placed in the maze is extremely motivated to acquire the cheese.

The Maze

See, here’s a motivated individual!

Motivation is a powerful first step – yet it is not always connected to action.  Even worse, as many of you may already know, neuroscience has demonstrated that simply having the thought creates the same biochemical experience as actually accomplishing the goal.

The biggest factor in having a successful Rutcracker Suite actually can be expanded by reverse-engineering the list that I shared above.

Prior to step 1, you must have the motivation, the desire to experience something new.  We’ll call this step 0.5.

It’s something that is old and familiar.

On the polar opposite side is something “new and different,” yet that might put you right back in the maze searching for cheese.  Plus, there is no proof that what is radically different is necessarily going to be more or less “pleasurable or painful.”  True change comes from incrementally moving away from the rut and trying a variety of different things to explore our relationship to the pain or the pleasure.

It’s habitual, meaning you do it regularly whether you’re aware of it or not.

Habits and routines are typically broken best by new habits and routines.  Us humans like routines.  This means that the new behavior or experience needs to become as routine as the old behavior, meaning enough of the “pleasure” in the motivational balance of “pain and pleasure.”  A new habit requires you to keep doing and trying things more than once.

It is “dull and unproductive.”  However, this can be expanded upon a bit – it is a behavior that likely served something in the past and is not serving your current goal.

When trying to break any habit, you will start to notice the longing in yourself to return to it.  Again, there is a certain pleasure to routine that is hardwired into our biology.  We will start to long for the old, dull behavior and quickly forget the behavior is just that at its core – “old and dull.”  The key here is “familiarity,” which is why incremental shifts can be so much more powerful than “instant transformation.”

So, what would the “Rut Cracker Suite” sound like?

  1. I have a persistent desire for change or growth (Motivation).
  2. I have a willingness to try a variety of “new and different” experiences.
  3. I have incremental goals and measurements for my success.
  4. I will create a new habit or routine based off the experiences that have the best balance of “pain or pleasure” for me.

Give it a shot.  Or, get some help to figure out exactly how that shot might look for you.

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