Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Surviving A Rut

Sometimes in life, we experience events so jarring that they throw off our equilibrium. We can usually shake off minor setbacks just fine. But when the setback is large enough, it feels like continuing on as normal isn’t an option.

Consider the times in your life when you just erased a joyous habit from your life. Like going on a morning walk, meditating, playing the guitar, or phoning a friend after work. Sometimes stepping your foot out the door or picking up the phone just feels like too much.

As David from Raptitude says, “You will get back to it—you’re sure of that—but not quite yet. It feels like something else has to happen first.”

So what triggers a rut?

A break in morale. Maybe it was the size of the chasm or perhaps you were already nearing the end of your rope, but one thing is certain: you didn’t have the resources to go on.

So you do something that’s likely to invite more setbacks.

Suppose you have a bad night’s sleep. If you’re high in spirits, you’ll go through your day largely as usual. A little tired, but everything gets done as normal.

Are you feeling a little down? Then you’ll probably have 3 espressos too many and maybe even take a nap. Understandable. But now you’re setting yourself up for another bad night that’s likely to lead to another caffeine-fueled day.

Before long, you’ll be in a rut. Traveling down a path that’s not leading you to where you want to go.

Why do we keep going if we know the road is leading us astray? Because when you’re in a rut, the worst choices feel the most intuitive. 

If you feel unresponsive, unloveable and unmotivated, it’s incredibly tempting to do things that make you feel even more unresponsive, unloveable and unmotivated. Like calling in sick, cancelling on friends and skipping your workout.

This is the trouble with a rut: it makes the right choices feel impossible and the bad ones feel rewarding. Put simply, moody you tends to make worse choices than cheery you.

And that’s great news.

Because if you’re going through a rut, you now know what to do. To quote David again, “If this is a rut, am I responding in a way that deepens it? Am I digging when I could be climbing?”

P.S. Always remember to be kind to yourself. If you’re only focused on making your future self happy, you’re undoubtedly making yourself miserable now. So don’t be afraid to spoil yourself a little.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach