You Cannot Think Yourself Out of a Rut. What to Do Instead.

We all get into ruts: habitual, automatic cycles in our thinking and being. Usually we believe that if we only just think through things clearly, we would be able to be more present, change our mindset more easily. But it’s never that easy. Changing your thinking does not mean that changes in behavior will follow.

For myself, I have found that changing my actual behavior is often much better at changing my mindset than the other way around.

Starting is always the most difficult part. Starting without always having all the right data, or enough data, or the right timing or whatever else we think we need. Just taking a small step. Or half a step.

When you take that first step, you put yourself in a different position, with new points of reference. Your thinking, then, will follow and will course-adjust. I view this as sort of an “agile” approach to changing mindset — not waiting for the big, heavy perfect answer (which can be cumbersome and lengthy), but rapidly testing and improving in small steps.

Here are three prompts I use to jump start this process and help me break out of my automatic/ rote thinking (and I would love to hear yours!):

  1. Radical Exposure to New Things – When I find myself paralyzed – not sure of what to do, feeling I’m not ready, I actively set up “creative dates” with people who I don’t know very well or who are different from me, or with activities (music, museum exhibits) that are outside my usual tastes. Doing so forces me to have a new listening, to open up possibilities in my own thinking.
  2. Focus on your blind spot and what you don’t see. I literally ask myself – what am I not seeing? If I “zoom out” what would I see? If I zoomed in, what would I see? What are other options here that I’m not considering?
  3. Deliberately do the opposite of what you would do – Because I am a little bit of a contrarian by nature, this piece is a little easier for me ☺. I actually enjoy shaking things up. So in instances where I would generally be the first to speak up, I coerce myself to not speak, just listen. If I am always the first person at a meeting, I turn up late. One of the tough ones for me is if I always speak in English with certain situations, I switch to Italian. It can be quite enlightening to stop the routine/the automatic and see how you feel, listen to what people say and notice how you experience things.

Of course, we do actually need to think through things! But thinking alone won’t do anything. The power of thinking is to provide clarity in what you have to do. But the real change will come only when we start to change our behavior.

So what will you do shake things up?

All the Best,

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