Rut or Groove?

by Ron Potter

Are you in a rut or a groove?

One of the cartoons I enjoy is Animal Crackers by Mike Osbun.  In a recent strip, one character with a glum face says, “I’m in a rut.”  The other character with a cheerful face says “I’m in a groove.”  The first character says “Trade ya.”

Definition of Rut and Groove

The definitions of the two words are surprisingly similar.

Rut:  A long deep track made by repeated passage.

Groove: A long, narrow cut or depression, especially made to guide motion.

Notice that they are both long.  However, the rut is deep and caused by repeatedly doing the same thing.  Einstein says, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”  That seems like a good definition of being in a rut.

Groove is defined as a narrow cut (not deep) but is there to guide your motion.

How Do We Move from Rut to Groove?

In the Animal Crackers cartoon, when the character says ‘trade ya’ he doesn’t seem to believe that trading is possible.  He’s stuck in his rut and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

But there is something that can be done.  Notice in the definitions that a rut is a deep cut while a groove is a narrow cut.  All it takes is deciding to move from rut to groove.

The Mind Projects in Straight Lines

A friend of mine told me that something I had said to him 40+ years ago was helping him get through some tough times.  He reminded me that I had learned early that the human mind tends to project in straight lines—if things are going bad, it seems like they’ll continue to go bad.  If things are going good, we assume they will always be good.  But life never travels along straight lines.  Things constantly change.

When You’re in a Rut

If you’re in a rut, the straight lines projected by the mind believe you will always be in a rut.  Not true!  Things change.  The real question is, how do we get into a groove sooner?  How do we ‘trade ya’ as our Animal Cracker friend says?  And there’s a simple answer to that question!


It always amazes me how much attitude and outlook makes a difference.

There’s a story about the first days of NASA as they were preparing to go to the moon.  One of the head scientists was on his way home late one night so he cut through the giant hanger that had been built for the spacecraft.  As he was crossing the cavernous space, he saw one of the janitors sweeping up the floor.  In an effort to make a human connection, he asked the janitor what he was doing.  The janitor, with wonder in his eyes, said, ‘Haven’t you heard?  We’re going to the moon!’  He wasn’t just pushing a broom, he was helping get the hanger ready, so they could go to the moon.  Great attitude!

A woman who was in the audience when I was speaking wrote me a letter.  She would drag herself out of bed and get to her job just because she needed to provide for her family.  She hated it.  She not only hated the company she worked for, she hated the industry because she assumed all the companies dealt with the same issues.

After listening to the message about attitude, she decided to change.

By the time she wrote to me, she couldn’t wait to get started at her job every morning.  She loved her job, she loved the people she was working with, and she remembered why she chose that industry in the first place.  It was still the same place on Monday that it had been on Friday when she heard the message about attitude.  The only thing that changed was her attitude and remembering what she loved about her work to start with.  Her attitude had changed—nothing else.

How much of your attitude impacts your energy and excitement about what you’re doing and where you’re doing it?  Think about it.  It may have more to do with it than you realize.

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