Ruts Vs. Routines and the “Smarts” to know the Difference

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A Beechnut seed brought home from Arizona three years ago. I still have it! Nature refreshes and inspires me. Connecting weekly with the great outdoors  is important to me.

I love routines. I always have and I always will. Routines give me security. Routine makes me feel safe and helps me develop habits that keep me on track. Staying on task helps me accomplish what I set out to do.

Routines are delightful because you do them without thinking. They become automatic. I know that at a certain hour of the day, I will paint. I will write. I will carry out my dreams come “hell or high water!”

My husband knows never to interrupt me when I’m painting. He knows I never answer phone calls when my hands and elbows are dripping in acrylic paint. If friends call, they go into voice mail. The world literally goes on hold when I’m at canvas working with fast-drying acrylics.

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“Florida Panther” made from a Palm frond; wall hanging.

If my husband chooses to converse with me, he may get a growl in return. If my agenda changes either by crook or necessity, I’m not a happy camper. I may even have a temper tantrum of disproportionate proportions. My day becomes lopsided. The monster within comes out. I feel betrayed, cheated, and forlorn; oh, woe is me and a pox on everyone’s house.

If you’ve stayed with me to the end of this tirade, you now know the difference between routines and ruts. Routines are good “if” they help you stick to your goals and enable you to get your work done. Routines become “ruts” when they hold you prisoner and don’t allow you to be flexible. Without flexibility you can kiss creativity and family goodbye.

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The Martins came in March. Their babies will soon be big enough to fly and they will be gone for another year.

Ruts can entrap you, hold you , and make your life miserable.

The first time I went cross-country skiing it was late in the season. Hard, icy tracks were molded on the pathways.  As long as you stayed within their boundaries, it was smooth sailing. Get out of the grooves and you went sailing into the trees. That is exactly what I did when I came to my first turn. The ruts were so deep that you had to literally jump and twist to make the turn. Not something a novice like me could do.

Ruts stifle creativity. Spontaneity is also a critical component. Awareness and objectivity need to be in control 24/7. Creative thinkers must be good observers. They must be willing to adjust when opportunity knocks. Inspiration is a product not of time or mind, but of heart and soul. The door must always be open. The spirit must always be prepared to receive.

Go ahead and plan your schedules and routines. Set your goals and work toward them; but leave yourself an opening for the unexpected, the priceless moments with loved ones and family, and the sudden impulses that may flutter suddenly on your window sill or whisper in your ear in a moment of reverie.

Here are a few tips:

  • Routines guide your way.
  • Ruts holdy our feet to the fire.
  • Routines allow movement and growth.
  • Ruts exhaust you  and make you feel like a slave.
  • Routines involve familiar tasks and a safe place to explore ideas.
  • Ruts become rigid trails that lead you nowhere.
  • Routines let you experiment without criticism.
  • Ruts are monotonous black holes that go nowhere.
  • Routines ground you while your mind soars.
  • Ruts create anxiety and worry.

Figure out when you’re happiest and keep those routines. Eliminate the ruts that stifle growth and you’ll feel a whole lot better.

What Drives you to Distraction?

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How could you not look at this adorable face!

How could you not look at this adorable face!

Some things grab your attention more than others. The point at which you lose yourself may be different from mine. What slows you down and causes you to linger may depend on your ability or inability to focus on the task at hand. Whatever it is that beguiles you, deadlines are forgotten and appointments fade into obscurity. Once your thought process is disrupted, you’re hooked. You become like a cobra entranced by the magic flute swaying before your eyes.

This morning, my husband and I were shopping in “Fresh Market.” Similar to “Whole Foods,” Fresh Market is intoxicating; the brands and packaging alone could amuse me for hours. The sights and smells get my digestive juices flowing. The color of freshness awakens my taste buds. You simply cannot leave this store empty-handed.

My husband was content with a bottle of sparkling cider and some blueberries. I roamed the store hungering to buy. I could entertain myself for hours here savoring the samples, the freebies, and admiring the steaks and seafood I can’t afford. I vowed to come back alone so I could do just that!

"With These Hands -- Wonder" oil on canvas

“With These Hands — Wonder” oil on 16×20 canvas

My husband is a purposeful shopper. He doesn’t care to browse and admire. He knows what he wants and he goes in for the kill every time. We were in and out of there in 15 minutes leaving me feeling deflated and unfulfilled. Food is an all-consuming diversion, especially if you’re hungry.

You already know what a time sucker technology can be. Hours are consumed responding to comments and photos on Facebook, Pinterest, Trumblr and Instagram. As soon as you’ve mastered one program, there’s another one out there that promises even bigger results in accumulating friends and fans.

Many of these sites snag you in and then begin charging for their services. You play awhile. You stay awhile. And then they chew you up and spit you out!

My nephew, Kirk's family.

My nephew, Kirk’s, family.

Your friends and family can be a distraction unless they know the ground rules. Keep certain hours for yourself. No texting. No emails or phone calls. Nothing except what leads you to your desired goals. Reward your family and friends with shared time in the off hours. Respect their requests as well. Use their strength and yours to stay on target.

Television with its encroaching advertisements and enticing lead-ins pounces on your attention span like a rat catcher. You settle back for only a second, but once your rear-end sinks into that soft sofa you’re doomed. It’s obviously much more fun to watch a movie than buckle down to write or paint on an unresolved canvas.

Needy pets can spin circles at your feet and remind you of your neglect. By the time you play fetch or walk around the block, you’ve lost the thrust of your passion. Anything that weakens your drive paralyzes your mind. Writer’s and Painter’s block are real. They happen when you allow distractions to take over most of your day.

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“Bella Belissimo” 16×20 acrylic on canvas SOLD (prints available)

Demanding spouses can break your focus in one fell swoop!  Their interruptions and need for companionship can throw cold water on a hot idea. Wherever you are, and however you live, staying focused is a constant battle. You can either give in and lose your momentum, or you can set the ground rules and abide by them so others will take you seriously.