I’ve been driving the same route to and from work for the last four years.
Most of the time, this routine has not been a problem. Then the state decided to work on the roads near my house. At times this has made this particular one mile stretch take twenty minutes to drive. Two lanes were reduced to one as commuters in a hurry scramble for position. Some opted to use the median as a u-turn zone. Others merrily chatted on their cell phones as a way to pass the time crawling ahead.
I just tapped my fingers on the steering wheel, gritted my teeth, and listened to my MP3 player.
What routines do you have, that if interrupted, cause you to wince, or even get angrier than a mama bear robbed of its cubs?
Routines are useful. Often they help us get things done.
So can ruts.
There are three distinct clues that will reveal if you’re following a useful routine or if you’re stuck in a rut.
The first is that you’ve been doing it for a long time.
My route to work has been the same for four years. I’ve gone to the same type church for 23 years. I’ve combed my hair the same way for over 30 years.
The question you have to ask yourself is “Is this routine still serving me well after all this time?” If it doesn’t, you’re in a rut.
The answer leads to the second clue.
If you’ve been doing something a long time, chances are you don’t know why you do it anymore.
I’ve driven the same way to and from work so often now that I can make the turns without thinking. If I were to have to run an errand on the way home I’d have to turn my brain on so I didn’t drive past the place I needed to go. There might be a better way to go that is shorter, more scenic, and has less traffic. But unless I see a reason to change it, I’ll keep the routine intact.
You’re in a rut when you don’t know why you do things the way you do.
The third clue that reveals whether you’re in a rut is that you feel trapped into that routine.
I’ve been drinking coffee in the morning for over 30 years. I can’t imagine starting my day without it. I get a headache if I don’t drink it. Could you imagine getting up at 3 am and hitting the door with nothing but cereal and orange juice?
When you get into a habit, it build cords that are harder to break the longer you forge them. But here’s the truth. I’ve convinced myself that I need that caffeine. Since I’ve invested so many years depending on it, my body demands it. I even enjoy the experience drinking coffee gives.
I’m in a rut.
But if I wanted to change, I could. You’re trapped when you think it’s impossible.
Look at your long standing routines. Do you remember why you started them? Are you locked into a pattern that no longer serves you? If you are, there is hope. You can change. But you have to see that you need to and make the decision to just do it.
It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
You take that to heart.