Climbing Out of the Rut

Oregon Trail Wagon Wheel Ruts, by Doug Letterman

“Growth is painful. change is painful. But, nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong.” ~ N. R. Narayana Murthy

“If you experience that feeling of being in a rut in your life, then something’s not right. A lot of people who feel that way don’t take the time to say, ‘O.K., well, what am I doing? Is that what I want to be doing? What is it making me feel this way?’ You have to identify what specifically is making you feel stuck. ~ Joy Mangano

I don’t know about you, but I get into routines that become ruts. Please don’t misunderstand me, I think routines are valuable. But sometimes I let them rule my life. I get comfortable and don’t seek new adventures. I don’t try to learn anything new, change my attitudes, try new restaurants or recipes, or challenge myself even in the entertainment I choose to enjoy. It all becomes a round of the same-old, same-old.

For quite some time, I’ve felt a vague dissatisfaction with my life, a kind of rumbling beneath the surface, but I didn’t take time to examine why. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other day after day doing the same old things and feeling stagnant.

Climbing out of my rut really started when my sister told me that her husband wanted to walk The Camino, in Spain to celebrate his upcoming 50th birthday. The whole family was going along to be tourists while he walked and they wanted Barry and me to come along. Barry decided he wanted to walk The Camino with my brother-in-law and I decided it was time to learn Spanish.

Maybe it was the daily short Spanish lessons I was doing on Duolingo on my phone that started to shake things up in my mind. I mean, I had been feeling like I needed something new, but learning a new language wakes up different parts of the brain, and I guess that’s what I needed because I finally responded to the ads I’d been seeing on social media about The No Pants Project. It’s a program that teaches participants how to become freelancers. Doing that has really stirred up my thinking. I’ve realized, in a life changing way, that I’ve been in a deep rut for quite some time. The walls of my rut are so big that it’s a bit scary trying to climb out.

This morning I awoke feeling jittery in my solar plexes. Yesterday I watched the NPP video starting the second week of the program, designed to help us identify the superpowers we can use to help businesses and individuals be more productive, or learn something new. I let my unease lead me to their source. I found dark attitudes and emotions lurking that I’ve been hiding from myself for a very long time.

The first thing that came to me is that I really hate business culture that is all about the bottom line and in the process devalues the human beings who work so hard to help the company succeed. And that prejudice could be a real problem, because the whole point of NPP is to find niches to use my superpowers to help individuals, and businesses owners. Okay, I’ve got to reframe how I view business owners, especially of huge businesses. I need to see them as human beings just like me.

The next thought that came to me was that part of my dislike has to do with the fact that I have never felt completely valued for my knowledge, experience, or the talents I was born with. I mean my top strength, according to the strength finder questionnaire at the end of the book, Teach With Your Strengths by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller with Jennifer Robison, is empathy. Empathy! Who’s going to want that skill? Who is going to want to hire someone who feels the emotions of others? That just doesn’t seem to fit into any business model I know of.

Maybe part of my hesitation has to do with the fact that I was once passed over as a candidate for house president at my undergraduate school because they thought my answers were unsatisfactory. I think the question/answer that killed my chances was: What would you do if a girl came back to the dorm late at night drunk? I said I’d find out why she was drinking so heavily and see if I could get her some help. That’s what I learned from my dad, you find out the reasons behind the behavior. But, that’s not what they wanted to hear. They wanted me to say I’d turn her in to the higher ups so they could discipline her. Yes, they were right, we should face consequences for our actions. But punishment without finding the reasons behind the behavior, in my experience, creates more wounds. And isn’t that what education should be about. Not just the acquisition of knowledge, but self-discovery as well.

The next thing that came to me is that most of my superpowers, are what I would call soft skills. According the above mentioned questionnaire, my other top strengths are intellection; I like to think, connectedness; I see everything in the world as connected, Ideation; I’m fascinated by ideas, and my last strength is strategic. In other words, I can look at the clutter and find a way out, I can identify patterns and consequences that will occur if a certain decision is acted upon.

Now, I’m only in the second week of my twelve week coaching program so I’m sure the coaches will be able to help me focus in on one marketable superpower. But this morning I was feeling extremely skeptical about that possibility and I just have to work through those feelings. I’m going to continue doing the self-examination they recommend so I can move forward with my goal of becoming a freelancer.

I want to make one last observation. I’ve tried to build a business using my knowledge and skills before, but none of the programs fit my mode of thinking and working. I always felt like they were speaking a language that was completely foreign to me. I didn’t understand the steps I was supposed to take and they didn’t help me with that. Nor did I understand the vocabulary they used. I was left feeling stupid and unsatisfied. It’s so nice to finally find a program that speaks my language and lays out the process of creating a business in little manageable chunks.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it. Have a happy hump day.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Published by lucindasagemidgorden

I grew up in the West, the descendant of people traveling by wagon train to a new life. Some of their determination and wanderlust became a part of me. I imagine them sitting around the campfire telling stories, which is why I became first a theatre artist, then a teacher and now a writer. They are all ways of telling stories.

6 thoughts on “Climbing Out of the Rut

  1. I’ve had the same challenge for years, Lucinda. I finished university with a degree in social sciences, much idealism and many creative projects on my wish list. I ended up doing webdesign to make a living and minimizing my idealism and creativity. In the interim I also tried various online marketing courses which have much the same message as you describe.

    I think the challenge for us creative-writerly folks is that we are not used to have to think as, well, one-dimensionally. ‘You must find this skill’ – ‘you must focus on that’. It is the opposite of writing creatively when you just … write, and see where it goes. You may have a plot and notes, yes, but the process itself is using quite a different part of the brain.

    One way I have dealt with this contradiction has been to actually get started with my little web-business and go out and help people. Whenever I get in contact with people I seem to thaw a bit and look at them as people whom I can help, which is a motivator. It is never a motivator to think about what kind of webshop I can sell them. And sure enough, for most – although not all – customers (small business owners) I tend to end up getting to help them with much else than just the technical stuff.

    These people are usually quite overwhelmed about all the things they have to do to get their business running, so having me help them out with priorities on the online part and the occasional light coaching talk about stress-management is a plus for me. It is what keeps me motivated to go on earning money in this way. But it is not what I sell as such. I sell the technical stuff. People call me and say ‘fix this’ – ‘install that’.

    I have tried to skew my blog on my company website to be more about priorities and management than technical solutions. I can’t compete with the 1 million WordPress guides on YouTube anyway. But what I sell at first when I pitch myself to potential customers – that’s an immediate solution to a technical problem. I believe marketing folks call these very immediate problems for ‘pain points’. Yeah, customers know they are stressed but that is not what they seek a cure for at first (or they would probably not be stressed). They want someone to help them with VAT on the webshop. Fine, I do that. And then maybe get another assignment and then another. And then we meet for coffee (about business, of course), and I can get to use a little of my coaching gene (the idealistic part of me).

    The creative stuff I keep in my sparetime and that is okay. But I would go nuts, if I was not able to use the idealistic part of myself in my business. And this is a way I have found to go about it that works: I try to identify what people need the most and then use that as a way of connecting. Then when we start a business relationship and a bit later I can get in all of the stuff I really want to talk about, like priorities, stress management and so on.

    Does that make sense? I hope so. I hope it may also be of some use on your path.


    1. Christopher, Yes, that does help. I have been working on seeing myself, my talents, and what I can offer people in a new way. Now I’m seeing those I may help in a new way too. Changing fundamental attitudes and thought patterns is always a bit jarring for me. I have to sit with them for awhile. It’s part of the growth process. Sometimes it sucks being an introverted empath. But in the end I wouldn’t be anything else. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I hope you find the program really useful!
    I had hoped to do El Camino for my 75th, but the incredibly high fever I had when I contracted dengue fever has left me off balance. No way I can walk that trail now. But I’d like to do a tiny piece of it, perhaps.


    1. Oh, I hope you get well soon. Yes, Barry and Jamie may walk only part of it as well. We’ve made no definite plans as yet.


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