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Are You in a Mind Rut?

Are you in a mind rut? A rut is defined as a long deep track made by the repeated passage of the wheels of a vehicle, or, a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.

Being in a mind rut is when the way you think about something, someone, or your opinion is so entrenched in concrete (a neural pathway rut), that you stopped questioning that thought a long time ago- even when holding on to your present thinking does not serve you and in fact is creating a detrimental affect on your life, health, relationships or business.

Mind ruts are easy to occur for a number of reasons. One is once we make up our mind about something, we like to think we are right, so there is no need to go back and question anything about that thought or opinion until something forces us to. For many of us, even presented with new information or evidence is not enough to shift our thoughts or opinions once we have “decided.”

Additionally, if we get honest, we all have a brain that prefers to be a bit on the lazy side. The more we get through our day with routines, habits and on autopilot, the more we can save our brain energy for the immediate decisions and situations that require our attention now.

Here’s some examples of where mind ruts hurt us. Let’s say you have a brother-n-law who is coming over for the holidays. This is a guy who historically has been the “hey can I borrow 20 bucks” guy but never pays it back. You may likely have an opinion about him and (that behavior of) manipulating and being a not -so -great guy. But if you stick with that opinion indefinitely, and your brother- n-law has matured, seen the error of his ways and has changed, you won’t know despite any new behavior (evidence of change) because you have him locked in a mindset of who he is based on previous experience. You won’t see that he has changed even when those changes are apparent to others.

In the workplace this plays out in myriad ways as well. Let’s say you form an opinion about an employee or manager regarding how trustworthy they are, or how much of a team player they are based on one snapshot experience. If you form a conclusion based on that one experience alone, you may be inaccurately assessing someone who’s simply having an off day. If you never question your quick to form conclusion, you will think about this person in a negative way any time you see them and treat them accordingly despite anything good they do moving forward. If this describes you, you likely behave this way with the people in your personal life as well.

I recently read of a CEO of a large company who recognized he was suffering from “CEO Disease”; the one where you think you know it all because well, you did get to the top after all… the one where you stopped listening to others’ opinions and valuing others’ insights, wisdom and experience.

CEO disease is deadly to a business or organization as that CEO’s mindset/thoughts determines the level of safety and trust that people have for their leaders in an organization. It also has a tremendous impact on managers and staff feeling valued and cared for in the organization. When leaders don’t invest in utilizing people’s strengths including their thoughts and experience, work becomes rote, mindless and people will disengage rather quickly. Employees quickly form a “that’s just the way it is” mindset in your workplace.

Mindset ruts hurt us in both our personal and professional lives when we stop questioning our thoughts for accuracy. Even worse, if our mind ruts involve blaming others for our problems or miseries, you can be assured that some form of mind rut is at work. Blaming others is evidence that we are not questioning our own thoughts, and certainly not looking at our own contributions that we have brought into a difficult situation.

Let this day of Thanksgiving be a day to consider what you are thankful for, but also use it as a pause to consider with who, with what, and where you have been stuck in a rut in your thinking and not allowing for growth-either your own or someone else’s.

Let this day be a day of gratitude along with creating cave (quiet) time in the days to come to search your thinking. Most of us believe our own thoughts whether they are accurate or not simply because we have thought them for so long.

Let this day propel you forward into questioning your own thoughts, taking ownership, making corrections in your thinking that can positively affect your relationships at home and at work.

Then you will have even more to be thankful for.

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