Breaking Out of Ruts: Be Open to the New

We have a choice to move ahead or allow ourselves to stay stuck in a rut – Lisa A. Mininni

Don’t Settle

A man bought a radio and placed it on top of his refrigerator. He tuned it to his favorite channel and removed all the tuning and volume buttons on the radio. He chose to settle for what he needed and ever expected to have. He found no need for the buttons that could open the door to new stations. This led to him sabotaging his growth by relegating himself to what he knew. He chose to create his future using the lens of his past. 

Pathways and Ruts

Ruts in life are formed by the habits and choices we form that, in turn, create us. We are a product of our habits. The good news is the habits that form ruts can be broken by new and better habits. Think of a habit as a pathway. Each time I practice a habit based on a trigger and the reward I get for the habit, a groove is formed in my mind, making the habit easier to repeat. Like consistent foot traffic in a field of grass forms a path, so do repeated habits, whether positive or negative, create pathways in our minds. 

A powerful ingredient

Author Robert Hargrove says we either have rut stories or river stories. A rut story entails what is holding you back and has you stuck. On the other hand, a river story speaks about possibilities and focuses on opportunities for development and growth. Once we decide the rut we are in is not final, we open our life to what is possible. We are willing to let go of what stands in the way of our progress. We look for the buttons that open us to new opportunities to grow. A key ingredient to coming out of ruts called hope is introduced. In his thought-provoking book, Elevate Your Perspective, my friend Samson Gichuki announces, “Hope is one of the most powerful human traits that brightens the future. When you have hope for a better tomorrow, you will see possibilities in the present and opportunities in the future.” 

When I see a river flowing, my mind envisions the effect it will have where it flows. Will it bring growth to vegetation? Provide essential drinking water? Food through fish? Create stunning views to inspire others?  Or perhaps will its sound attract an unmatched calmness in a noisy world? The importance of rivers cannot be underscored. They are vital to life. To move from being stuck in a rut to a life that flows like a river we must be ready to embrace uncertainty and grab hold of new opportunities.

Uncovering the Culprit

What keeps us stuck in a rut? Uncertainty is a major culprit. Uncertainty is the feeling of not knowing what’s around the corner. Anxiety, worry, and fear move into our minds, and we choose the easy way. Stay put where we are safe and comfortable. Except, in our safety and comfort, we lose sight of who we can really become. The result of staying stuck in a rut is living life mindlessly without focus or hope for anything different or better. We sink deeper into ruts each time we allow fear, anxiety, and worry to hold us hostage to habits that appear harmless but, under the surface, are slowly eating away at our passion for life. How do we break out of uncertainty and embrace possibilities?

Back to Purpose

The early pioneers who ventured into the dark wilderness of what is now the United States of America carried a profound sense of purpose. Their desire to pioneer was anchored to purpose. In addition to hope, we overcome uncertainties that keep us stuck in ruts by rediscovering and reaffirming our purpose. Hope and purpose are powerful forces that give a positive lens to see the future and take action in that direction despite uncertainties. Hope and purpose remind us our lives have value, and we have a reason for being. When you are stuck in a rut, a sense of purpose will jog your mind free and give you a vantage point to see new opportunities. 

Do you know your purpose? When was the last time you looked in the mirror and rehearsed it? Clarifying and articulating your purpose is crucial. The noise in our world can silence the voice of purpose within us. American businessman George Hamel accurately observed, “a noble purpose inspires sacrifice, stimulates innovation, and encourages perseverance.” 

Final Thought: 

  1. Don’t allow a rut you are in to be the template for your future. 
  2. Discard the running script in your mind that things will never change. 
  3. Create a river story. 
  4. Remind yourself you have a purpose, your life has meaning, and open yourself to the possibilities despite the uncertainties. 
  5. Level up your hope. 

Each day take small but decisive actions that energize your hope and reaffirm your purpose. Effort and courage will accompany hope and purpose on the road to destiny. 

Keep on keeping on!


Gichuki, Samson. Elevate Your Perspective (2022), p. 86

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