“A Rut is a rhythm that doesn’t take you where you want to go.”
– Matt G.
Life is full of routine, those decisions that you make back-to-back enough that they become automatic. This is what allows you to move from the new driver who is 100% focused on just staying in your lane to the confident driver you are today that eats a sandwich with one hand, texts with the other, and drives with her knee while yelling at the kids in the back seat.
What changed? Staying in your lane became natural; it became automatic.
Similarly, if you have ever heard “it’s like riding a bike” the statement is based on understanding rhythm. When I first learned to ride a bike, it was on a bike with training wheels. Just learning to peddle and steer at the same time was challenging.
Dad said the training wheels would come off when I could make a lap around the block without them touching the ground and that seemed like an impossibility. But Matt had his off so I was determined and I kept at it until peddling the bike became a rhythm and the training wheels came off.
Rhythm makes life manageable by creating efficiency and is the reason that you can infinitely add “one more thing” to your schedule. Imagine how difficult life would be if you had to remind yourself “right, left, right, left” while you were walking.
These automatic reactions and thought patterns are vital to our survival but they are not always in our best interest. I wrote yesterday about some dangerous thought patterns that I had developed. Let’s look at one more closely that had terrible consequences for me this week.
In the pursuit of perfection, I have developed zero tolerance for failure. When I make a mistake, I react with feelings of guilt and shame. My automatic response is to hide, often in YouTube or food. This behavior is another mistake, strengthening feelings of guilt and shame, and sending me back for another video or one more cookie.
Once caught in this cycle, the off-ramp is difficult to find. YouTube doesn’t make it easy either, recommending 5 other videos that would go great with the one you are watching and defaulting to “auto play” so it will launch a video if you don’t make a choice.
Feelings of guilt and shame after watching a YouTube video, and the resulting click on another video, has become so engrained in me that even when the first video wasn’t really a mistake, the cycle begins.
Here’s how that played out on Friday. My mentor recommended a video about a story of overcoming. After wrapping up work for the day and standing up to leave, I realized I hadn’t watched the video yet. I hopped over to YouTube, found it, and watched. Nothing wrong here; just following guidance of my mentor.
But then I clicked on the YouTube symbol at the top of the page. It was such an automatic response that I barely thought in the process. I remember a brief moment of pause as I said, “what are you doing?” but by then I was already clicked onto one of the two channels I tend to follow.
Since it had been a few weeks since my last YouTube experience, there were some new videos on both channels. I am just going to catch up on my two shows while I am here. I answered myself. Then I will be out of here in 30 minutes.
Except I wasn’t out of there in 30 minutes. I wasn’t out of there until 3:30am and my eyes were literally burning as I made the 5 minute drive home.
My automatic reaction to watching a YouTube video is to watch another. This has been reinforced by shame and guilt so many times that I don’t even need the shame and guilt anymore to take the action.
The response of my mentor the next morning was to send me another video to watch (this time telling me to text him after) and I was confused. Isn’t YouTube the problem? No. It’s not YouTube that is the problem, it’s the automatic reaction of “one more” that is the problem.
By having me watch a video and then close YouTube immediately after, my mentor is helping me re-wire my reaction. The video was a recommendation from him, so there is no guilt or shame for watching it, and the reaction of closing it to apply what I learned is a healthy response to an inspirational story.
Is this going to be the medication he prescribes ever day? I doubt it but perhaps. The point is that it’s important to recognize the triggers that lead to our harmful behaviors and then rewire those reactions.
The first step is to recognize that those automatic reactions exist. That is where Disruption comes in to play.
About two months ago Donovan told me that I need to quit everything. I laughed it off; I’m not a quitter. The third time he brought it up, I started asking questions. Donovan explained that the ruts in my brain were really wrecking me and I needed to “Disrupt” my routines. “Question everything” he went on to say, “from how you put on your pants, to what activities you do.”
While I didn’t go out and quit everything that day, I tried starting with minor changes. I parked in a different place at the gym a few times and tried changing up what I wear to work. Within a few weeks, these minor changes were all back to the way they had been before. But the seeds of disruption had been sown and looking back two months later, much of my life is not the same.
Yesterday I posted about a shift in my work schedule and that 30-minute shift has changing my morning routine and fitness regimen.
After months of prayer and planning, I am ready to make big moves in ministry. August 27th, I will teach my last Sunday school class and I have begun to move into working with the women of our church. Instead of an hour commitment Sunday mornings, I’m now planning our next women’s retreat, hosting quarterly brunches, teaching bible studies, and constantly thinking about ways to connect, develop, and engage the women of our church.
Meanwhile, I started looking at everything I do and asking “should I be doing this?” I’ve hired awesome women to clean my house and prep my meals. This has freed both time and mental energy to focus more on what I am called to do with my life and less about the day-to-day tasks that need to be addressed.
More disruption was thrust upon me when my community group came to an end because our leaders are moving to Morocco. This was hard, as it felt like losing a second family this year, and now it means finding a new community group… again.
My chief purpose in life is to Encourage, Empower, and Equip people worldwide to Break Free of Strongholds and Pursue their Dreams. This means that I need to write more and waste time less. I’m disrupting my schedule as much as I can to make that happen, with the goal of 1-2 blogs a week. (That’s a goal, not a promise…)
I’m starting a new Discipleship relationship that will provide the opportunity to address some key weaknesses in myself. I picked up a new Bible study yesterday and started it this morning. I changed the books I am reading and adjusted the people that I seek out to engage in conversation.
And looking back to two months later, I have disrupted everything.
Disruption is uncomfortable. I pay someone to cook for me but still find myself cooking most weekends. I’m savoring the last few weeks with my kiddos on Sunday mornings and I am dragging my feet about finding a new community group. I look at my new schedule and commitments wondering how it will all get done.
The chief value of disruption is reengagement. It’s vital to switching off the autopilot in your brain that is stringing your decisions together without consulting you. Disruption is how you identify your autothoughts so that you can begin to attack them.
Your homework this week is to disrupt yourself. Walk backwards for 30 minutes (or even 3). Change how you dress for work or wear a suit to class (unless it’s a gym class…). Ask “Why?” about everything, and I mean everything.
Why do these numbers matter?
Why am in this club?
Why is this my ministry?
Why can’t I ask for help?
Why do I spend time with this person?
Why do I care what they have/do/accomplish?
Why did I say that?
Why isn’t crying ok?
Why am I wearing this?
Why do I feel responsible for them?
If you don’t know the answer, or don’t like the answer, then it may be an autothought that needs to be adjusted. And that’s where we’ll pick it up next time so for now just write them down.
I’ve heard my whole life that I need to “take thoughts captive” and take responsibility for my life. For the first time ever, I have been taught how to take thoughts captive and that’s what I want to teach to you … if you’re brave enough to come along.