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Managing Life’s Grooves and Ruts

Being in the groove feels amazing. The wind is blowing at your back. Work seems simple. You can do no wrong. Everything is clicking.

You are on cloud nine. All is right with the world. Then, out of nowhere, dark clouds drift in. Everything feels like a chore. Nothing seems to go your way. If it weren’t for bad luck, you’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, and agony all around. You are stuck in a rut. Grooves and ruts couldn’t feel more different, but they are closely related and two sides of the same coin.

Athletes may refer to runs of peak performance as being in the zone and prolonged periods of sub-par performance as being in a slump.

These zones and slumps, as mesmerizing and pathetic as they appear to the naked eye, don’t just happen. They develop over time. Famous comedians perfect their best jokes through trial and error and repetition at smaller venues first. Steph Curry rips the skin off his hands from shooting so many shots in practice. Broken marriages once held great promise. Most serious health issues take decades to develop. Being in the groove has little to do with external circumstances converging in a positive way and more to do with exhaustive mental and physical training, intentionality, self-discipline, determination, hard work, perseverance, pain, and good old-fashioned blood, sweat, and tears.

Alternatively, it is tempting to blame being in a rut on things that we have no control over. Bad weather. Unfair working conditions. A run of bad luck. Poor market conditions. Unreasonable expectations. The wind blew my perfect shot out. We have no shortage of excuses. Ruts, whether we admit it or not, are primarily faults of our own. Bad habits, negative thought patterns, lack of practice, and a myriad of other reasons align to form ruts.

We all have ruts, and we all have grooves.

The key is to keep the ruts in our minds shallow and the grooves deep. Ruts hold us back and keep us from our preferred destination or outcome. Grooves carry us to success in sports, work, family, relationships, and other meaningful areas. It is easy to confuse grooves for ruts and ruts for grooves. Consider the application of this in your most deeply held beliefs in the areas of spirituality, politics, economics, and investing. Grooves tend to form through intentionality and struggle. Ruts form through the path of least resistance in the echo chamber of our minds. Ruts feel good in the beginning but lead to harm. Grooves are painful at first but lead to masterpieces.

May I challenge you in a few areas?

Here are potential ruts. Eating and drinking sweets to your heart’s content. Not exercising adequately because you are “too old.”  Endlessly scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Binge-watching hundreds of Netflix shows/movies that deserve no place in your life. Criticizing your spouse and family. Gripping your paddle/racquet incorrectly because it feels more natural. Not embracing new technology because it’s too hard to understand and dangerous. Parroting your favorite cable news host without considering opposing views. Reconnecting with an old friend who makes your heart skip a beat and appreciates you for who you are, unlike your spouse. Hopefully, you see a pattern here. Ruts are deceptive because they feel harmless and rational. The deeper they get, the more likely they are to ruin and kill you.

Let’s end on a positive note and try to identify some potential grooves.

Hire a fitness coach. Join a gym…and go!  Eat fruits and vegetables in massive quantities.

Drink tons of water. Learn to do something you think you hate—dancing, pickleball, bridge, running, lifting weights, losing weight, reading, serving, mentoring, singing, praying, giving, going to counseling, spending less, saving more, speaking the love language of others instead of demanding that they speak yours. Unfortunately, many of our grooves are too infrequent, inconsistent, and shallow. They make us cringe, and we rationalize their importance away. Only dead fish swim the current. Stop drifting. You’ll get caught in an eddy, stuck in a rut, with little meaning and impact. Picture a salmon swimming upstream. It must be painful as a young fry, but fighting against the current creates grooves of incredible strength and elegance. See the end you desire and work backward. Chisel your prison wall away and crawl through a sewer of sludge toward your own Shawshank Redemption. White sand beaches and blue skies demand grooves.

July 2024


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