You start a new job. It’s exciting to learn all the nuances of your responsibilities. Each day is a challenge. Stressful, sure, but nonetheless exciting to be stretched outside your comfort zone. You’re eager to start a new day and tackle more aspects of your new role.

Eventually, you begin to settle in to your new job, feeling comfortable that your skills are up to the challenges you face. You’re feeling pretty expert. No more stress. You got this!

At some point, the job becomes second nature — like driving a car. Frankly, it can get a little boring because you no longer have to think so hard. The job becomes more mechanical in nature.

Next thing you know, that routine becomes your prison. Rigidity sets in because you know all the rules and can perform all the functions in your sleep. There’s no deviation. Boredom becomes your constant companion. There’s no way out. You’re stuck in a rut.

How did you lose your initial excitement? Where did it go and why? Ruts are symptomatic that learning has stagnated.

There is a point where familiarity makes you comfortable, then softens into complacency then solidifies into rigidity, and finally cements you in a rut of life.

It can happen with employment, with relationships, even with taste buds!

Yes, taste buds can get tired. You make the same easy items throughout your busy work week, and suddenly, you’re bored with the usual, and nothing sounds good for dinner. Or you might enjoy a narrow range of foodstuffs but before you realize it, that narrow range shrinks further and becomes your only sustenance for a body that thrives on a diversity of foods. Your body ends up in an unhealthy rut.

Languishing in a rut evaporates the joy of life. You may decide the solution is to change jobs or dissolve a relationship just so you can re-ignite the spark of that first excitement.

Ultimately, that same pattern of progressing from newness to rut will continue without serious self-awareness and intervention. You can keep changing jobs and relationships, always disappointed that you end up bored and dissatisfied.

Or you can try something else.

Without frenetically changing jobs or relationships, you can invent creative ways to inject newness into the existing and recapture your zest.

Find an untapped aspect to explore with the same excitement that you initially greeted this job or person. Learn. Grow. The rut you’re in is not usually due to some external factor; it’s a predictable response of your internal approach to life.