Nervous jitters coursed through my body as we pulled up to the familiar building. All 140 pounds of our black Great Dane was wiggling, thrilled to see his dog school we’d been going to for months. This time, though, things were different.
After several courses of obedience, I’d decided to enroll Edmund, our Great Dane, in a class we’d never taken before: agility. I knew the instructors and the building, but I knew nothing about what to expect. It was foreign territory, and I was terrified of how he might perform. Still, along with the nervousness was another feeling–excitement. There was something thrilling about doing something completely new, something out of our comfort zone. And although Edmund still has so much to learn, we both had a blast learning new skills.
It might seem crazy that my dog’s agility class had such an impact, but honestly, in the past year, that’s what I’ve learned about life–small changes can make a big difference.
From taking a new class with my dog to learning to make candy, I’ve been branching out in small ways these past few months. I’ve read books in genres I usually don’t. I’ve listened to new podcasts and tried new makeup looks. I’ve bought new clothes and spent a lot of time on Pinterest seeing what appealed to me. I’ve tried to get back to the notion that used to be so familiar in my childhood–the idea of exploring, trying, and adventuring in any way I can.
Still, I hear so many friends and acquaintances talk about the state of monotony they find themselves drowning in. I completely understand because in my thirties and especially these last couple of years, I’ve felt the suffocating feeling of being stuck in a rut. Maybe you have, too.
Maybe you’ve experienced the sensation where every day blends into the next, and you feel like you’re stuck in a black-and-white movie. There is no passion, no spark, no joy, and certainly no element of surprise. It feels like your life is stuck on repeat, and you can’t find the remote control to pause it. A hamster on a wheel, you keep running the race without a destination in mind.
Growing up, people always told me how tough the “real world” was and how hard adult life would be. The thing is, I don’t think anyone really focused on the other difficult aspect of being an adult: monotony.
I know, I know. Being bored is, in some ways, a blessing. It means your life is stable and safe enough that your mind can rest. You aren’t in survival mode, running on pure adrenaline. If you have the mental capacity to be bored, you probably are living a life that you should be grateful for.
Still, I’ve come to learn in my thirties that there’s more to life that being stable and safe. There’s something else we need that few of us focus on–which is why I think so many of us feel lost.
Passion is the spark that lights us up from within. It’s the igniter for our soul, the element that keeps us going. It’s what keeps the days from blending into each other. It’s what keeps our world in vibrant color instead of dull gray scale. It’s what keeps life worth living.
So many of us, though, once we’re settled into our lives, find ourselves lacking just that. We get stuck in a rut in our careers, our relationships, our own personal development. We fall into routines and can’t find the energy to leave them. Our days become repetition cycles that keep us alive but don’t actually bring us to life.
It’s understandable, though, that we fall into these patterns. Routines can be comforting and also helpful. They keep our minds at ease. Furthermore, adult life is exhausting. Between housekeeping, paying bills, the stress of job, our social lives, taking care of family, and everything else we are pulled to do, who has the energy to mix things up or find excitement?
It’s easy to fall into a routine and a rut. It’s hard to get out.
Nonetheless, I’ve been thinking lately that we owe it to ourselves to try. We owe it ourselves to find ways to mix up our lives, spice up our routines, and challenge ourselves to find something new to excite us.
I don’t think you have to go to extremes. You don’t have to sell your house tomorrow, buy a camper, and travel in a foreign country. You don’t have to quit your job and learn to live off the land next week or change your entire look and personality. Getting out of your rut can truly happen if you focus on the small things.
Take a new route to work.
Go on a walk somewhere you’ve never been.
Get your coffee from a new place.
Find a recipe for a food you’ve never tried on Pinterest and make it.
Take a class, free or paid.
It isn’t about how much money you spend or how radical the change is. It’s simply about trying something new. Challenges, new experiences, new skills, and new views feed the soul.
Too often, when we hear motivational speakers or experts talk about breaking out of a rut, it all seems so drastic. They tell us how to reach for the stars and be brave enough to trade in our lives for something else. I think all of that is great and can be the right move for some of us. Nonetheless, I don’t think you have to chuck out your entire livelihood in order to feel alive again.
Sometimes, it just takes a dog agility class or a Pinterest craft or a slightly new hairstyle to make us remember that we aren’t done exploring yet. I hope that this week, you take some time to try something new, to learn something new, or to be something new. As my favorite quote of all time says, “You are not a tree.” So I hope this week, you feel moved to move away from the sights you’re used to and discover something new.
USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door, The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter, and other creepy thriller books