Hamster Wheel Syndrome
by Alyssa Smith
Life today is overwhelmingly busy and always on. We seem to have endless responsibilities to juggle day in and day out- Peddling the daily hamster wheel leaves very little time or energy for anything other than daily tasks that must be completed. This can make you feel stuck in a never ending cycle of constantly repeating the past. Things like creating changes you desire, both personally and professionally, working on new goals and more effective ways to move forward seem almost impossible.
If you’re running in the daily hamster wheel it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re moving to the results you desire. Don’t forget hamster wheel goes nowhere- that keep grinding forward mentality could actually cost you some of the most important things in your life, work, health and well-being.
Take it from me- I’ve been there time and time again. Being in my mid to late twenties I’m constantly going through changes physically, mentally and emotionally. I find myself running on that damn hamster wheel every few years and it’s excruciatingly painful and exhausting. I think to myself “if I keep working as hard as I possibly can it will pay off in the long run.” Sad thing is this isn’t always true. As humans we want to excel in every aspect of our life ALL THE TIME. Fact of the matter is it’s IMPOSSIBLE! Something always needs to give or change in order for other areas in your life to move forward.
I’ve had enough quarter life crisis’ to last me a lifetime- I’ve been a full-time student with two jobs feeling run down and having no time for anything other than work and school. I’ve felt like a loser still living at home at 25 years old, working as hard as I possibly could to make ends meet. I’ve taken off work and left for different countries for months at a time simply because I felt like I just had no idea what I was doing and was lost beyond words.
My most recent quarter life crisis was taking the plunge and buying a house. I had been putting it off for the longest time simply because “the time wasn’t right”, the most classic excuse in the books. I either had a big competition coming up, a vacation, bills to pay things I do all the time year round. After National’s this past year I felt myself feeling as if I was peddling in the hamster wheel yet again, so I decided to make a change (something I fear the most), I put an offer in on a house and a few months later I was a home owner!
I was beyond excited until reality set in and I got the keys to the house. I thought to myself “what did I just do? I just spent my entire life savings- can I really afford to do this?” “I don’t have the time or money to put into doing house renovations” “My boyfriend is leaving his secure job to move here and go back to school, how will we manage this?” You name it and I had every possible doubt and negative thought run through my head, I was scared shitless- rightfully so as I had not only just made one of the biggest decisions of my life but I had no idea what I was doing or getting myself into. For 3 months straight Kam and I did the majority of the renovation along with some professional help with painting, replacing the floors, electrical outlets, light fixtures, the stairs, the doors, there were so many things that needed to be done and what felt like so little time.
I had to make some changes to keep my sanity so I took off a week from work here and there and my training took a back seat. I trained on and off for a few months and at first it was mentally challenging but I knew I had to in order to move forward in a different area of my life. It was the same thing when I was in school and had to leave one of my jobs to do better in school though it meant I was making less money but I would go on to do better in school, to get better grades to make more money in the long run. I traveled for months at a time because I felt lost, though it set me back financially it made me grow as a person and learn to appreciate and value what we have and experience things some people will never experience in a life time.
The one thing every crisis had in common was I had to take a step back in one area of my life in order to move forward in another. I came to this realization this when I was sipping on my coffee on my new couch watching TV in my house with my fantastic boyfriend, not only is all of this mine, I worked for it and even though I had to take a step back I feel like I took three steps forward in a different area in my life other than work or training. Even though it was terrifying, exhausting and somewhat painful it was totally worth it and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
Sometimes the most powerful and effective thing to do is taking a step back. Though it can seem counter-intuitive when you’re juggling everything life throws at you, running around like a chicken with its head cut off and the world is crashing down on you, think about the consequences if you continue on this path. What if you don’t create time, energy to think things through, gain clarity, create change and move forward. You will continue on the journey to unhappiness and be stuck on the same path feeling stuck and lost.
Change is scary and life is overwhelming but taking a step back will allow you to re-assess your goals, gain a clearer perspective, make new decisions, recharge, come up with new ideas and better ways to advance and come up with solutions to your problems. There are so many benefits to stepping back both personally and professionally, you’re opening up the door to new possibilities, opportunities and solutions.
When you are working and living without a purpose or goal you end up with a severe case of Hamster Wheel Syndrome- working so damn hard but remaining in the same place, not moving forward and risking not getting anywhere you want to go. It’s challenging to get started, so start small and build up, always look for ways to step back to you can find a way to excel in other areas of your life.
Though my training has taken a hit I know it will come back and eventually I will move forward in that area of my life but for now I’m thrilled with the decision I made and I’ve accomplished more this year than if I hadn’t taken a step back from lifting. I have zero regrets and I’m confident with my decision.
Don’t underestimate the power of taking a step back to move three steps forward. Progress isn’t always a linear path so always take risks and always remember change won’t kill you. Hop off that hamster wheel of death and take charge of your life!