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Get Out of the Rut and Into the Groove

Have you ever felt stuck in the proverbial career rut? That walking purgatory where instead of waking up each day excited and motivated to go to work, you feel agitated and simply uninspired?

When we’ve been in a career role for a while it’s not uncommon to lose our passion for the work we do. When what we do day-in and day-out becomes routine and frankly boring, it becomes a challenge to get out of a rut and back into the groove. But aren’t “rut” and “groove” the same thing? Yes, they are. The difference is simply in how we feel about it when we’re in it.

I’ve been in the legal field for nearly 30 years and have experienced my fair share of career ruts.

Fortunately, I’ve always manage to eventually bounce my way out of them.

Here are 5 quick and easy methods I’ve used to get out of the rut and get into the groove:

1. Stay hungry:
Steve Jobs said it best in his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford: If you can spare 15 minutes it’s well worth a listen!

His speech concludes with the simple exhortation “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” I particularly appreciate the “stay hungry” advice. Something attracted you to the career you chose. It may have been the challenges involved in the type of work. Perhaps the chance to collaborate with “A- players” at a top-tier company or firm. It could be any number of things.

For me, it was an interest in research and writing which led me to choose a paralegal career. When I started out, I had a drive and was hungry to succeed. I loved the work and each day was a new challenge. Whenever I find my drive diminishing and the hunger subsiding, I ask myself “do I still love this?”
Inevitably, the answer is yes and leads to the next logical question… Why?

I’ve learned that simply going back to basics helps me recover my drive and hunger.

2. Go to learn:
When I started out, what I enjoyed most was learning. Literally every day I learned something new. But I learned because I wanted to learn. And I held to that mentality in each new role or company I worked for. When you go to work “to learn” it makes work more enjoyable. And there are always opportunities to learn if you look for them. Don’t take the attitude that some things are outside your grade level! Make it a point to understand every aspect of your company and your role within it.

Be expansive with your thinking. Understand the products your company or client makes. Learn the nuances of the technologies they’re creating. In my role, I regularly interact with engineers and designers and make it a point to glean as much knowledge as my tiny brain can handle from them. Learning makes it interesting. So, whether you’ve been in a job one week or ten years, continue to ask the questions you need to so you can learn.

We can ‘perform’ a task, or we can ‘do’ a task. The greatest achievers ‘perform’ at the highest level and much of that is because they go to work to learn.

3. Write it down:
This may sound odd at first. But I’m not referring to starting a work diary. Rather, I’m referring to writing down the best known methods or “BKMs” for doing your job well. Writing it down not only helps you clarify the actions required to complete projects, it also helps you understand those projects better and takes you beyond just knowing.

Understanding is a natural progression in the learning process. As you understand your work better you’re more inclined to enjoy it. But more than that, you’ll be able to give.

It’s said there is more happiness in giving than in receiving. With that in mind, the knowledge you give in training others will add further fuel to the fire within you.

4. Teach it to others:
Yes, passing your learning on to others goes a long way toward getting in and staying in the groove. If you learn processes with an incentive to train others you’ll become known as a recognized resource and a valuable contributor.

We may think this would be common sense. But when we get in that rut, we tend to take common sense along with us. Remember, we want to get out of the rut. If sharing what we’ve learned is not part of our groove strategy, rethinking this will go a long way in rejuvenating the daily enthusiasm for our work.

5. Have fun:
The noted writer and speaker Earl Nightingale once said ‘‘Attitude is the most important word in the language.” That’s a powerful statement. And one in which we can all agree, if it isn’t the most important it’s close to the top of the list.

Our attitude affects what we do and how we do it perhaps more than any other reason. So, along with the renewed drive and hunger, be sure to allow yourself to have fun with it. No, not the boisterous, rowdy, party over here type of fun. Rather, allow yourself to take delight in the experiences you have. We can take pleasure in what we do by setting our attitude switch to “positive” instead of “negative”.

This doesn’t’ mean unpleasant situations won’t occur. They most certainly will. But it’s our attitude toward these situations which will affect us and the outcome most. When you’re stressed or feeling a bit anxious about something take a moment aside to gather your senses. Think about your attitude at the moment and adjust it so. When you step back into it, you’ll find yourself in a better space emotionally to deal with it.

So there you have it, 5 easy ways to get out of a rut and back into the groove.

What do you think? What are some other ways you’ve been able to get back into your groove?

© Marc Townsend
[This article was originally published by me on LinkedIn]

Follow me on Twitter @maloanthony

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