“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat.” Lily Tomlin--
We signed up for a race, but we can’t seem to find the finish line. However, when we’re fresh out of college, we can picture it at least...Fat paycheck, downtown loft apartment, badass bicycle. So we strive for that finish line for a few years and get there. But we’re still unsatisfied because now our ambitions have changed. We are sick of slaving away for 10 hours every day. We like our job, but hate it at the same time. We want creativity and freedom in our lives. So we quit, and head towards the new finish line in sight. We want to make an impact, write a book and travel to Thailand for chrissakes. So off we go, writing and meeting cool people and doing cool things. But the finish line keeps fading farther into the future. We’re 30 years old now, and lots of our friends are settling down starting families. Shit, we better find ourselves a spouse! Everyone is getting married, and we might miss out and become a lonely old geezer. So we chase that for a while. And it happens. We find our spouse and get married. But then we feel trapped. We wonder again, “Is this what life is all about?” And on and on and on and on and on and on.....But then one lonely day, out of the blue, sanity stops in for a visit.We’re out on a sunrise hike, and things are really quiet and beautiful, and it hits us like a ton of bricks: this whole rat race thing in a joke. We see it for what it truly is, a lie. What the heck is a race without a finish line?? How can we possibly win?? Where is the satisfaction?? We realize that no matter how rich, or famous, or how many amazing projects we get done - once you’re dead you’re dead. In the grand scheme of time, everyone will be forgotten in the blink of an eye. It’s all for nothing. But then a bug bites our ankle and we cuss and forget about the whole thing, going back to work on our novel (the thing that will get us victory, at last). And again, on and on it goes. Never fully happy. Never satisfied. ---This pattern is extremely common in young 20-30 somethings with good educations and all the potential to succeed according to conventional wisdom. And many have actually succeeded according to conventional wisdom (good job, health, etc). I’ve been here myself. And it’s a very confusing place to be. I used to think that I’d dropped out of the rat race because my focus wasn’t on finding a typical 9-5 job, big house, and all the trappings of a conventional life. But after years of vague dissatisfaction, I took a hard look at my life, and realized I’m just racing a different race. I’m racing against other different rats. Smart, creative, lifestyle designing rats. Rats that want to write books, build companies, and make a difference in the world. And at the same time, I realized its a race without a finish. It’s a joke, really. No one wins. Everyone just ends up dead and exhausted.It sounded pointless, so I quit. I dropped out of the race. Now I walk when I want, jog when it sounds fun, and do some sprints here and there to stay lively. Here’s what’s helped me get there:LEARN TO BE HAPPY WITH LESS (Minimalism)Having less stuff and wanting less stuff is HUGE for personal satisfaction. But I’m not just talking about possessions here. Learning to be satisfied with less accomplishments, less projects in the pipeline, and less goals in general is an effective strategy for becoming more satisfied. I like to just focus on having good average days. For me, this means chipping away a little bit on a project, spending time with my wife and dogs or friends and family (and helping out), eating some healthy meals, and doing a bit of reading. At the same time, I see the big picture and understand that stringing together a few months of good average days will mean completed projects, richer relationships, better health, and a wiser mind. By setting the bar lower, I feel like I’m more relaxed throughout my day. A good, average day is attainable and therefore a peaceful, satisfying existence in general. Another tactic for adopting a minimalist mindset is to purposely decide to favor simple clothing, shelter, and diet. When we adopt such preferences, we will see that our needs are more easily met. We will also spend less money and time on acquiring goods, giving ourselves more freedom and a bigger buffer for occasional risk taking. STOP CARING WHAT OTHERS THINK ABOUT YOUThis one can be a challenge, but if you can completely stop caring what others think of you, you automatically attain huge personal power, confidence, and satisfaction. And this also relates to minimalism, because a lot of what people do to impress others is purchase fancier cars, houses, clothes, and toys. In our quest to stop caring, we should consciously decide to become indifferent to both people’s approval and disapproval of us. A good way stop trying to win people’s approval is to realize that in order to win their approval in the first place, we would need to be complying with their definition of success. In other words, we would need to be adopting their values. I don’t know about you, but I like to think that what I have decided to value has been chosen by me. My values are my most sacred “possession”, and I hold them near and dear.I also believe it’s valuable to purposefully go out in public purposely dressed down in relation to others, so that you may learn to consciously accept or ignore others low opinion of you. ---Dropping out of the rat race and adopting these principles has personally been the most useful strategies I’ve tried to reduce or eliminate any vague sense of dissatisfaction with life. On occasion, I still get the feeling that something is off, like life is a struggle. Or I wonder if remaining dissatisfied is a good sign that I am an ambitious person. Thats usually when I return to these principles and after re-considering my situation, I realize that I am perfectly satisfied with what I have. That contentment and tranquility are worthy ways to spend my short existence on this planet.If you want to read more on this topic, here are two great articles:http://goatmilkblog.com/2009/12/23/welcome-to-your-quarterlife-crisis/http://charliehoehn.com/2012/12/18/the-perils-of-personal-progress/What do you think about all this? Is it worth competing in the rat race? Is satisfaction even a worthy goal? ####
Photo is me and the dogs napping - a simple joy during a good, average day.This is a Reader Guided Blog, which means you help choose what I write about. Please take two seconds to vote on a featured article for March. Then subscribe by email to find out if the article you voted for won.