Did you hear about John Jones? He died some time ago and they inscribed these words on his tombstone: “Here lies John Jones. Died at age twenty-one; buried at age sixty-one.” You see, John Jones had been in a rut for forty years of his life. Here I’m reminded of the way it used to be in our country before we had paved highways. After a big rain, the first few cars or wagons made big ruts which led to the sign “Choose your ruts carefully because you will be in them for the next twenty miles.”
I know this for sure, one of the greatest challenges I face each day in my own life is
to stay out of the old proverbial rut. Now, just in case the word “rut” isn’t in your working vocabulary, what I’m talking about here is the mental state that most of us fall into when we have performed routine, humdrum activities for so long that we have lost our zest for living. For the person who is in a rut, life is no longer exciting and rewarding, and because it happens so slowly and over an extended period of time, most of us fall into a rut without realizing we are in one.
During seminars and speaking engagements, I’ve conducted surveys that relate to this, and most adults will admit falling into a mental rut at one time or another in different areas of their lives. This topic is very important because medical studies have shown boredom, a side effect of being in a rut, is a disease more crippling to the human species than most of us realize. The problems of boredom are manifold in our work force, schools, marriages, churches and anywhere else our thinking settles down into a well worn groove.
If you are aware of the problems associated with boredom, have you ever asked yourself why people become bored? While the problem itself may not be easy to solve, the answer is relatively simple. Whenever you find boredom (people in a rut), you will find the absence of a worthy goal or a great motivating idea.
In my work over the past thirty years, with our nation’s public schools I believe
I have found at least a part of the reason why people let themselves fall into a rut. The reasons are different for different people, but for the most part, it goes back to our basoc education and our habitual way of thinking. While working with students in the area of communication skills, I have made a very important discovery. When you ask students the question: “What is produced when you link words together?”, they will say sentences. When you take it one step further and ask what is produced when you link sentences together, they will say paragraphs. On the surface this may appear too simple to even mention, but the reason many people fall into a mental rut is because the world and every successful enterprise or individual person runs on great ideas. While it may sound trite, the world does not run on paragraphs. You see, the paragraph only separates the ideas, but it’s the good ideas that are contained in the paragraph that makes the difference.
Unfortunately, most schools do not teach students to set goals or look for the ideas in a paragraph that will help serve other people. They only way we can succeed over the long haul, is to find a need and fill it, and this requires each of us to constantly search for new and better ideas.
Going back to my earlier statement, when a person is bored it is simply the absence of a worthy goal or a great motivating idea. Unless we are taught to think along these lines, it’s easy to become bored and fall into a rut. The truth is, we don’t make exciting plans while we are in a rut, and if we aren’t careful the things that are most important will just pass us by.