Going Against the Grain

My last post dealt with deciding if you are in a rut.  Ruts are tricky things; they can be emotional, mental, or physical, even.  They can spread out like tendrils into various aspects of our lives until they eventually take over our lives.

The rut you find yourself in will be specific to YOU.  If you are a writer, for example, that rut might be a wall-like barrier to your creativity.  In writer’s terms, this is often called ‘writer’s block’.  I see in my mind a haunting image of the writer at a desk, gazing blankly at a computer screen.  A recipe for sore eyes, I can assure you.

Writer’s block.  This is an excuse behind which most unsuccessful writers hide.  Have you noticed anything about excuses? They are defense-walls.  Very often they defend us from what we are afraid of, too tired, too lazy, or too ignorant to break down.  Have you ever been told, “honey, the only thing standing in your way is you?”

As clichéd as that sounds, it’s true.

You can burst through writer’s block.  Want to know how? Observe the kind of university student (just one example out of the many kinds of university students out there) who procrastinates on assignments, but says that they work best with panic on their side.  Honestly, the best work they do is in the final week, or couple of days before the assignment is due.  Suddenly they’re on a roll! Legal pads come out, they scribble frantically as one idea after another pops into their head.  Miraculous ways of garnering information are discovered, from Google Books to online databases you and I have never heard of before.  Whether their quality of works merits an A or a C-, supposing they pass the assignment, they will tell you that their best work happened in those hours of pushing themselves.  Panic was their friend.  Often these students enjoyed their studies most at that time, rather than when they were sitting in class for weeks in advance (which were meant to be used in preparation for the assignment in the first place) playing Candy Crush Saga on their smartphones.

Why does this happen?

I rather think it’s partly because in that time of panic they did not have time to second-guess themselves or question how they were going to produce.  The time of what I term ‘negotiating procrastination’ was over.  Being out of time, they just went for it.  They had to.  Failure is not an option.  As painful as it was, they forced themselves through it.

Here’s one piece of advice I will give you: Never debate with yourself about what you have to do to achieve what you want in life – your goals.  If you have set up actions to forward the achievement of your goals, do not allow yourself to compromise on those actions.

As a more typical example, let’s say you’ve decided in this New Year, to get up every day except Sunday at 5am.  I tried this once.  I’m sure you know how it went –  As soon as the alarm on my iPhone rang, I hit the snooze button.  Fine – it’s permissible to hit the snooze button.  Once.

Not five times.

Which is what I did 😉

Thinking about it later in the day, I decided to do what any lifestyle website writing on “Waking Up Early” would tell you to do – put the alarm clock, or cell phone, far away from you so you have to get up, just to turn it off.

The reason for this is simple.  I discovered the next day that I was so concentrated on turning off the alarm that I jumped (literally) out of bed (I didn’t want to wake the others in the house) and turned it off.  Immediately I climbed back into bed.


Obviously, a new strategy was needed.  This is what I have now come up with to get myself out of bed in the mornings.  Let me bullet-point it for you:

  • put the alarm clock away on the other side of the room from the bed
  • go straightaway to the toilet
  • while washing my hands after, I might as well wash my face
  • oh, while I’m up I might as well have a coffee
  • hey – I wonder if that client has emailed me back yet concerning my post?

There! I’m up! I’m up! I’m up!!!

In a nutshell, I’ve stumbled upon a routine that works for me.  You might be able to notice from my train of thought once I’m out of bed, that my subsequent actions follow quite naturally.  There’s no pressure for me to “stay awake” – I do not agonize about “Ohhh, man, I have to stay awake… I’m soooo tired… just another minute…”

Nope.  My actions are simple, and natural.  I need to go to the toilet.  I need to wash my hands.  Those actions for me go without question once I’m first awake.  Washing my face and having a cup of coffee are actions I enjoy.  And the curiousity of whether I’ve been emailed really helps me to not even think about going back to bed.

See, there was no debate, no conversation going on my head that might open me to the attractive possibility of a few more minutes of snoozing.

To break out of your rut, you will undoubtedly find that you need to do something that is completely unexpected.  A bit like Tolkien’s Bilbo Baggins.  I’m a big fan of The Hobbit, and anyone who reads it will be amused and inspired by the way Bilbo became the Bilbo of legend, and not a simple Baggins of Bag End who never did anything out of the ordinary.  No – he did something quite unusual: he had an adventure.  He went against the grain – and so must you.

Back to the example of arising at 5am – I had spent years sleeping closer to that time than waking at that time.  So the idea of waking at that time was revolutionary!

There’s something about doing ‘the unexpected’.  A kind of attraction and intrigue about doing something revolutionary to your normal behaviour.

My Reader, I encourage you to sit and think.  Pull out a notepad and make notes.  Brainstorm.  Screw that up and rewrite your ideas of change without the chance of referring  to what you read before.  Why do this? I’ll explain later.  For now, remember, tiny steps.  You need to challenge that rut.  Step out of it.  Yes! Yes, you can do it! It’s called will-power.  You need to apply yourself to the work of revolutionising your way of thinking, your way of trapping yourself in ruts, whether they be emotional, mental, physical, and so forth.

Leave any comments below, if you’ve found this article thought-provoking.  Oh, and I’d be eternally grateful if you’d sign up to follow my blog 😉

More later!

PS * Also, here’s a neat trick: if you read “How to Sleep Better” blogs or articles, they’ll usually tell you to not use a computer or watch TV or any other backlit device for a few hours before going to bed.  That’s because the exposure to bright light suppresses melatonin release, which helps you to feel sleepy.  Well, I’ve found that the light from my PC or iPhone wakes me up something marvelous.  Try it!


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