Think Your Way Out of a Rut

Think Your Way Out of a Rut

I am a creature of Habit. I like to eat lunch at the same time every day, driving to the same place with the same people to eat the same food served by the same server. Take any one of those out of the equation and I can become miserable.  Fortunately, about 10 years ago I recognized the downside of that and stopped. Unfortunately, I still have a few ruts and comfort zones that I fall into.  Therefore, I spend considerable energy working to break free from those.

So, what is the big deal?  I will tell you. Staying in a rut or comfort zone allows the brain to become stagnant by limiting neuroplasticity, it keeps you from getting out and doing what you need to do to move forward in life and in stunts your creativity.

When I am struggling to write, I go to my idea file.  There are very few times that I have written one of those ideas. Just thinking about them, however, allows my mind to explore a chain of thoughts that leads me to what I needed to write about even though I did not know I needed to write about it.

I have taught many people the art of using s simple legal pad to develop ideas.  Lately, I have begun teaching people to take a brisk walk just prior to beginning the process.  The brain stimulation of the walk has a dramatic effect on the idea generation process.

There are many books and articles written on the topic of changing things up and being flexible.  This is not a unique idea, and I don’t profess to have originated it. 

What I would encourage you to do is to consider the effect of physical and brain exercises prior to your most important or creative endeavors.  Before you try to push yourself to do something important that might be outside of your comfort zone, stretch yourself in some other way first.

I have always wondered if people who make a habit out of learning are wiser because of what they learned, the fact that learned how to learn or the simple act of learning stimulates the brain to create new pathways allowing them to think better. Of course, the answer is likely all of the above.

Imagine the power of listening to a book on tape while you are exercising.  Do that every morning before you begin your daily activities and see how much your thinking and job performance can improve.  Not long ago, I began a process of listening to book summaries from the time I woke up until I am dressed and ready to start my day. I have earbuds that I put in when I get to the sink, I brush my teeth, shower, select my clothing, dress, and then remove the earbuds.  I usually get to listen to two book summaries each day. The result is a much more thoughtful approach to my daily planning session where I can optimize my calendar and get through my initial email in much less time.  When I review my notes from the previous day, I have been more effective at resolving open issues.  I am convinced this is due to the practice of stimulating my thinking before I got to my desk.

Where do you need to be more creative?  Where do you need to be more effective? What kind of physical activity can you add in before critical thinking needs to occur? What kind of mental stimulation can you engage in to start the process? There is a great benefit to changing up your route to work or your normal meal plan.  You really should do that often.

You should also think more strategically about your day.  Think about when you need to be at your best and find ways to precede these times with something stimulating.

Finally, keep a journal about how this works out for you.  Note why you needed to be at your best, what you did physically or mentally to stimulate yourself, and document any surprises that stand out.  Over time, this will help you to reinforce this as a habit.