Are You In A Groove Or A Rut?
By Althea DeBrule
Friday, 24th February 2006
Ruts:  the routines in our work and lives that have become uninteresting and bothersome.

Everyone has a favorite rut or two.  They are comfortable, familiar and undemanding.  If you stay in them long enough you begin to equate them with who you are and buy in to the belief that remaining steadfastly in them is all you can expect out of life.

Ruts are furrows, gullies, creases and dare I say wrinkles where we tend to live life cheerfully and without much thought.  We find one way of doing something, and continue the pattern.  It does not matter whether it is the best or logical way, we keep on doing things in a certain manner, like taking the same route to work, or going to the same restaurant for lunch and ordering the same identical meal every time.

Just in case you do not think this applies to your situation, here are a few ways to tell if you are in a rut:

  • Stuck in routines:  Ruts are places where you get stuck. You do things routinely even if they do not work any more.  While routines are important, they can become ineffective and unmanageable when taken to the extreme.
  • Ruled by Assumptions:  Like all human beings, we have a tendency to take some things for granted.  These are called assumptions and they powerfully affect what we see, how we behave, and the kind of impact we have on the world around us.  Our assumptions can be both positive and negative.  They can expand our thoughts and actions or limit them.
  • Going through the motions:  Sometimes we put our behavior and actions on auto-pilot.  We just cruise through our careers and lives without giving any thought to what we are trying to achieve.  We frown at setting goals and criticize others who wish to get more out of work and life.  Anyone who rocks the boat is to be shunned and despised.
  • Protected Comfort Zones:  We all have things that are comfortable to us. When we permanently settle in, these very same comfort zones become ruts. Comfort zones are created when we are successful at something—a newly acquired skill, talent or achievement.  We repeat these successful behaviors again and again and get the same results—they work.  Unfortunately, they become ruts when we fail to look at each new situation as an uncharted opportunity that should be explored on its own merits—not just handled in the same manner we have always used.
Grooves:  Innovative paths where talent and tradition merge with affinity and enjoyment to create challenging, interesting and rewarding outcomes.

When you are in a groove, you are able to create and see things differently.  Grooves are characterized by:

  • Abandonment to joy:  When you are in a groove, your attitude is energizing—not only to you but to those around you as well.  This energy is life-giving, refreshing and attractive.  People gravitate to you hoping a little of your enthusiasm and positive attitude will rub off on them.
  • Perseverance:  There is no giving up or crying uncle in a groove, and whiney butts are not allowed.  Excessive complaining and groaning about the limitations of a situation are traded for infinite possibilities and boundless resources. Groovers speak, breathe and walk in an upbeat manner and do not quit when things get tough.
  • Variety and exploration:  When you are in the groove, you make a conscious decision to put in the effort necessary to implement something you have learned every day of your life.  You cultivate a mindset that continually explores new options (like Dora The Explorer, one of my granddaughter's favorite cartoon characters).
  • Putting your money where your mouth is:  People in a groove do not just talk about all the things they will do some day when money and time are available in large supply.  They actually attempt to achieve their heart's desire by consistently taking little steps to reach their desired outcomes.  Additionally they have found a way to stay in a perpetual groove without letting it become a rut.
Turn Your Ruts into Grooves

Based on the descriptions above, are you currently in a groove or a rut?  Which one do you want to be in at this time?  The choice is yours and it is not difficult to make.  You will have to count the cost and sacrifices associated with getting out of your current rut—whether on the job or at home, and determine if you are willing to pay the price to get in and stay in a perpetual groove.

If you are currently in a groove, resist the urge to pat yourself on the back.  Instead, evaluate your groove regularly to make sure it has not quietly turned into a rut.  Celebrate your accomplishments and prepare to use what you have learned to help others turn their ruts into grooves.

Althea DeBrule, entrepreneur and seasoned human resources executive, has focused for more than 30 years on helping people achieve their career goals. Creator of The Extreme-Career-Makeover™and a founding partner of RADSGroup Organizational Consultants, she is recognized for her bottom line and practical application of career development and management strategies in a way that penetrates hearts and compels action. She speaks and teaches with inspired talent, humor and contagious zeal at management conferences and leadership retreats nationwide, and has been featured in CFO Magazine, Strategy@Work, Human Resource Executive Magazine. Althea is the author of Bosses & Orchards, a compelling and candid book about how to make your work relationship with your boss succeed. To discover how you can take your career to a new level, visit http://www.extreme-career-makeover.com

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