Behavioral Psychology

Stuck In A Rut

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If you are stuck in a rut what it probably means is that your sense of curiosity has left you. People who can maintain their curiosity find pretty much every situation interesting. If you feel like you are in a rut you probably don’t find too much about your life interesting at all right now. The days pass you by in a blur and you can hardly tell the difference between them.

Actually a loss of interest is a central feature of depression, and you might well be depressed, but there are reasons why people start to feel like they are in a rut that would have a similar effect on just about anyone. If you can address them you might be able to get back on track.

One of the big reasons that people lose their curiosity is that they stop challenging themselves. There is a certain comfort in ceasing to go outside of your comfort zone, but you are also telling your brain that it no longer needs to create new neurons or build new neural pathways, because the cognitive hardwiring you have now will be sufficient for any situation. We have talked about how learning is fastest and most effective at the point where the stage you are at is challenging but doable, where you are pushing yourself. You don’t find success every time but you do find it often enough to keep from giving up. Once you have mastered this stage, you raise the bar on yourself, so that you now do easily what before was challenging, and you now find challenging but doable what before was impossible.

The behavioral process of learning we outlined above, translated into the language of existential thought, just means growth. In the practice of life, growth means increasing mastery in various domains like work, hobbies, and relationships. If you are in a rut you have traded growth for stagnation and are no longer challenging yourself at the levels of difficulty that make your brain fire neurons to help you stay plugged in.

An effective and practical way to help you get out of your rut and back into the groove is to choose a new hobby, something you have always had some interest in, and decide to do it mindfully with the ultimate goal of mastery. Use the stair stepper method of constantly adjusting your zone of proximal development so that the level you are at is challenging but doable for you. When you start to notice yourself able to do the task well without having to think too much or overly strain yourself, it’s time to raise the bar. This process will be a brand new opportunity for you to access all your talents, those you are aware of, those that are lying dormant, and those you have not yet developed, and bring them to bear in order to master something. You will feel capable and powerful as your skill level increases. You can use positive reinforcements on yourself to help you stay motivated.

Stagnation is a real shame because even though we fool ourselves into thinking we have all the time in the world, life is very short and it passes us by very quickly. Every moment counts, and how you define yourself has a lot to do with the talents and abilities you have developed and the natural gifts you have used to develop them. If you are not doing this at your work, with your hobbies, and in your romantic relationship then it’s no wonder that you are stuck in a rut and in a rut is where you will be until you decide it is time to activate.

Greetings I'm Michael, the owner of Evolution Counseling and the author of all the articles on this site. I got my master's degree from Seattle University in community mental heath counseling and have committed myself to advancing my knowledge of psychology and to evolving my own philosophical system ever since. In addition to the content on this site I offer online coaching using Skype. If you'd like to learn more about it click on the online coaching tab or if you think you'd like to set up a session send me an email at evolve@evolutioncounseling.com.

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