After my husband died, I became consumed with "keeping things together." Whether it was the kids' routine or the house, I became focused solely on surviving, putting one foot in front of the other and carrying on. We'd already suffered a major loss in our lives and every therapist agreed--routine was good.
But after a few years, routine started to feel like stagnation. Once the grief had worn off, the kids seemed "okay", and my career started to move...slowly...ahead, I realized I had developed habits that no longer served my present or my future. I realized I was stuck. But figuring that out and figuring out how to change are two different things.
A wonderful emotion to get things moving when one is stuck is anger. It was anger more than anything else that had set me off, roused me into productivity and creativity.
Until you recognize what is holding you back, you'll continue spinning your wheels and digging yourself even further into the muck. We've all been there--the dreaded rut. Identifying being stuck is the first step to figuring out how to free yourself, but this is going to involve some effort on your part.
What are some of your bad habits that have kept you locked in neutral? See if you can identify to any of the following:
- Being perpetually late
- Talking instead of listening
- Working long hours without a break or exercise
- Forgetting someone's name sixty seconds after meeting them
- Eating fast food regularly (as in your standard M-F meal program)
- Socializing too much on your phone
- Procrastinating on everything from preparing your taxes to cleaning out your closet
- Not promptly returning phone calls or emals
- Not taking time off for family or friends
- Knowing you're bored, but eating instead of figuring out an alternative activity that would stimulate you.
For me, when I really stopped to look at the habits I'd created, I realized a lot of them were born from sadness...or avoidance of living. Maybe I appeared busy on the outside with juggling kids' activities, a household, and restarting a career, but my habits that I'd created were not serving my highest good because they were keeping me locked in the past--and, in some ways, they kept me safe from taking certain risks that scared me.
When reflecting on your habits, be honest with yourself. What do you do that is stopping you from achieving your highest vision for yourself?
We all get stuck. We all lose ourselves a little bit in a fantasy or in our jobs and forget how we feel about other things. It's really important to check yourself, to spend some time alone.
Your habits and belief systems are also products of your environment. If you're surrounding yourself with people who love eating fast food every lunch hour, that social peer pressure is keeping you in that bad habit. Breaking free of it may require some social discomfort. The same thing applies if you are surrounded by people who are constantly talking about the gloom and doom of life--how can you feel positive about the world if your friends are convinced of the worst case scenario?
Or, in my case, I was surrounded by people who saw me as my late husband's widow and how I was in the past--whenever I tried to break free of that image, I was met with raised eyebrows and comments that made me feel silly or stupid. I'm sure people meant well, but I allowed myself to cling to the role of stay-at-home-mom even though that had ended the moment my husband died. But it felt comfortable--and it made the people around me comfortable--so I clung to it for a very long time to the detriment of my well-being.
This is the point where you need to make a commitment to yourself about the kind of person you want to be and the kind of life you want to live.
The first steps to breaking free of the rut are:
- Develop the habit of changing bad habits. After recognizing the habits you want to change, live consciously and hold yourself accountable. When you are striving to improve, you build character and stamina. Think of this as an exciting journey to a better life.
- Clearly identify the habits you want to change. You do this by being brutally honest with yourself about what these habits could mean to your long-term goals. What are the consequences for continuing to do them? Get a sheet of paper, note the habit you want to change, and ask yourself what will your life look like five years from now if you keep doing that?
- Define your NEW successful habit that you intend to create. Go into great detail here. The more vividly you describe the benefits of the new habit, the more inclined you will be to change.
- Create an action plan and hold yourself accountable. Your life may be at stake. Don't cut yourself any slack.
Amber Lea Easton
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. She also writes five different blogs, volunteers for children's literacy, and advocates for suicide awareness. In addition, she is a professional editor and mother of two extraordinary human beings. She currently lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com.