In this episode, I talk about being in a rut—the most common signs of being in a rut and how you can get yourself out.
Hello and welcome back to the Minimal Minds Podcast, the show where we talk about all things self growth and personal development. This is episode five. It’s been about four months since my last episode. Whoops. Today we’re gonna be talking about being in a rut, falling in a rut, getting in a rut. We’re gonna be talking about what a rut is and how to recognize when you’re in one.
As well as a step by step process of dragging yourself back out. Maybe you’re stuck in a rut right now, or maybe you know someone else who is, or maybe you just like the sound of my voice. Either way, I hope you find value in what we’re going to be talking about today. So, firstly, some trivia for you. Do you actually know where stuck in a rut comes from?
We say it all the time, but it’s one of those things that just sounds kind of weird, but it’s normalised, you know what I mean? The phrase stuck in a rut is thought to come from the early 1800s, when wheels from wagons would eventually end up in a worn groove in a path made from other wagons. And that’s also called a rut, like that groove bit.
And they get stuck there, and it’s a nightmare to get them out. Now we use the phrase to describe a particular feeling, which is defined as a habit or pattern of behaviour that has become dull and unproductive, but is hard to change. That’s exactly right. Today, we’re gonna be doing stuff in threes. We’ve got three steps to get yourself out of a rut and three signs to know that you’re in one.
So, step number one of getting yourself out is to actually recognize the signs that you’re in a rut. Falling into a rut is a gradual process that takes time and eventually wears you down, and without even noticing, you find yourself feeling unfulfilled. And that you’re wasting your life, but you also feel helpless to do anything about it.
It’s not exactly pleasant, is it? And so it’s really important that you recognize these signs so you don’t fall too deep. It is easy to misdiagnose a rut as being a depressive episode or something like that. And they’re similar, but not the same. So, sign number one is, Every day is the same. For me personally, I always tend to feel in a rut when too many days are consistently unremarkable.
I’ll give you an example. So, every time I go to work, I have the same routine. I take the same train at the same time. I see the same people get on and off the train. I walk past the same people at the same locations as I go to work. And I see the same cars drive past me at the same points. And it genuinely feels like I’m doing the same day over and over and over again.
And obviously I’m just following my routine and everybody else is following their routines. So that kind of makes sense. But, essentially… Life has become so dull, because it lacks anything new or interesting, but at the same time, you lack motivation to do anything about it. So you feel trapped in your current position, because you have responsibilities that you can’t reasonably give to someone else.
Ultimately, it feels like you’re just spending your days killing time. That’s a massive, massive sign that you’re in a rut. You’re not really looking forward to anything. You’re not working on anything. It feels like you’re just waiting for something to happen. You’re bored of life, and you’re unfulfilled.
Your days may even feel like they’re merging together and you lose your sense of time. You don’t even know what day it is sometimes. Sign number two. You’re always busy, but you’re never productive. You’re always doing stuff. You’re making your to do list. You’re crossing stuff off. You’re adding more things on.
The grind never stops. Yet despite this, it doesn’t actually feel like you’re accomplishing anything. You’re just doing stuff on autopilot because that’s what you’re supposed to do. But as time goes on, it’s more of the same. This lacking of a sense of accomplishment is a big reason why we feel like we’re in a rut.
What’s the point of doing things if we don’t get anything out of it? And it’s kind of hardwired into us biologically as well. If we do something continuously and it doesn’t directly benefit us, we’re designed to not be satisfied with that and stop doing it or try something else. But if it’s our responsibility to do those things, which means we can’t just stop doing them, then we just subconsciously get miserable about it.
Hence, you fall into a rut. And sign number three. You’re on the path of least resistance. You don’t do anything with your free time because you’re exhausted. You spend all day at work, and by the time you get home, you are done. You have no energy for any of the things you used to do for fun, so you just scroll on your phone and then go to bed.
And that cycle repeats, which only makes the feeling of being in a rut stronger over time. Your days consist of doing whatever is easiest to do. For example, you may not be taking care of yourself as much as you should be. Your diet may consist of more and more pre made meals or take out food. When you’re in a rut, you just default to any solution that requires the least amount of cognitive load, regardless of what the outcome of that decision looks like.
You may even notice this as you’re doing it, but your motivation to change just is not there, so you just continue doing it. Now, this leads us to step number two, which is, again, clarity. To make getting out of a rut easier, you need to have complete clarity on where you are and where you want to be, and how those two states are different from each other.
If you don’t have clarity on where you want to be, you’re never going to get there. You cannot get to a destination if you don’t actually know where you’re going. So for this, spend 20 or 30 minutes listing exactly how you feel and why. What specifically about your life makes you feel like you’re in a rut?
It might be the reasons I just outlined or something more specific to you. And after that, you want to list what you feel like when you’re at peak performance, when you’re at the top of your game. Write down how you feel when you’re your best self, and what behaviours and activities you do that contribute towards those feelings.
It goes without saying that the only way to get out of a rut is to make changes. If you carry on as you are, nothing will change. The best way to properly get out of this rut is to actually witness progression from your first list, where you are, to your ideal list, which is where you want to go. And ironically, it’s not the achievement of the second list that will get you out of the rut, it’s seeing yourself move towards it through consistent small wins that give you a sense of achievement as you’re doing them.
I can’t tell you exactly how to get back to peak performance again. as that is going to depend entirely on you, but some basic tips are, number one, forgive yourself for feeling like this, it is completely normal. Number two is, make the tasks you need to do as easy and as satisfying as possible. And number three, doing something is more important than doing something perfectly.
And the final step, step number three, is increase your mental energy. So you know where you are, and you know where you need to be. And ideally you know how to get there. But one thing that makes getting out of a rut so difficult is the sheer lack of motivation that you have. You just don’t feel like doing anything at all.
Even the most trivial things seem to require more willpower than they ever used to. Every time I’m feeling like this it astonishes me how different I can feel almost immediately just by doing really basic things. Literally going outside can change the entire course of my day in terms of how I feel. So that’s my first recommendation.
If you take anything from this episode, literally anything at all, please just go outside. It doesn’t matter what time it is, what the weather’s like. Just go outside, please. Take a walk around and look at things. Observe the world, get out of your head, and watch the world pass by around you. The best way to generate more internal energy and shake yourself out of a dull life is to add new things that you haven’t experienced before.
This doesn’t have to be difficult, it can be as simple as going a different way to work on a road that you’ve never driven on, or using a different method of transport to get there. Maybe watching a movie that isn’t something you would normally consider, or listening to an album that you haven’t heard before.
The point of this is just to add some novelty into your life, but with very, very little effort. So this should give you a bit of a mood lift, and generate enough energy to start implementing bigger changes that you weren’t able to do before, because it was just too much effort. Building momentum is so important.
It’s easier to move when you’re already moving. So in conclusion, there’s three steps. Step one is recognize the signs that you’re in a rut. Sign one being every day is the same. Sign two is you’re always busy, but never productive. And sign three is you’re on the path of least resistance. Then step two is gain clarity.
So you want to gain clarity on where you are and when you want to be and how you got to get there. And then step three is increase your mental energy by We’re adding novelty into your life and slowly building up momentum. Hopefully, if you do all these three things, you’ll be able to write in no time.
Anyway, that’s everything for today’s episode. I hope you got some valuable information from what I just talked about. Uh, in other news, we now have a newsletter. So if you want to sign up for that, go to theminimalminds.com, click on newsletter, then sign up. It’s free, obviously. It’s literally just an email.
It’s not spam. I’m telling you, it’s not spam. Thank you so much for listening, and I’ll see you in the next episode.