For years (not days, weeks, or months) I was in a rut. The life I had settled into was making me miserable but I didn’t have any idea how to improve it. About a year ago, I remembered a time in my life when I had tried something and it had really created some momentum and change. The memory of getting out of a rut before made me determined to do it again. And I did!
These days, I often hear friends say, “I want your life!” The reason? It’s because I’m having some really cool experiences that have lit up my face and my life with a happiness that I can’t hide. Don’t get me wrong, I still live a very real life that includes a job, grocery shopping, and cleaning my home.
However, my life now includes new hobbies, new work, and new relationships. I was stuck in a rut and I had no idea how to get out of it but a little over a year ago, I decided to try something different. This one little action got me to try things that I had either pushed out of my life or decided without trying that “it wasn’t for me.”
Do you want to get out of a rut but aren’t sure how to do it? Maybe this will help you get the life you want even if you can’t quite visualize it yet. Here’s what worked for me and how I got out of a rut and got the life I wanted.
Like I said earlier, this life adventure started a little over a year ago. I wrote a blog post called the Power of Saying Yes. After I wrote that post, I felt duty-bound to actually start saying yes to things.
Saying YES to life created momentum and put me on the path to adventures that amaze me and those that know me. The funny thing is that even though I wasn’t expecting all this—it feels genuinely like the perfect life for me.
Somehow I got the life I wanted even when I wasn’t sure what that was or how to get there and I definitely got out of my rut.
I believe you can get the life you want even if you can’t even visualize it yet.
The Secret of How to Get Out of a Rut
There is a secret to getting more out of life. This secret is easy and difficult at the same time. It’s easy because it all comes down to one word. It’s difficult because it forces us to live consciously and at times uncomfortably. It requires stepping into the unknown.
When I wrote the Power of Saying Yes. I believed that the act of saying YES to things would open doors to wonderful things. At the very least, I felt this would get me out of a five-year rut.
Back then, I began saying YES, because at that time, I found myself saying NO quite a bit. I was saying NO in my mind all the time. I felt that because I was saying NO, that perhaps I was saying NO to good things happening. Maybe it sounds a little goofy—but that’s how it felt.
To counteract this, I thought of safe ways to begin saying YES more often. I made a little infographic with 100 things to say yes to. Within a month, my life began to change.
What Happened When I Began Saying Yes
Is saying YES always easy. No it isn’t. I’m naturally quiet and cautious and more inclined to say NO to most things at first. But I discovered that by saying YES to more things, I discovered more about myself, my true desires, and my abilities than saying NO had ever done for me.
Here’s the thing. It was by experiencing and living life that I found joy and happiness. Yes, we can be content doing things like we’ve always done, living life the way we think we’re supposed to. However, I think, that is also suffocating and dulling to the human spirit.
Getting uncomfortable and living an authentic life are essential to not just having fun but to being healthy inside and out. The discomfort of getting out of our comfort zone is actually GOOD FOR US!
One of the more amazing things about this year is that I’ve attempted things I never dreamed I could do. Not only was I able to do them, but in doing them, I discovered not just happiness or momentary fun, but deep and profound feelings of exhilaration and joy that lasted well beyond the activity.
If you want to ramp up the power of yes in your life, here are five powerful ways to begin saying YES to life. Here are ways you can use to get out of a rut.
Say YES to the Right Kind of People
I said YES to only being around people who were good and kind to me and that brought out the best in me. It was wonderful to discover that I really didn’t have to tolerate toxic-to-me people in my life. Period. I had been dealing with a couple of toxic relationships and I let those go. When I decided that I had no room or reason to have toxic people in my life; I created room for a whole lot of great people to come into my life.
I’m not kidding here. Since that time, I’ve made really great new friends and have coworkers that are better than I’ve ever had. This still blows my mind. Dysfunctional relationships strain our emotions and energy. Say yes to people that are interesting and have integrity. Say YES to people that you feel energized to be around.
Say YES to Meaningful Work
I crave freedom and sleeping in as much as anyone. Yet, employment and a job always create new levels of growth that I can’t get any other way. Jobs push us to work with other people, learn new skills, structure our time. The benefits of working go way beyond just getting a paycheck.
Some jobs can feel soul-sucking. Been there and done that. It’s not always easy changing jobs but it’s not impossible either. Be willing and open to other opportunities. If you aren’t working, find something. Learning and mastering work skills feels good.
Say YES to New Experiences
I was stuck in a rut and I didn’t even know it. I had decided that I liked what I liked and I didn’t like what I didn’t like. At 50, I had it all figured out. However, I was wrong, way beyond anything I could have imagined.
In the past year, I’ve discovered live music, riding a bike, hiking, camping. That may not seem like a huge deal but these were all things that I had not done in over 25 years! I was convinced that I was not even interested in them.
Yet, at one time I had loved all of them. Somehow, I had forgotten that I had once liked to do them and had put them all aside, thinking either I was too old, too used to my comfort, or too out of shape.
I’ve tried new things too. I’ve danced in public. I rode in an organized bike ride. Recently I went to New York City for the first time. None of these were things I was initially open to. At all.
However, in the spirit of my Year of Yes I eked out a timid yes and gave them a try. To my delight, I found new joy, excitement, pleasure, and fun in these activities that I had considered out of reach. Trust me, I never dreamed I would be able to not only do these things but that I would love them and they would breathe new life into me.
Say YES to Being Uncomfortable
It’s so easy to get addicted to always being comfortable. We want our bodies and minds to feel comfortable. Unfortunately, this can lead to a very boring albeit snug life.
We surround ourselves with everything we can think of to keep us from being uncomfortable: furniture, the right house in the right neighborhood, people that think or look like us, and experiences where we know exactly how we will feel.
But what happens is this causes us to atrophy inside and out. Sit in ANY parking lot to any store. Watch the people going past. Does anyone look happy? Is anyone fit? Is there any joy in any of the faces you see?
If you do—tell me where you live—I want to go there!
Learning to do things even if it feels uncomfortable is LIBERATING. New worlds open for you. You get to do things that most people won’t even try and that my friends is a really cool feeling.
Say YES to Feeling Happy More
Nobody gets through life with a free pass to only good things. We all have our own stuff to deal with. That’s a given.
However, we all have a lot of leeway with how we think. I believe it’s our moral duty to be happy as much of the time as possible—even when horrible things are going on in the world around us or in the lives of friends and family.
Happy moments are a gift.
Sometimes it feels weird to experience happiness when others are going through bad times. There are times I feel jealous when others are experiencing happiness when I am going through bad times.
I am learning to get over both of those things.
We should grab onto happiness with both hands as much as possible. People get sick. People die. We lose jobs and homes. Nothing is permanent and nothing stays the same. We will have ample opportunities throughout our lives to deal with challenges and suffering.
In the meantime, say YES to choosing happiness as much as possible.
Be that happy face in the crowd. Be the one that always has the look of a smile on her face and be sure and share that happiness with others too.
Say YES to Get the Life You Want
Learning to say YES meant saying YES to life and all of its wonderful and crazy nuances. It meant letting go of comfort, toxic relationships, and careful plans. It meant saying YES to surprises, love, and new experiences.
Saying yes to life, as much as the food we eat, the exercise we do, gives us energy, vitality, and joy. Saying yes is the secret to getting the life you want and was how I was finally able to get out of my rut. If you feel like you are in a rut, try saying yes to some new things.
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I'm a former counselor, career services leader, and college advisor. Now I coach and write at My Think Big Life promoting health and personal growth.