zenhabits : breathe

The Rut, & the Way Out

Post written by Leo Babauta.

You’re in a rut, and you can’t get unstuck.

Motivation is a resource that seems harder and harder to come by these days. You’re mired in malaise, you’re unexcited after a slump or a break, you’re in a dull 9-to-5 routine.

Any of these sound familiar?

If so, you’re not alone. I’ve been in these kinds of ruts, often, and sometimes for embarrassingly extended periods. While it doesn’t happen much these days, as I’m excited about everything I do, I’m no stranger to the rut. I was stuck in one for a couple years once, until I felt the rut wasn’t something I was in, but was me.

What is the way out? How do you start along this way if you don’t have motivation to start with?

I’ve found that the best way out of a rut is with the smallest step possible. But that step can result in more than you realize.

What if that smallest step is to announce a major challenge? In my recent past I’ve announced 30 days of yoga, writing a novel in 30 days, and some grueling physical challenges. In years past I’ve announced that I’m going to run a marathon, do a triathlon, start a blog, give up my car, give up meat, and so on.

Here’s the thing: the first step wasn’t to take on a major challenge. It was simply announcing it. And announcing something is really really easy. Doing it is much harder, but once you’ve announced it, you have some momentum, and you’re committed to a direction. Making the announcement only takes the moving of your lips and some hot air, or the typing of your fingers while your email program is open, and let’s face it, you do those things even when you’re in a rut.

What if the moving of your fingers or some hot air is too big a step? Can you take an even smaller step? Sure: you can simply ask, “What if?”

What if you took on a challenge? What if you cleared the clutter from your desk? What if you went outside for a brisk walk? What if you quit your job and headed for southeast Asia with nothing but a small backpack? What if you started a blog about your biggest passion? What if you decided to paint a picture or snap a photograph every single day for the next month? What if you did 5 minutes of yoga each morning? What if you tossed out your to-do list and only did 1 important thing each day before doing the less important tasks? What if you proposed your dream project to your boss? What if you stopped asking permission and just started doing what you’ve been wanting to do? What if your life was a blank slate and you could fill it with only the things you love? What if you could change someone else’s life? What if you tossed out all your excuses? What if you were grateful for what you have, instead of complaining about what you don’t have? What if you tossed out your goals? What if you let go of your expectations? What if you got rid of everything you had?

What if is a very easy step.

Take the easiest step you can imagine. Once you start moving, you’ll feel unbelievably better. Once your foot touches ground, you will feel the power of the earth, you’ll feel the power of motion, you’ll feel the rut moving behind you. That one step — it’s a doozy.



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