Rut-Reversal: Give yourself the easy-win
Falling in and out of a rut is common, at least it is for me. But I’m not talking about the heavy psychological stuff. I’m referring to the smaller, sneakier bad habits usually caused by daily imbalances that result in unproductive behavior, like weeknight drinking or staying up too late to watch more of The Queen’s Gambit. Although it is valuable to recognize warning signs and avoid falling into a rut in the first place, it’s probably more useful to understand how to get out of one. As I have mentioned before, life always has the power to change our best-laid plans, so despite efforts to create bulletproof routines, ruts happen. It’s natural, and it’s okay.
What is a rut?
A “rut” is a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull or unproductive and is difficult to change. What’s important to understand about ruts is that they all have a root cause. Find the source, and you can break the cycle.
Here is an example of a classic pattern I’ve danced with many times, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Scenario: It is tough to wake up early. The struggle is real.
- I wake up very tired in the morning, so I….
- Skip my morning workout, then I…
- Drink too much caffeine to stay productive throughout the day, then I…
- Stay up late watching Netflix because I am wired from the caffeine, then I…
- Have some late-night snacks to go with the extra episode I started watching, then I…
- I wake up very tired in the morning, and on it goes.
Cause: Staying up late
Let’s be clear. The scenario above is not a terrible situation. It’s rooted in fun activities! I love sleeping-in, drinking coffee, and watching chess savants crush communism. [Truth-bomb] But if you strive for optimal performance in your day, then the pattern above needs to go — sorry, folks.
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a technique that helps people answer why a problem occurred in the first place. It seeks to identify the origin of an issue to find the primary cause of the problem:
1. Determine what happened
2. Determine why it happened
3. Figure out what to do to reduce the likelihood that it will happen again
My Top-7 Rut Reversal Techniques
Think of rut-reversals as helpful “life hacks” that stop negative behavioral loops. They are the easy-wins you create for yourself to reset your momentum.
- Make a list: quiet your mind by outlining a shortlist of actions you will take to overcome the source of your rut.
- Drink cold water: You can never go wrong with water. Still hungry after dinner or craving a snack before bed? Drink an ice-cold cup of water. It’s magical.
- Eat a healthy meal: It’s incredible the effect one balanced meal can have on your day. Afterward, don’t forget that cup of ice water.
- Sweat it: Research has shown that getting your sweat on can reduce symptoms of depression, so fire it up!
- Freeze it: Want to improve your circulation, deepen your sleep, and spike your energy levels? Try a freezing finish to your next shower.
- Just breath: Sometimes, all it takes to create space in your day is ten minutes of deep diaphragmatic breathing.
- Do nothing: You might be surprised to find that there are actual benefits of doing absolutely nothing.
Remember, ruts come with the territory of having a lot on your plate. They are common and curable but require awareness and being honest with yourself about the patterns you are perpetuating. In the game of life, you are both star-player, defender, and referee. Give yourself the easy-win and reverse your rut.