When a Path Becomes a Rut

We go through life, more often than not, trudging along a path that was determined years ago.  A path that we chose before we understood life, before we understood ourselves fully.

As children, our parents, if we were blessed, taught us good habits. These habits were their way of setting  us on a path to a healthy and productive life. Healthy habits such as: go to bed on time, get up on time, brush your teeth after every meal, make good grades, go to church, wash your hands after you use the restroom and don’t pick your nose and eat…Well, you remember. These habits were our norm. As we grew, so did our habits: Get good grades so you can graduate, go to college, pick a career, get a job, go to bed early,go to church, get up on time for work, work hard all week so that you can relax on the weekend, and for goodness sake don’t pick your nose and eat…Well, you remember.

Now, I’m not bashing habits. Many habits are good and even necessary to a healthy and productive life. Mom and dad were right all along. However, when our habits become habits, we turn that trail that we started blazing all of those years ago, well, we turn that trail into a rut.

A while back I was asked to sit on a “Career Panel” at one of our local colleges. My job was simply to answer any questions relevant to my career and current position in life. The purpose of this particular job fair was to scout potential candidates for hire while allowing these fresh college graduates to learn from those who have “gone before”. For two hours I fielded questions from students ranging in age anywhere from 18 to 60. For two hours every question, regardless of age, regardless of circumstances, regardless of chosen career, boiled down to a variation of three questions. How do I get a job in my chosen field, How do I keep a job in my chosen field, What do I do when my chosen field is not hiring?

Now, it wasn’t surprising to me that all of the young graduates were asking these questions. The surprising thing and perhaps more telling is that even the thirty and forty year old students/graduates were asking the same questions, albeit worded more eloquently.

When the same questions were posed yet again, directed to me, with nothing but the career field altered I concluded that the time had come.

How do I get a job in my chosen field, How do I keep a job in my chosen field?  What do I do when my chosen field is not hiring or has become obsolete?

My answer: You adapt. Next question.

Yes, the room fell quiet. Yes, they apparently needed me to expound.  Here is my response in an abbreviated form (you’re welcome). “It would be naive indeed, to think that at 18 years of age we could choose and embark on a career path that will never need to be revisited. Just in the time that we have been here responding to these questions the medical and technical fields have already made advancements and you fresh graduates are already behind the curve. In fact, just since we arrived today smart phones and computer games, computer graphics, and even art have advanced yet again, so if any of you have chosen those as a career path…you best get cracking. We no longer live in the day where we graduate, pick a field and retire the ‘Learned Professor’. Beyond that, the employee that every company desires is the one that brings people skills and professionalism to the table. NO credential behind your name can make up for lack of relationship skills. If you are part of the population who thinks, “Well, this is just who I am’ you are already not attractive to employers.  In this day and age, if you are not continually learning and continually growing, you will, without a doubt, get left behind. If your wish is to be marketable in twenty years, you must decide now to continue growing. You must be willing to adapt.  My advice to you is: be open to change, be willing to grow, embrace the altered path.  I am a credentialed Respiratory Therapist, and yet I have not chosen to work in that field in over twenty years.  But, oh, how I have enjoyed all of the doors that have opened up to me because I refused to be boxed into a particular path.”

These concepts apply to every area of our lives: careers, marriages, health, friendships and child rearing.  It would be naive indeed to think that we could at (fill in age here) embark on a career, marriage, friendship,or hobby that would not need to be revisited or altered. If you wish to stay marketable in your career, attractive (whether physically or emotionally) in your marriage, relevant in your friendships, healthy for your family or relatable to your kids…YOU MUST ADAPT!


We have all heard it said that a rut is just a coffin, with the ends kicked out. Is there an area in your life where you are stagnating? Do you stubbornly hold to paths that are no longer offering enjoyment or fulfillment? What are you actively doing to climb out of that rut before it really does become the coffin for your dreams?

Yes, you have the right to plant your feet. It is within your rights to refuse to grow, change or adapt. But, if you yearn for something more, if you still believe somewhere deep down that life is to be lived to its fullest and enjoyed; then might I suggest that you take any step to alter your journey.

Embrace the altered path, and Please don’t pick your nose and eat…well. you remember…



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