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4 Ways to Work Your Way Out of a Rut

4 Ways to Work Your Way Out of a Rut

A writer stares at a blinking cursor and a white screen. It's called writer’s block, but it’s a state many of us find ourselves in from time to time, regardless of our professions. Perhaps you’ve struggled to come up with the next big idea, and keeping it “status quo” is the only solution. Maybe you recycle the same ideas because a better one seems to keep eluding you. It could even be that you experience a boredom with your present situation, the cause of which you can’t quite put your finger on.

It’s a rut. If you’ve never been in one in your life, you will be. If you have been in one before, you’ll be in one again. But there is good news about a rut: it’s not permanent.

When it comes to breaking free from a creativity rut, there are plenty of expert suggestions, many of which were recently documented in The Huffington Post. You can take a walk, cook, exercise, read, write or even meditate.

As a writer, there’s little doubt from me that these recommendations could prove beneficial in getting the creative juices flowing. But, what do you do when it’s your job or career that feels like the rut, and a long walk or vacation isn’t enough to fix it? There’s only one place to turn: the Scriptures.

The go-to verses in this discussion are usually Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

There’s certainly application for our daily professional lives there. If we work as though we are working for God and not our bosses or ourselves, the end-product should be better and the process should be more joyful. But, it’s also true that this passage is specifically talking about a master-slave relationship. Now, I don’t know your specific work situation, but it’s doubtful that it mirrors the hurt, pain and abuse we envision of a master-slave relationship.

It’s helpful to look at the verse in context of the whole chapter, because it’s there that we get some practical tips for our professional lives, especially when we find ourselves in a rut.

Think about what truly matters. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). Our main focus should be on those things of eternal value, not the things that are unlikely to be remembered next month. Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. It’s natural for us to let the trees cloud our view of the forest. It takes a deliberate decision to set your mind on Christ and not the circumstances around you. You’re not alone; Peter had the same issues. Remember that whole “walking on the water” episode?

Put away the worldly way. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you… seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3: 5-10). In the workplace, it’s easy to be discouraged by the backbiting, lying, slander and anger. This passage specifically calls us not only to set aside those things, but to “put them to death.” If we keep our focus on living our lives in the image of our Creator, there’s little energy left for our own selfish ambitions. And, it’s those selfish ambitions that typically lead to bad behavior at the office.

Be a better teammate. “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14). When you’re in a rut, the easiest action is to pull away from your colleagues. But, how much would our attitudes change if, during those professional ruts, we worry less about our own state and more about how we can help our coworkers?

Be thankful. “…And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:15-16). We have so much to be thankful for. In those down times, we have trouble seeing the blessings because our eyes are fixed on our problems. When we focus on God's glory instead, our own problems fade. John Mark McMillan writes of this in the popular worship song “How He Loves”: “When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, And I realize just how beautiful you are, And how great your affections are for me.” Thank God for your job. Thank God for your family. And, most of all, thank God for his love for you.

It’s important to recognize that, while a rut is a negative result, it can come from positive actions. In the literal sense, a rut (a long, deep ditch) can form by the bearing down or repeated passage of heavy objects. In the same way, a professional rut can come from regular, even if repetitive, hard work.

Hard work is a good thing, even though the potential wear on your mental state isn’t. You can have your “nose to the grindstone” and as a result, find yourself burned out or in a rut. But, if we keep our focus on God and what really matters, we can break free and live a professional life that truly honors him.

Brent Rinehart is a public relations practitioner and freelance writer. He blogs about the amazing things parenting teaches us about life, work, faith and more at You can also follow him on Twitter.

Publication date: June 19, 2014