We have all had those humdrum periods—those times when we seem to be doing the same activities over and over, and we feel miserable and unfulfilled about it.
Perhaps you are bored with your life – there is nothing exciting on the horizon to look forward to, and you’re so immersed in your day-to-day grind that there is no time or space to bring some enthusiasm and spirit into your dull, monotonous life. In fact, you can’t even remember the last time you laughed and enjoyed yourself…you have even forgotten what makes you truly happy.
Or perhaps you are feeling burnt out on the job – you are working your butt off, not seeing the results you want, and wondering if you’re hard work will ever pay off. That goal you have been stretching for seems insurmountable; you are starting to feel unmotivated, and are about to throw in the towel and say it’s not even worth trying to reach for it anymore.
Here is the million-dollar question: how do you avoid getting stuck in a rut?
Although, its not always easy, here are three tips to get you started:
1. Know What You Value
Walt Disney once said, “When your values become clear, making decisions becomes easier.” To avoid getting into a rut, know what’s important to you. Until you know these guiding principles, you can’t live the life you were meant to. You need to determine what you truly believe in, what you would take a stand for, what you will say yes to whenever anyone is saying no…and once you do, you can then walk the talk, and live a life that’s in alignment with your core values.
2. Know What You Want
Sometimes we spend so much time going through the motions, we forget why we are even doing it all for. So, to snap yourself out of ‘auto-pilot’, remind yourself what are your future aspirations? What are your BHAGs – Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals? In their 1994 book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, authors James Collins and Jerry Porras coined the term, ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’. A BHAG is a strategic statement used by businesses (similar to a vision statement) focusing on a medium- to long-term organization-wide goal. BHAG’s are generally audacious, and most likely questionable, to the outside world, but regarded as an aggressive target, but not impossible, to those within the company.
However, why can’t we use these gallant, strategic statements to shoot for the stars for our own personal goals, rather than just organizational goals? I believe we can and should. As an educator, I see all too often that our educational system focuses on learning techniques (the best ways to learn) or educational pathways (the right order to take courses in) on what works for, or is appropriate for, the ‘average’ student. This idea is the central premise of Todd Rose’s book, The End of Average: How to Succeed in a World that Values Sameness.
Do you remember the bell curve from school? The bell curve is the most common type of graph used to describe data distribution. The highest point on the curve describes the data’s most probable outcome, and all other occurrences fall equally on either side, creating two downward sloping lines from that top point, one line declining to the right and one to the left.
Once you know where you want to go, it’s a lot easier to decide the things you need to do, or don’t do, to get you closer to what you truly want. And why put limitations on your desires and goals? Dream big and then pedal hard. The only difference between ordinary and extraordinary is the extra. Are you willing to take the extra step that is going to make you achieve your wildest dreams?? If yes, sometimes only a little extra degree of effort can make a HUGE difference.
3. Know How to Have Fun
Sometimes we get so bogged down doing the wrong tasks, the things we have to do or don’t like doing, that we rarely have time for fun and play. So, think of activities you find fun – the things that truly make you happy. Not sure what fun looks like? Think back to your childhood. What did you love to do as a child? Inject some child-like playfulness into your daily activities. Studies show that learning and creativity are enhanced when we are having fun.
All too often we let what we do determine who we are. How many times do you find yourself in social settings, and once you move beyond the “Hi, my name is Carolyn”, the next phrase you say is “I am a ____________ (insert 9-to-5 job here)”. We, all too often, let our corporate roles define us, and/or allow people to make assessments of us based on what we do. Instead of saying “I am an accountant” for example, have you ever said “I am a parent of two wonderful kids” or “married to a fantastic spouse” or “an animal lover wanting help those who can’t speak for themselves” or “a volunteer in the community”? No…we seldom, if ever, say those things. We invariably default to the title on our business cards, as if that is the defining label of who we are, and then act in that stereotypical manner within our social circles.
We need to find our fun, silly side. It’s ok to relax and let go, and do the things that put a smile on our face and those around us. It’s also ok to lighten up at work, and smile in our job, as we go forward. Once we remember how to have fun and enjoy ourselves, then we can let who we are determine what we do and even how we are going to do it. In The Levity Effect: Why it Pays to Lighten Up, Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher, share that humour in the workplace has many benefits, including employee satisfaction and loyalty, increased productivity, and innovation for a better workplace and higher profits.