Getting Out of the Rut... Initiating and Managing Change

By: Edward B. Toupin

Have you ever accomplished something, then wondered where to go next? Or,
perhaps you've accomplished something and just continued down that same path
because it worked. Many people become stuck in this way because of the
"security of sameness." You can get stuck from problems as well as
triumphs.

I have to say that my life has been a most interesting set of twists and
turns, but I've always had the opportunity to maintain a little bit of
control. The control I kept, however, was not over my environment or my
direction, but on me and how I handled or initiated change.
You realize when you get stuck and that you devise a plan to move
forward---it all depends on how you manage and initiate your own change.

--- Planning Out Your Life ---

I hear so many people say that you cannot plan your life, "you just let it
happen." So, what happens while you're sitting there waiting for life to
happen? But, if you plan your life too rigidly, what experiences will you
miss out on?

You really can't plan your life right up to the end, nor can you plan it out
five years and expect it to work as you expect. I know that sounds bad, but
planning your life and expecting to stick to it will only limit your options
and keep you in one place all the time.

Realize that, as you experience change and enjoy life, you grow. Growth
spawns new ideas, feelings, and intellect that change your point of view.
As your point of view changes, so do your directions and options in life.
You must be willing to change your life's plan as you grow so that you can
take on more challenging things and be accepting of other new experiences.

As I write, I think of some of the things I've done in my life. I once
worked for a major corporation and wanted to be in management. But, once I
got there, what was next? Nothing. I didn't realize that I forgot to think
about what happened next and I didn't know that once I got there---"there"
was not where I wanted to be anymore.

The point is that you cannot plan your life in an absolute manner or you'll
either miss out on new experiences or end up in a place you no longer want
to be. You must learn to adapt and change your plan after each step of your
path. As you achieve each new goal, you grow, taking you one step further.

--- Geometry of Life ---

Sameness is security for many. You wake up, go to work, go to the store,
take care of the kids, change the oil in the car---what else is there? If
you notice, the sameness you experience is in the form of a geometric
shape---line, square, circle, rectangle, or triangle. Take note of the
things you do during your day and determine the shape of the consistent
paths you take.

For instance, when I worked in downtown Denver and lived south of town, my
path was a straight line. I lived at the end of Broadway, 14 miles from
town. I drove down Broadway to my office, which was located in a building
on Broadway itself.

All of my stores, friends, and family were within one
block on either side of Broadway. This became so monotonous that I could
drive to work in a daze and still get there safely. Sound familiar?

The easiest way to break out of this shape is to change your path from
time-to-time. I'm not specifically referring to your path to and from work.
I'm speaking of any path that seems to have etched itself into your
existence---you create a "rut" in your virtual road from travelling the same
path too often. For instance, instead of going down Broadway, I should've
taken the freeway and made a square, then changed it later to some other
shape.

At first, even small changes will take a lot of effort, but the one thing
you'll begin to notice is that you're indirectly changing other things as
well. This is what you want to do!

Once you "break out of your shape" you have to figure out what it is that
you want out of life. Don't go material, go more for fulfillment as
material things are only a reward for accomplishments. Also, being
emotional beings, satisfying a feeling or desire is a fulfilling reward in
itself---it makes us feel whole.

--- Making a Plan ---

To help you stay out of your rut, you must make a plan that takes into
account the many things you want to do in life that fulfill you. The
overall plan consists of your Mission, your Vision, and your Goals. Each of
these items identifies what you want, where you're going, and how to get
there.

* Defining Your Objectives
Realize that, just because you want to do something, there is a reason you
want to do that thing (i.e., fulfillment, acceptance, and education.) Since
you're probably not sure why you want to do these things, you might want to
do a dozen or so things with each providing the same fulfillment---this
leads to clutter and confusion.

To resolve this situation, write down all of the different objectives you
have in your life. Make them action phrases like "writing a book" or
"driving across the country." Make the list as long or as short as you
like.

Once you're done, next to each item, write the specific fulfillment to be
achieved next to each item. Make each word an adjective or each phrase
descriptive of something tangible. For instance, "writing a book" might
provide "fame and fortune" while "driving across the country" might provide
"freedom." Once you've finished classifying your objectives, you'll find
that most of them duplicate the fulfillment achieved and others have no
reason at all. This is where a lot of people run into a problem! You have
a million things to do, no time to do any of them, and your inner need is to
feel the fulfillment.

To resolve this, group the items in separate lists by the fulfillment you
describe and eliminate those items that have no reason. From each new list,
figure out the tasks that will give you the greatest feeling of satisfaction
and fulfillment. From this final list, you have your primary objectives to
accomplish---all others are secondary and should not be focused upon until
you've finished your primary objectives.

* Your Mission, Vision, and Goals
Once you've figure out your primary objectives, you must now figure out how
to get there. This is not an easy task and it might take a few days to cut
through the fog that has settled in your mind.

The Vision is a view of things in the future---where you see yourself. It
is the tangible item that you chase to feel the fulfillment you seek.
Realize that your Vision will change many times over your life, but each
redefinition gives you a clearer view of where you want to go based on your
growth.

The Mission is a statement that defines what you will do to reach your
Vision---the action that you perform to reach your Vision. As your Vision
changes, so must your Mission because your direction will change as well.

Goals are important in that they add direction and purpose to life. They
define the intermediate steps involved in accomplishing your Mission. These
are selected items from your objectives that must be achieved to build the
path of your Mission. As each Goal is accomplished, you are that much
closer to your Vision.

--- Executing the Plan ---

Once you've defined your Goals, you can begin defining and executing your
plan of action. For each Goal, you must define the steps required to reach
them. For instance, one of my past Visions was to "work at home as a
writer." My Mission was to do "technical writing and work in other writing
arenas to enhance my talent and my exposure." Some of my Goals to reach the
initial Vision were:

- Locate three writing contracts.
- Work to generate income for six months of unemployment.
- Locate insurance.
- Quit day job.

For each Goal, I defined a set of smaller steps or actions that helped me
accomplish the Goal. For instance, my plan of action for "Locate three
writing contracts" was:

- Assemble my writing samples.
- Rebuild Web site to advertise my work.
- Rewrite resume to reflect direction for software documentation.
- Talk to local recruiters about opportunities.
- Visit sites for telecommuting opportunities on a weekly basis.
- ...

Obviously, you must be careful when defining your Goals and plan of action
so that you perform the steps in the proper order. If you define your steps
in such a way that you end up in a deadlock, then your entire plan is
useless. Make sure that you organize your Goals and your plan of action
such that each step builds on the previous.

--- What's next? ---

Don't feel that this process is over after you do it the first time.
Realize that you will grow as you accomplish your Goals toward your Vision.
As you grow, your Vision will change and so must you change your Mission and
Goals.

This is an iterative process that forces you to reevaluate your direction as
you accomplish each Goal in your path. Not only will this reevaluation and
reassessment of your direction help you stay out of the consistent geometric
shapes that put you in a rut, but it will keep your life moving forward to
greater fulfillment in the things that really make a difference for you.

Motivation
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