How To Get Off The Hamster Wheel Of Life
I’ve made reference to this infamous hamster wheel in several of my posts. It’s one of the primary underlying themes that runs beneath and supports the structure of Men’s Complete Life. How if you aren’t careful your entire existence becomes running around and around on the hamster wheel of life until you blink and you’re at the end. So really it’s not about how do we keep on the hamster wheel of life – it’s more about what can we do to ensure that our lives aren’t spent always on this damn wheel, running around and around and around. One of the primary purposes this website was born to serve is to provide ways to open eyes so that we see A LOT MORE than the hamster wheel of life. So take a sip of whatever it is you are drinking and read on, it’s time to discuss more of how to get off the hamster wheel of life.
So there’s various forms and descriptions of the hamster wheel of life. Here’s mine: It’s all the stuff we do day in and day out to simply survive to do it all over again. Let me list a few for you:
- Eat Breakfast
- Get Dressed
- Brush Teeth
- Pack Lunch
- Drive to Work
- Eat Lunch
- Drive Home
- Eat Dinner
- Clean dishes
- Watch TV
- Mow Lawn
- Do Laundry
- Clean House
- Drive Kids to Soccer
- Rake Leaves
- Home Improvement Projects
- Put up holiday lights & tree
- Take down holiday lights and tree
- Get an oil change for your car
- Pay Bills
- Writing weekly reports for work
- Pay more bills
- Work to pay the bills
- Watch the weeks and months and years fly by
- You Get the point
Here’s a nice clear yet depressing vision that should paint this entire concept in a vivid enough picture for you to want to bang your head on a wall.
Just clear your mind and get a full grip on this:
You work in order to pay for the things you need such as shelter, clothes, food, transportation, etc. Okay, that’s fine. But then……
You need a place to sleep in order to rest so you can work. You need food for fuel in order to provide you with energy to work and take care of other essential day to day activities. You buy clothes for work on a regular basis. You have a car in no small part to drive yourself to and from work. In this car you invest money in the form of gas, insurance, oil changes, a car payment many times, and regular maintenance. You must work to pay for this car that drives you to and from work. You must work in order to pay for the food you put in your body and the roof you put over your head so you can be rested and fed……..to go to work. A shortened way of putting all of this is:
You work in order to pay for the things that let you continue to work. It’s this depressing picture:
You Are Stuck
The reality is unless you want to truly go off the grid you have to stay on the hamster wheel of life to some extent. Yes, you could sell all of your possessions except for what you can cram into your vehicle and head to some great expanse of land and pitch a tent and start hunting off the land. Chances are this is only for a small percentage of folks so most of us have to stay on the wheel. But I’m here to tell you, there is hope. Since someone long long ago set up this whole society thing and there are some things we need to do in order to survive (like have money) then the way we have to approach this is twofold. First of all we have to alter the way we look at the hamster wheel of life and put it in a manageable context. Second, we have to take some ACTION to do things outside the normal round and round of the hamster wheel to ensure we are getting the good stuff out of life. Because if we don’t – we realize that we have spent our entire lives doing what needs to be done simply to survive. We haven’t LIVED. And nobody wants that. Or more correctly, many people live like that. And WE don’t want that, right?
Alter Your Vision
First of all, you have to reset your general mindset about the hamster wheel of life activities. You have to look at all the activities as something that must be done in general BUT that doesn’t mean you have to be miserable doing them. So first and foremost shift your focus from a groan when the thought of raking the leaves comes across our mind into looking at it as an opportunity for a different experience. You have to challenge yourself to think outside your norm on these things. I’ll get to this in more detail later but the first place your mind should go when you think of a chore that has to be crossed off your list is “do I really need to do this”? As in, do you need to be the person that does this? Example: This past summer, for the months of June and July, I paid a neighborhood kid to mow our lawn. First time I’d ever done that. Cost me $100 a month for each month and saved me 8 hours of my life. Was it worth it? Absolutely. 3 weeks ago I scrubbed my fairly new deck clean. Guess what? Took me 90 minutes. Why’s that you ask? Well, it’s because I made my 15 year old daughter and her 2 friends help me. Well, I made my daughter help me and her friends of course joined in because they had spent the night at our house and it became more fun that way. After we were done the 4 of us and my wife went to a pumpkin patch. I would have done that anyway because the more ways I can spend time with my teenage daughter the better. It was a win-win and saved me about 2 hours of my life.
Another thing that is incredibly helpful is to make the chores and hamster wheel activities more fun in general. For me the most obvious choice here is to pair music with almost any chore and it’s instantly better. I crank music when driving to and from work, I crank music when I work out (which isn’t a chore for me, I like it but still), I crank music when I am cleaning the bathrooms, washing my truck, mowing the lawn, etc. You get the picture. But the reality is you can use a lot of different methods for making your “to do” list more fun. Have someone join you if you can. Do it in new and different ways or try some different methods. Like use a leaf blower and blow it all into a massive pile instead of breaking your back with the rake method. Have a bonfire with all the branches you had to pick up in your yard. Do your outside to do stuff on part of a day (notice I did not say the entire day) when it’s nice out, instantly better because you’ve got the sun on your skin. Make a game out of how fast you can complete your chores this week. Warning here: My wife doesn’t really like it when I play this game, especially when I clean the bathrooms. Which is why I do my chores when she’s not at home. See? That’s WAY more fun!
A Few Other Ideas
Change Your Expectations to a Degree – in our society it’s all about going harder, doing more, achieve and try to have it all. There is a lot of pressure sort of baked into our culture to have it all – the big house, the cars, the great body, the happy family, on and on. Something that can help ease this pressure is to dial back what you are trying to do in a day or a week or in your life in general. I learned this from when my daughters were very little. When you are dealing with taking care of a baby you have to REALLY dial back your expectations on what you can get done in a day. And this is helpful advice to ease some pressure on ourselves in general.
Box In Some Time Frames – simply put, don’t just go do things without having some time constraints built around some of them. For instance tell yourself that you will spend 2 hours on housework per weekend and that’s it. If it doesn’t get done in that time frame, oh well, what’s the worst that can happen? It gets cleaned later. You can do this in a lot of areas. Another example would be 45 minutes, 5 days a week for fitness. Or 3-5 hours per week on television. A tough one here can be work but it can be managed. You have to do some set up for work to make this a reality but it can be done. So don’t wander into all your activities without putting some time parameters around at least some of it.
Work On Saying No – I’ve mentioned this a few times in other posts but it certainly bears repeating. So many of us, myself included, were raised to help and be there whenever possible for other people in our lives. Me to the degree that I felt I was responsible for other people’s happiness for a really long time (I know I’m not alone here). As you develop the power to say NO from time to time it’s scary and very difficult at first. With more practice it becomes easier and you can even do it without feeling like an asshole after a while. Give it a try.
Remember What’s important – If you’ve ever read a Steven Covey book or even come across the concept you know about the power of priorities. You should alway be thinking about what’s important in your life. When you are feeling overwhelmed with too many “to do” things on your life list, take a step back and think about what’s really important. Take care of what what’s at the top of the list and save the rest for later. Or for never. If you have the opportunity to spend time with someone in an important relationship – spouse, kid, parents, or friends then that should always take first priority in my opinion. Because relationships are the most important thing.
Quick Wrap Up
Bottom line is at some where along the line someone came up with this crazy idea of society. This includes marriage and working and money and buying houses and trying to have it all and all the other wacky stuff. It is super easy to get sucked into making all of this STUFF what life is all about. Many, if not most, of these to do type things that comprise the hamster wheel of life can’t be avoided.
What you can do is shift your perspective and employ some tips and tricks to minimize what has to be done on the hamster wheel of life as well as make it a more enjoyable experience while you do them. As always I look forward to thoughts and discussions on the wonderful hamster wheel of life.
All my best,