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Back in my Marine Corps days I was instructing rooks on Humvee (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) driving. A pretty fun albeit slightly crazy task. The basic idea was that the new drivers had to push the Humvee to its limits — which was always much further than the new drivers’ limits. The discussion of the day with the other instructors was ruts.
My question: “Why the hell are you telling these guys to drive in the ruts?”
Answer: “Because I figure that other drivers went there and it worked for them.”
Me Again: “No. Stay out of ruts! They’re hard to maneuver out of and they limit you to one path.”
I did not know at the time that this was not just good advice for driving but good advice for life as well. A rut in life is a fixed and boring routine that creates clones. We fall unconsciously into them, lulled by the slow powerful rhythm of safety or carbohydrates. We’ve all been there, hit by a holy shit moment: Did I really just lose two weeks, two months . . . two years of my life to this?
Find a Rhythm
This is where I think rhythm comes into play. A good rhythm picks you up, gets you moving, and motivates you. How many guys like to listen to music while working out? Exactly. An example of rhythm in life is doing an adventure every weekend. The adventure is not the same every weekend, so there’s no rut, no clones. It will pick you up all week and carry you along like a wave.
There are two common questions I hear at work outside of the business stuff:
What do you have going this weekend?
What did you do this weekend?
I realized that many people are looking to live vicariously through you — and you is anyone who actually does something more often than not. As for answers, nothing will kill the conversation faster than “house work” or “HGTV.” The best part is that adventure can be anything from a new hiking trail to firing rockets off with your kids at the local school yard. What’s been working for me lately is that I’ve been trying to turn my rhythm idea into a system of difference, of trying something new every weekend. It will change your life and help to keep you out of those ruts. To turn this system into a habit, you’ve got to plan ahead. One way is to make it a habit to think about what you could do every time you stop at a red light on the drive home from work — or every time you waste a bit of your life waiting in line for coffee. If you can train your brain to think outside of the ruts, you’ll recognize new possible paths everywhere you go.