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Featured Client Question
“How do I get out of the hamster wheel?”
This is a great question; the answer to it is multifaceted. Charles Dickens describes the dilemma of the hamster wheel best.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”
The hamster wheel represents both sides of the same coin; the best of times and the worst of times. The answer to this client’s question is found in learning to be in control of the hamster wheel; holding the deed of trust to the wheel, not being a slave in bondage to it.
If you’d like to get out of the hamster wheel, I’m going to tell you the story of three people who successfully made their way out. I hope that you will embrace wisdom rather than foolishness and choose light rather than the darkness that the hamster wheel holds. The people in my story are real but their names have been changed.
Person number one, I will call Sarah. Due to external circumstances, Sarah found herself was in a vicious hamster wheel. She came to me for two reasons; she wanted to get out of the wheel but she desperately desired to recreate a life where she would be extremely successful in a new career endeavor. Some of her goals were to be healthier, be present with her family, and to be free of the anxiety and chaos she was experiencing.
Person number two, I will call Robert. Robert was also in a vicious hamster wheel but he was oblivious to the wheel; he thought the problem was everyone else. Once he started to have some awareness, he recognized that he was the problem. Unfortunately, he fought to stay inside his hamster wheel although he was growing more and more frustrated and depleted by the day. Robert chose to stay in his hamster wheel because he was afraid he would “lose his edge” if he left it. He was known to be a dominant and menacing force and loved that about himself. It was his identity. But he was at a place where he was recognizing that it was eating him alive because he was failing to maintain healthy relationships.
The third person in this hamster wheel is someone I don’t have to change the name of to protect her identity; the third person was me. I lived in a hamster wheel for many years. The hamster wheel filled needs for me; the need to be loved and the need to be accepted. As I look back, it was also my hamster wheel of perfectionism. It was adversely affecting my health and I was exhausted all the time and drained of energy.
The first insight you must recognize is that the hamster wheel is a toxic place to live. The hamster wheel may feel safe because it’s all you know, but in the end, it will rob you of your health, negatively affect your mindset, and leave you spiritually and emotionally bankrupt.
It is foolish to think that the hamster wheel can give you anything however, many people cling to it out of fear. Common fears for staying in the hamster wheel:
- Fear of being perceived as weak
- Fear of not being in control
- Fear of loss
Hopefully, you won’t have to hit rock bottom before you swallow your pride, open the door and walk out of the bondage that the hamster wheel holds over you.
3 Things You Can Do to Boldly Exit The Hamster Wheel
1. Identify What is Keeping You in The Hamster Wheel
The first thing you must ask yourself is, “Why am I here?”
What is keeping you in a situation that is harmful to your health and relationships? It’s time to be true to yourself and face your demons. Some common reasons people find themselves in a toxic hamster wheel:
Some people are in hamster wheels out of habit. They have gotten so accustomed to the chaos of the wheel that they don’t know anything else.
Others are unknowingly trying to prove something to someone; parents, a spouse, maybe even themselves. They find their identity and self-worth inside the hamster wheel. They erroneously believe they need to earn acceptance or accomplishment and that need is being met in the hamster wheel albeit in an unhealthy way.
Many fear that leaving the hamster wheel will result in loss; either financially or a loss to their identity or pride.
Perfectionism is the enemy of progress and success. At its core, perfectionism is striving to attain unrealistic standards based on one’s self-worth. It is rooted in fear and it allows you to unabashedly criticize and judge yourself.
2. Build a Resilient Mindset
The hamster wheel is perceived to exist in the physical realm but in reality, it is a mindset we choose to live in. Learning to change/reframe that mindset will help set you free. According to experts in the field of resilience, resilience is described as the ability to bounce back after encountering difficulty; to recover and respond with a renewed commitment and optimism. This is necessary to not only leave the hamster wheel but to not return to it.
3. List the Things you Value
Your values drive you and are the heart and soul of what you are naturally inclined to do. Once you identify those values, it’s much easier for the values to lead the way and get you out.
- Sarah valued health, family, and peace.
- Robert valued himself and his relationships. He wanted to be someone people could look up to rather than being someone everyone loved to hate.
- I valued to seek both truth and health. I didn’t need to be perfect to be loved or accepted.
Once you align your life with your values, you work towards the results you want to have.
Sarah left the toxic job she was in and switched careers. Her energy shifted and she was able to create healthy routines. She joined a running club and works out a few times a week. Her greatest reward is that she has the emotional energy to be truly present with her family more.
Robert recognized that he valued winning and leadership. Because he had followers he thought he was in control. He slowly realized that he was leading by coercion; he wasn’t being an example that others wanted to follow; they followed because they had to. Once he changed the way he approached others, he saw himself more as the quarterback of a winning team and his entire organization changed for the better.
What elements are keeping you a slave to your hamster wheel? What are you afraid of losing if you give it up?
It’s time to count the cost of not leaving the wheel. I’ve never seen anyone regret leaving the madness and turmoil of the wheel. I have, however, seen the detrimental effects of those who don’t leave. Those who stay long enough adversely affect their health, damage their relationships, and never find the peace of mind that would bring serenity into their life.
It’s always your choice;
Best or Worst
Wisdom or Foolishness
Belief or Incredulity
Light or Darkness
Hope or Despair
I’d love to hear back from you to see how you are using these new tools and the impact it’s making in your life. Please feel free to email me what works for you and share your wins.
Remember: Nothing is Impossible