Ready, Set, Grow: 3 Tweaks to Get You Out of the Rut

You’re in a rut. Maybe you don’t know it. But you are.

Maybe your life seems comfortable. You have your needs met. Perhaps you even have a decent job, insurance, and a retirement plan.


Here’s the bad news. All that stuff and more is holding you back from becoming something greater.

Don’t get me wrong. You should probably keep working, and keep your insurance and your retirement accounts. But those things represent something much more sinister that is happening in your life.

It’s called stagnation.

A Silent Killer

It starts with simple things, things you would never realize are inhibiting your growth as a person. At first, these little habits manifest themselves as pieces of familiar comforts in your life. You believe that by keeping these things in a state of status quo, it brings order to your otherwise chaotic life.

Think about it. Do you have a favorite coffee mug, favorite fork to use, but only at dinner, or a certain pattern to your morning ritual? Do you always go through the same process when you take a shower?

It’s okay. I am guilty of many little quirky habits as well.

I have a favorite coffee mug I call my “Saturday Mug.”

I know it’s silly. And I don’t care. I love that mug. It looks cool, is perfectly weighted, and always makes me feel snug and cozy when I drink out of it.

I use it on Saturdays because that is my favorite day of the week, so drinking good coffee out of my favorite mug on Saturdays always seemed to make me feel more comfortable, more relaxed.

That mug became a weekend ritual, a habit that gradually slipped me into a coma of stagnation.

Breaking Tradition

Recently, a friend of mine came to live with us for a few months. During the first week at our home, she saw my Saturday mug and took it out of the cupboard. I watched as she filled it with coffee and creamer, and started drinking out of it.

I thought about it for a few seconds, and decided to try something. I told my friend about the special mug, and how I had only used it on Saturdays for over a year. She asked if she should get another one.

I told her from then on, I wanted her to use that mug whenever she wanted. It was a strange feeling to so easily give up something I’d become attached to. What was even more interesting was how attached I’d become to something so trivial as a coffee mug.

We humans like to build up comfort walls around ourselves. Those walls keep us safe, protected from the untamed elements of an uncaring world. Those walls help us make sense of the disorder of life. But they also keep us in check, resigned to a life of stagnation, doomed forever to not reach our full potential.

There are a few lessons to be learned from my coffee mug story.

1. Sharing– We should share our cherished possessions, those things that we hold dear. Sharing the things we love with others is a great way to break out of our stagnant rut, and change up the pattern. It also gives a little taste of happiness to someone else.

2. Get Uncomfortable– We need to occasionally get outside our comfort zone. For some people, they do something very uncomfortable, like skydiving or running an ultra-marathon. For others, smaller, subtler changes are enough.

The point is that we break down this wall we have built around ourselves so we can grow as individuals. Find a small thing you can change in your routine that makes you a little uncertain, a little uncomfortable. It can be as simple as changing your usual breakfast, putting three ice cubes in your drinks instead of four, or going out to a new restaurant you’ve been thinking about trying.

3. Be Mindful of Your Fears– Many of our little habits are deeply rooted in superstitious beliefs. We think that if we change up our patterns, something bad will happen. The underlying truth of this is that we are living out of fear. Those fears are guiding our actions, decisions, emotions, and lives.

The key to beating these fears is to be mindful of them. Tell yourself, in a quiet voice, why you are repeating the same habits, why you aren’t getting outside your comfort zone. Tell yourself what you are afraid will happen.

By voicing these thoughts, it helps us to see how irrational and inhibiting they really are.

It’s On You…

Try these little tweaks for yourself and see how it works. What are some things holding you back? List them in the comments. I’d love to hear about them.

Ernest Dempsey is a Counselor and fiction author from Chattanooga, Tennessee. You can check out his books or his powerful blog posts at or follow him on Twitter @ErnDempsey.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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