When you’re stuck in a rut of “success”

Frederick Dodson

Frederick Dodson

Focus leads to results but also creates ruts in the tapestry of reality. The Oxford Dictionary defines “rut” as “a long deep track made by the repeated passage of the wheels of vehicles”. When people say “I’m stuck in a rut” they usually refer to negative habits. But this article is about ruts created by success, which are often the deepest. When you keep repeating the same thoughts, behaviors, habits and actions you create a pattern. Eventually it can become a ditch out of one rarely emerges within a lifetime.

Why do we create ruts? Because at first it’s beneficial to get into the groove. A narrowly defined path is easier to travel. And it makes going in other directions more difficult.


Tom is an accountant. Defying stereotypes about accountants, he also enjoys playing the flute. Another part of him enjoys hiking. Tom has two children, he likes playing with them at the weekend and on some evenings. If he is the boss of his life, these different sub-personalities harmonize with each other. After a traumatic event around money, the identity “accountant” imposed itself more strongly. It suppressed other aspects and now Tom is working all the time. No more flute, no more playing with the kids, no more hiking. This predictably creates success in accounting, he becomes an expert. But is he enjoying himself? Does he have any friends? No. He’s stuck in a rut. It’s “success” of a limited kind.

Is a person who is good at only one thing a “success”? Not to me. It’s easy to succeed at the expense of all else. I admire those who succeed at many different things, without sacrificing other aspects of who they are. Higher-self seeks a variety of experience. The world-self finds comfort in routine.

Ella wishes to implement a whole new thing in her company. Granted, “new” doesn’t always mean good. But this thing Ella is proposing, is really good. It will help automate tedious processes to free up attention for all staff. But the company won’t even listen to Ella. “We are doing well, we don’t need to change”. One of the greatest obstacles to future success is present success. Things could be so much better, but we settle for the status quo because “things are going well”.

The problem: Maintaining the status quo is an illusion. There is no such thing as stagnation in nature. If you’re not growing and expanding, you are declining. If you are resting on the past, you are declining. Nobody is meant to rest on “it’s already done” and “I already know”. The company might seem to be doing well at the moment but with that mentality, it is already in decline. Everyone needs to improve and change perpetually, even if changes are small. If they are not even hearing her ideas, their attitude will manifest as real trouble soon. Change before you have to.

Am I suggesting you stop creating ruts? No. If you stop creating routine, you won’t succeed in anything. You won’t develop persistence. Reality Creators have the ability create paths that don’t turn into ruts. To create habits that don’t turn rigid. To create familiar routines that don’t become traps.

There’s the other extreme, the “no ruts” type. Imagine a mushroom-tripping vagabond who wanders from place to place, not knowing where he will be tomorrow. Sometimes he even forgets his name. He’s undefined. “Undefined” can be wonderful. But it doesn’t develop will. The ability to un-define who we are was given to us so that we can re-define, not so that we stay undefined. The neutral mode of a car serves a purpose but you are not meant to stay there. Creating definition creates reality. Eventually the wandering bohemian will want to settle, have some familiar faces – friends – and maybe get a job or learn a skill. A return to definition. People who stay undefined are scared of getting stuck in a rut. People stuck in a rut are scared of being undefined. A person who has mastered life, can be in both worlds. For example I am undefined regarding weekend activities and well defined regarding weekday activities. I once booked a “package vacation” in an “all inclusive hotel” in the Dominican Republic 25 years ago. It’s the last time I did that because the predictable element is too high, taking all the fun out of it. The most fun vacation was a road-trip across foreign countries with no specific plan or destination. It was unpredictable. There were dangerous encounters with animals in the wild and weird people. But there were also encounters with friendly faces. The unpredictable is more to the taste of higher-self. The stronger you feel, the more you welcome surprise and adventure. In a weakened state, you seek safety and structure. I’ve always recommended providing clear structures and predictable patterns to children, pets, to people who are sick and to those struggling. For instance, a person struggling financially needs conscious accounting of their income and expenses. Those who have figured out the money-game do not need nannying.

To visualize the “all ruts” type, imagine a workaholic. This person would benefit from breaking routine. He thinks he’s more “successful” and “effective” with his work-addiction. In reality, he’s suppressing 80% of life experience. He’ll benefit greatly from doing his job differently or doing a different job altogether. Yet many people wear “Ive done this my whole life” as a badge of honor. Their strong rut creates momentum and recognition so the public even expects them to stay in their rut. They don’t wish to see the CEO of a software company suddenly taking off to Nepal in search of ancient scrolls hidden in caves. They’d prefer not to see the actor quit his career to become a pastor. They don’t want to envision the Chef of a restaurant going away to study dentistry. The mind says “Stay right where you are, so that we can feel safe and have predictable patterns”. All the major “personality tests” such as myer-briggs, seek to define and limit who a person is. I did the test when I was in my twenties and thirties and now again in my late forties. Each time my “personality type” ended up as someone completely different. That’s a good thing. But it also means that “personality tests” are meaningless. A soul can be every type.

Here’s a shocker: In the month of July 2022 my book “Parallel Universes of Self” (2006) sold almost 1000 copies. That’s really good for a self-published book that had zero marketing. My more recent book “The Secret History of Polynesia” sold only 9 copies in July 2022. What a difference! What’s going on? It means I’ve managed to create a strong self-perpetuating energy field around one topic, but not the other. Someone I told this to commented: “You’re better off sticking to what you’re good at!“.

I say no, that’s really bad advice! If you wish to grow into…

the fullness of who you are,

you’re better off trying things you are NOT YET good at. “Failing” to sell could easily persuade one to abandon the new project and return to the safety of their rut. But that’s a mistake. I only grow in places I know little about. Money is not the only criteria. People get horribly stuck in ruts if they think it’s all about money. Fortunately I’ve created a strong rut that “makes money for me” through real estate. So I am not dependent on my books succeeding and can write whatever I want. I know what I could have written if my goal were to sell books. But money is not the only criteria. That book that nobody is reading now, will have its time long after I’ve left this world. It was written for a future generation. From this you see why I teach “passive income”. Passive income means creating a strong rut that you yourself don’t have to be involved in once it’s created. If you have that, it’s much easier to leave your rut and create new paths.

How can you create a stable path without getting stuck in it? It’s a little tricky. I’ve lived in 4 different countries, that’s helped immensely. The average person in my country moves 11 times during their lifetime. That’s good. A person ought to change location and job every 7 to 10 years. And if you’re not willing to change your career, you ought to change the way you do it. Have an aspect of stability and an aspect of flexibility in your work. Stability attracts the world-self, flexibility attracts higher-self.

When I coach a person, one of the first things I determine is whether they need to open up more or close more (becoming more defined and focused). There’s a simple way to find out: If you’re feeling bored and/or totally in control of your life, you need to start opening up – less certainty and more spontaneity. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused, you need to start defining and limiting, looking for reliability. Every individual needs to find out for him or herself how much control or release they currently want in their life and know that either can be beneficial.

My life is constant, never-ending improvement. But not in a stressful/radical way, more like

slow and gentle ever upwards.

If my Self from one year ago met my self today, he would barely recognize him. For example, this year I’ve given up the habit of eating while working and I’ve implemented the habit of swimming in my pool almost every day. This year I talk to all neighbors, in the last years I didn’t talk to any neighbors. Up until this year, I wore shirts that had one color, often white, black, gray or blue. This is the first year I am wearing multi-colored and bright shirts. If 2021-Fred met 2022-Fred he’d laugh at the bright shirts. Something brand new I’ve started doing a year ago is to decline Coaching to companies that don’t share my values. When I was younger I wouldn’t discriminate against any company for any reason (“as long as they pay I don’t care what their values are”), today I eagerly and joyfully discriminate. Again, my younger self would not recognize my current self. However, throughout all changes, some things never change. For example a basic level of kindness has never has changed and never will. Sure, some will say that me declining companies is “unkind”, but going against ones values or affirming others fears is not kindness, on the contrary.

If your response is “well, I tried to change one of my habits but I can’t” – that’s being stuck in a rut. In that case it’ll take effort to get out, perhaps even outside assistance. And if your response is “I don’t want to create any habits”, that’s being too undefined. If you don’t create habits, you also don’t experience anything more thoroughly. When I started my new swimming habit, I wasn’t experiencing the sunshine and water the way I am experiencing them months later. A habit goes from tentative “trying it” to “deep immersion”. If you’re a master of your life, you needn’t be afraid of immersing yourself in something new because

you can enter and exit anything.

When I say “Let go of the good for the better” you might say “How can I really know that the new thing is better?” I like to respond to that frequent question like this: No matter how good it’s been, if it’s gone on for too long or you’ve mastered it, it’s time to move on. The exception to this rule are relationships. Relationships can go on for a lifetime because people can change. And they are meant to change. Of course, if a person never changes, the relationship grows stale and you move on. So if you wish to keep a relationship, instead of trying to stay exactly the same as when your spouse met you, you’re better off developing. I know – that’s the opposite of what we commonly think. But the primary reason relationships break-up is not because someone changes, but because one person is not changing / developing while the other is. If both are improving, there is no reason to break up.

Not all changes are good. Sometimes you’ll notice that the new-thing you stepped into isn’t as awesome as you though it was. This doesn’t mean you should go back to the old rut. It’s such a silly reaction. “OMG! It didn’t work! We need to get back to the old thing!”. There are always many options, many doors to choose from.

Looking back at your life, do you want to be stereotypical or would you like to be renaissance?

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