How to Get Out of a Rut

I was recently introduced to the TV series “Wonderfalls.”  It’s a fun little romp and the love interest is gorgeous, but I had a really hard time liking the main character.  The whole premise of the show is that she is an apathetic twenty-something who’s stuck in a dead-end life, and I found it frustrating that she didn’t take what I thought were obvious steps to improve herself.  Getting out of a rut in life is easy.  At least, it’s an easy solution to grasp conceptually, even if it requires some hard work. 

It was only after I started thinking about it that I realized what I thought were simple solutions actually had taken me over two years of floundering to figure out.  I didn’t know that I wanted to work for myself as an art nude model after I graduated college.  I didn’t know for certain what I wanted at all—although, if you had asked me, I would have laughed at modeling.  I was too much of a tomboy for that!                                                  

I’ve seen most of the people I’ve cared about go through the same process of trying to determine what they want—or worse, get permanently stuck themselves.  So, here’s what I figured out worked for me in those two years. Hopefully it’ll help someone else get unstuck a little quicker.

* * *

Walk uphill.

A lot of the time, I would sit and spin my wheels because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or what my purpose in life was, or what would make me happy.  I lived by the Chesterton quote:

Nobody has any business to use the word ‘progress’ unless he has a definite creed and a cast-iron code of morals. Nobody can be progressive without being doctrinal; I might almost say nobody can be progressive without being infallible—at any rate, without believing in some infallibility.

 I believed that you couldn’t make a good decision about your future without having your creed and morals defined.  I thought you figured out your own personal philosophical system, and then determined your choices—be they personal or career—from its absolute principles. 

Guess what?  Chesterton was wrong. 

Even if you don’t know what your absolute ideal is, if you compare two things side by side, you can almost always make a value judgment as to which one is better. If you don’t know what you want, don’t sit around wondering what your end goal is, or your purpose in life.  Instead, keep choosing the better choice. 

Congratulations.  You’re now walking uphill. 

Keep going higher until you’ve reached the top of your path of better decisions.  Then stop and look around from your new vantage point.  Are you happy with where you are?  Did you make it high enough?  Or are there taller mountains that you can now see?  If your chosen peak isn’t tall enough, go choose another and start walking!  Yes, you have to start all over again at the bottom, but now you know how to climb a mountain. 

Arrival of Spring.jpg

This process of walking uphill was how I both discovered art nude modeling and grew that discovery into a full-time occupation.  I sat for my first life drawing class on the recommendation of a family friend.  I enjoyed posing so much for that first class that I had to try it one more time . . . After that, I was hooked.  If I had tried to figure out my life from base principles, I would have never given modeling a chance.  But I knew that every time I booked a new gig, I would enjoy posing more than anything else I could have been working on.  I could see for myself what the more fulfilling choice was.

Of course, walking uphill is also hard work, and like any big project, the motivation to take those steps with such a long-term payoff can be daunting.  Even if you know what you need to do, it can be impossible to make yourself do it. 

I have always been a perfectionist and a control freak.  I will procrastinate on a project until I can do it “right.”  Because of this, I would work on projects in fits and starts, with grand bursts of inspiration that lasted for hours or even days, and then troughs where I wouldn’t touch a project for months.  I almost never finished what I was working on, unless there was a deadline that forced me to turn something in.  It’s impossible to finish a big project with that type of work ethic—there’s a reason I still haven’t finished a novel. 

Last year, I posed weekly for a sculptor. My sculptor told me that she often got frustrated with her work and would give up on a piece that didn’t inspire her, until she heard a saying by Confucius that has become something she lives by.  Confucius and I may not agree on most topics, but I think he was right about this one thing:

 “It doesn’t matter how slowly you go—only that you do not stop.”  --Confucius

This deliberate forward momentum is the only way I’ve found to learn a new skill, write a novel, start a business, finish a project, or improve my life.  It’s certainly what has kept me modeling, and improving as a model.  (It also works great for motivating yourself to go to the gym).  If you try to wait until you’ll do it right, you’ll never do it enough.  Instead, just start moving.  Don’t try to sprint—just keep plodding up that mountain.  I promise that you’ll make it to the top.