Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.
Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends. Thanks so much for joining us today. I want to talk to you about ruts. Have you ever been stuck in a rut? Stuck, can't seem to gain any traction, no forward momentum.
There are many definitions of rut. I'm talking about a static condition, no movement, loss of energy, lack of direction. We all experience seasons where we're stuck in a rut. Usually, these seasons are temporary. However, one can be stuck indefinitely. [00:58.2]
I know all about that, going back to 1996. That was the year that I lost my first wife to breast cancer. Me and my two sons, we were stuck. I, personally, was stuck for weeks, for months, for even years. I understand about being stuck indefinitely. If momentum is the trademark for progress, a rut is the breeding ground for entropy.
When I'm stuck, whether it be physically or emotionally, intellectually or even spiritually, I notice some similarities in my behaviors. I'm distracted. I'm irritated. I tend to make excuses. I also notice similarities in my emotions; anger, frustration, worry, anxiety, a feeling of being overwhelmed. I also tend to be easily offended.
If you feel you're in a rut, friends, you're not alone. If you're sensing behavioral and emotional turmoil, there's a good reason. In addition to all of life's usual stresses, the lingering effects of a global pandemic may have been so devastating that it will take years to really understand the effect on our collective mental health. [02:15.5]
According to a recent news story on National Public Radio, the pandemic has resulted in many of us experiencing signs of what psychologists call “languishing, a feeling of weariness or stagnation,” but an emerging area in the study of brain science can help lift us out of this languishing rut. It's called joy. NPR has actually made available an app to help you experience more joy. You can check that out at NPR.org/joy.
Here's the science. Experiencing joy helps our brain generate positive emotions, like nurturing and love, and serenity, a feeling of awe. The pandemic has really challenged those positive emotions. You see, the pandemic has resulted in isolation. [03:11.4]
Isolation can cause people to focus more inwardly in ways that might be rather destructive. We tend to focus on our shortcomings and our problems. We tend to be overly critical and this can result in us being stuck in our own heads. Joy helps pull us out of that stagnation by shifting the focus off us and thinking more positively about our environment, about the situation. This is nothing new. I love the encouragement of the Apostle Paul in the Holy Scriptures as he wrote a letter to the Philippian church. Paul encouraged the readers to think on whatever is true and honorable, and right and pure and of good report. Why? So that they would experience peace so that their joy would be complete. [04:03.7]
Positive emotions are powerful. NPR interviewed Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett, a psychologist at Northeastern University. According to Dr. Barrett, the brain decides which emotions to call on using memories from the past to create the present. This is powerful. We can actually modify how we feel in very direct ways.
For example, Dr. Barrett believes if we practice a positive emotion today, say, gratitude, over time, it becomes easier to feel those emotions in the future. Barrett stated, quote, “Your brain grows new connections that makes it easier … to automatically create different emotions in the future.” So, if you start to feel a negative emotion like fear, you can swap it with a positive one like contentment. [05:00.3]
In 2017, Dr. Barrett gave an excellent TED Talk on this subject titled, “You aren’t at the mercy of your emotions—your brain creates them.” I encourage each and every one of you to watch that TED Talk. I actually needed to hear those words because I was in a rut recently. We know that positive emotions are powerful and that we can recall those emotions and replace the negative ones. I've been doing this lately. It's hard work. It's not easy, but it is working.
Let me explain. After celebrating an anniversary and Valentine's Day and a birthday in the same week, I found it very difficult to return back to my regimented lifestyle. You see, I've lost a good bit of weight and I still have a ways to go, and I've discovered that my newfound freedom of a week of no restrictions was not actually freeing at all. By the way, friends, isn't it interesting that what we think is freeing us is actually creating more bondage? [06:03.8]
I was stuck. Didn't want to work out. Didn't want to get up early. Didn't want to go through my routines. Didn't want to drink excessive amounts of water. Didn't want to drink protein shakes. Why return to fruit and vegetables when you can have a week of cakes and pies, and extend that to two weeks and three weeks and four weeks? Get the picture? I felt, health-wise, I was back at ground zero and I began to even question my lifestyle.
Here's the truth. I do live a much healthier lifestyle these days, evidenced by the conviction that exploded in my heart following a week long free for all. Now, some may say, What's the big deal, Rick? You enjoyed your birthday and your anniversary. But that's not the problem. The problem was I wanted to continue enjoying all those things. I learn a lot from recovering alcoholics and those folks will tell you that the problem is not with just one drink. They don't want just one drink. They want to continue drinking. I get it. [07:05.8]
So, I began thinking. Positive emotions are powerful. The brain decides which emotions to call on. Using memories from the past can create the present. Therefore, I can actually modify what I feel in very direct ways. Guess what? I started doing three things.
Number one, I asked myself why. Why did I begin a new lifestyle program in the first place? This allowed me to reexamine all my reasons for choosing a healthy lifestyle. I began to re-experience the joy associated with my new lifestyle. It led me to this conclusion: the “why” must be more important than the “what.”
Here's the “what”: I'm stuck. I'm in a rut. Boo-hoo-hoo. Woe is me. Those were legitimate feelings as far as I was concerned. [08:00.0]
But here's the “why”: feeling better, living longer, enjoying years with my family, playing golf with my grandchildren. I made a mental note of the hundreds of reasons why I enjoy my lifestyle.
Boy, it's rather convincing, friends. Recalling the reasons why I am living such a lifestyle really replaced those negative feelings with a powerful and positive set of emotions. So, here's step number one: the “why” must be more important than the “what.”
Step No. 2: I discovered that it's a great time to realize the value of our God-given imagination. I tend to only activate my imagination in good times, but I want you to think about something. Think about a single mom on welfare, trying to complete a manuscript about a wizard. Think about a man who has overcome numerous tragedies and then spends five years trying to develop a simple chicken sandwich. Think about a man fired by an earlier employer who said he lacked creativity, and yet this man creates a mouse as a character. [09:11.7]
In each of these cases, these folks made a choice to imagine the impossible. Right in the midst of difficult times, they placed a demand on their imagination. These would be times where most of us would say they were in a rut. They used that rut to place a demand on their imaginations.
Friends, let me tell you what it produced. It produced J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, produced Truett Cathy's Chick-fil-A franchises. It produced Walt Disney's expansive global empire. All produced in the imaginations of people during seasons of great despair. I believe a rut, that's right, a rut is a great opportunity to activate imagination, imagining what others don't. [10:07.5]
When you're in a rut, imagine what can be. Imagine what shall be. Imagine what will be. Step No. 2: unleash your imagination.
Step No. 3: embrace the urgency of now. Step No. 3? Now. Now is the time. Civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., was always criticized by those in the established order for wanting justice too swiftly. King would often respond with a theme featured in most of his speeches. That theme? “Now is the time.” This feature speaks to the urgency of the moment and why justice delayed is not justice at all.
Basketball great, the late Kobe Bryant, had a similar message for NBA rookies. He would ask them, “Now what? You've reached the pinnacle. You've been drafted into the National Basketball Association. Now what? What are you going to do now?” [11:09.3]
Here's the point, friends. The word “now” places a demand on each and every one of us. There's an urgency associated with the word. The word means move. Don't wait. Don't delay. Do something.
So, here's my bottom line. As a result of a recent rut brought on by a week of celebration, a temporary season where I was actually believing all those negative emotions, I was reminded of positive emotions and the power of positive emotions, and how we can recall them and replace the negative ones. Instead of focusing on rut, I now focus on WIN. That’s the acronym from the words I just shared, “why,” “imagination,” and “now.”
“Why” is more important than “what.” Releasing our imagination to run wild and there's no better time to do all this than now. So, if you find yourself in a rut today, don't stay there. WIN the day. [12:15.4]
Friends, that's going to do it for this episode. Until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick, asking the most important question I can ask, how ya livin’?
Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout”, absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audiobook right now.
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