by David DeFord
Our friend Gatwech Tut fled war-torn Sudan as a young man. The rebel army had abducted him away from his family at age fourteen and forced him into military service. Separated from his family and terribly mistreated, Gatwech organized an escape with some of his fellow cadets.
Unfortunately, their escape attempt failed. Since the platoon leaders considered Gatwech the leader of the youthful deserters, and placed him into a deep pit. He suffered terribly for many months in the dark, covered pit. He could not leave, he ate what the guards threw down to him. He endured awful sanitary conditions.
Yet, in time, the general released him from the pit and allowed him to escape into the desert, to make his way to freedom.
While incarcerated, Gatwech had few choices. He experienced the ultimate “rut”.
My young friend’s rut represents a very extreme case. But many people find themselves in ruts nearly as serious to them. They feel stuck. They feel they are getting nowhere. They feel mired in circumstance.
How can we climb out of the pits of circumstances and begin to move toward our desired ends?
Do Something Immediately
Doing nothing will result in nothing.
It may not seem like it, but you do have choices. You may find yourself in a figurative pit, but you still have choices. If you feel stuck in a job you hate, you have several options: change jobs, learn a new skill, return to school, start a business.
Begin your move immediately.
Conquer Your Fear of Change
We dig many of our ruts because we fear change.
My dad used to joke that he would never sing in church because he liked his simple life and didn’t want Hollywood to discover his hidden talent and ruin him.
We sometimes fail to pull ourselves out of our ruts because we fear what we might find on the outside. We prefer the known conditions to the unknown. We fear to risk escape.
I know of no one lived their dreams by accepting their lot in life. They pushed and lifted and dragged themselves away from their known conditions and risked failure. But by taking risks, and launching themselves out of their ruts, they attained their visions.
Explore Your Choices
We always have choices.
We choose our circumstances, our attitudes, our perspective, our actions and our inactions.
Do some have greater challenges than others? Of course. Do some have propensities that steer them in specific directions? Yes. Do the greater challenges or inherent propensities determine our circumstances, attitudes, and choices? Absolutely not!
Didn’t Ray Charles succeed in the music business in spite of a terrible handicap, unscrupulous business managers, and even a heroin addiction?
Didn’t Jim Abbott pitch eleven years in the major leagues even though he had one arm missing?
Didn’t Oprah Winfrey rise to become the world’s highest-paid entertainment person even though she was raised in desperate poverty, terrible abuse, and had a propensity to put on pounds?
We always have choices.
Change Your Attitude
Few obstacles to rut elimination loom larger than our thoughts. Through negative, self-defeating thoughts we dig our pits and destroy the escape ladder.
If we accept our imprisonment we will never find release. If we think escape is impossible, paper straws could hold us prisoner.
Yet if we find confidence in ourselves, we can scale the tallest prison walls and break the strongest shackles.
Change Your Perspective
If you feel unhappy at work, stop thinking of yourself as a bank teller, store clerk, or systems analyst. Identify with your life roles in which you feel more successful or important—mother, friend, citizen, cyclist, volunteer.
Some look to their career as their main source of joy. But, few make their greatest contributions to the world through their jobs.
Evaluate your life roles. Where can you improve? How can you contribute more? How can you find greater joy?
Nothing can lift us out of a rut faster than meaningful service to others.
Learn Something New
Expand your knowledge and you expand your options.
Education, both formal and informal, multiplies opportunity.
Think Less of Yourself
When you find a passionate purpose, an opportunity to serve other people, a chance to extend yourself for no personal benefit, you will find an unexpected benefit—fulfillment.
In parenting, volunteering, and lifting others we find meaning, purpose, and satisfaction. Our own troubles seem to lessen.
Many rut builders hook us and make escape seem impossible. Addictions to substances (tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, caffeine) will not only limit our choices, but kill us in the end. Addictions to vices (gambling, perversion, gluttony) will drain our bank accounts, our health, and our energy. Addiction to leisure, like the overuse of the television, will take away our choices of action and vitality.
Remove your addictions and you expand your choices.
You always have choices. Some of your choices will limit your future freedoms. Others will enhance them. You may need help in making the needed changes. Talk to someone. Reach out to your clergy, a friend whom you respect, or a counselor. They can help you realize your great potential and lift you when you feel weary or scared or unsure of your self.
You always have choices.
History records the successes of men with objectives and a sense of direction. Oblivion is the position of small men overwhelmed by obstacles. William Danforth
There is but one straight road to success, and that is merit. The man who is successful is the man who is useful. Capacity never lacks opportunity. It can not remain undiscovered, because it is sought by too many anxious to use it. Bourke Cockran
Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved. Winston Churchill
Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out. James B. Conant
If you advance confidently in the direction of your dreams, and endeavor to live the life which you have imagined, you will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. Henry David Thoreau
I can promise you that the challenges you'll meet on the road to success are far less difficult to deal with than the struggles and the disappointments that come from being average. Jim Rohn
Achievement seems to be connected with action. Successful men and women keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit. Conrad Hilton
The great dividing line between success and failure can be expressed in five words: I did not have time. Franklin Field
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