It’s human nature to get in a rut – or become complacent – at times. It happens to most people more than once during their career, and it’s worthwhile to address it before it drags on for too long.
As it tends to sneak up on us, rather than strike suddenly, complacency can be well hidden in your blind spot. Whether it's that recent but oh-so-familiar sense of distraction, being tuned out, repetitive stress or drama (after all, a "rut" doesn't mean things aren't happening,) okay but similar results, people issues, or challenges, it's a rut. It's that sense of "same old same old" -- knowing in your quiet moments you are coasting rather than building, learning, or innovating.
At some level, sooner or later, you awaken to it -- because things feel tedious or easy in a way that's not like you, or something is “off.” It’s as if you’ve been listening to the same few songs for months and you need to make a new play list.
When you recognize it's time to change your tune, here are seven concrete things you can do to snap yourself out of it:
1. Take a break. Consider the notion that to shift your own perspective, you need to disconnect fully from your own routines and habits at work. Step away, shut down, and don’t check in for a few days or weeks, and come back fresh.
2. Face it. Start a conversation about your own (or your organization’s) complacency with a trusted adviser who will not pull their punches, and practice avoiding being defensive. Take action accordingly.
3. Reset or change your goals. Set / reset a new or different bar for your own performance and/or for your organization.
4. Take on the bigger enduring issues. Consider your top three long-standing toughest challenges that you’ve either learned to live with, ignore, or work around. Ask yourself “what’s needed here?” Resolve to fix them in order of importance.
5. Reconsider your role / contribution. Take a fresh look at your own contribution to your organization as if you were a prospective outside board member or investor, rather than an inside leader. Answer the question: what needs to change for me to be at full throttle / giving my best most days? Run with what you discover.
6. Shake it up. Put a “thought-grenade” on the table on a recurring and seemingly unsolvable reality. Tell a team, “let’s scrap it,” or “what would it be like if we started from scratch,” or “let’s sell it,” and see where that discussion leads.
7. Shift into the future and look back. Challenge yourself and your team to imagine being forward in time to one year hence – what needs to be true for you to be delighted with where you are then. Look back from that vantage point to the present and admit what needs to change for that future to be created. Then make changes.
You can do any or all of the above, and see what works best for you. It’s not easy to admit you’ve become complacent, but it gets the best of us, so you’re in good company. Now is the time to take the right steps to shift yourself – or your organization -- into a different gear.