A lot of people are trapped in the rat race. The pattern your life takes is very predictable. Wake up in the morning say by 5.30am get ready and rush off to work. Work your heart out for eight to nine hours and you start heading home at the close of work. If you are living in a city like Lagos or some parts of Abuja you could get home around 9.00pm. By the time you get home you are tired and worn out then hit the bed. The next day the whole process repeats itself. For some people it has been like this for the past 25 years.
Here are some ideas on how to make sure you get out of the rat race or run a different race.
- Choose to remain a human being not a rat: We choose to enter the rat race ourselves. Based on our definition of a rat race, you can choose to escape running around in a circle like a rat and live a purpose driven life. Set goals for yourself not based on what others decide for you. Society, friends, and even loved ones, can all unwittingly encourage us to enter the rat race. You do not have to do it. Enter the race you designed yourself (competing against your set goals), not one that others designed for you which will fail to bring out the best in you and will not satisfy your inner longing, even if you become the best. “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you are still a rat”.
- Go for what is significant: The most striking aspect of this definition is the phrase “achieve nothing meaningful”. There is this feeling of emptiness and we feel we are wasting our time doing that job. It is generally not the amount of effort we expend or the pace at which we work that cause us to feel we are wasting our time, it is a lack of connection to a higher purpose. Rats will work really hard for a piece of fish. Maybe a piece of fish will satisfy a rat, but as a human being we need more to find a meaningful life. High paying jobs, compliments, awards, or the recognition by others are nice, but might not satisfy our inner longing. To find significance we must run a bigger race. The race of fulfilling divine purpose.
- Slow down: Most times when we are engross in the rat race we really have no time to reflect on what we are doing and how much we have achieved. Regardless of the race you choose to enter, getting too busy to enjoy the journey, or to ask, “Am I really achieving anything meaningful?” ensures that you will not win the race called “ life’s journey”.
- Help others: If a satisfied and joyful life is the prize that you are after, you will never get it by beating others to the end of the game. That is selfishness. The better race, the race that brings meaning and fulfillment to our lives is not a competition against others, it is achieving success and helping others come up to your position. One of my friends working in an oil firm refused to tell me their office was recruiting because as I heard from someone, he did not want me to be at the same level with him.
- Lead others to a higher purpose: We are all leaders in one way or the other. We lead our children, our neighbors, our colleagues or ourselves. When you lead, call those you lead to a higher purpose in life and you will bring out the best in yourself and others. If you treat people like rats, they will act like rats. “Just teach people how to remain in the circle and give them a little reward at the end”. This is the mentality of most employers. This approach may work for a while, but the rewards will not keep them happy for long and you will not just be in a rat race yourself, you will be the head rat. Lead with a higher purpose in mind and watch the difference it makes in stress control.
- Change your work pattern: Working from 8am to 5pm is a gospel in the rat race. Instead of focusing on putting all your energy generating immediate results at work, consider dedicating at least 15 percent of your time to activities that build your quality of life and add extra skills to your passion. Shaking up your routine activities or changing your work pattern can help you get off the wheel.
- Pay yourself: If you talk to someone who has been running in the rat race for years, he will tell you that he earns ten times more than what he used to ten years ago, but his quality of life has not improved. The more he works, the more he spends, and the faster his income disappears. If you want to escape this vicious cycle, you must pay yourself first by saving or investing some money which will accumulate for future use. It is this money that will stabilize you during the period of escape from the rat race.
- Only buy things that add to your quality of life: Our culture of consumption is often what pulls us into the rat race in the first place. We want to wear what is in vogue or eat a sumptuous meal. No time to sacrifice for our future. It has been programmed into us from a very young age that a big house with a yard and swimming pool is an ideal dream of every one of us. But none of us buys a house immediately we start working. It take a lot of financial management to do that. Sometimes the stuffs you spend most of your money on starts to own you. Some people are in the rat race of fashion. Whatever you spend your money on, make sure it adds to your quality of life.
- Lead by example: When you finally decide to leave the rat race for the first time in years, you might look around and notice you do not have much company. The rat race may have even consumed your own business if you are an employer. To help your employees escape the rat race, you need to demonstrate proof of the success in your own life and encourage them to invest in themselves. After all, you do not want a bunch of people remaining on the same circle when you worked so hard to get off of it yourself!