Get off the Hamster Wheel

Reading Time: 3 minutes and 12 seconds

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Get off the Hamster Wheel

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Have you ever felt like you’re stuck on the hamster wheel – running as fact as you can and going nowhere?

Life can be seen as the sum total of all the choices we’ve ever made.  Every day we’re faced with hundreds of decisions – some inconsequential such as which brand of toothpaste to buy, some very important such as choosing a new career direction.

It is what it is….

Many people believe that our life is determined by fate and that there is no way to influence what happens to us.   This theory suggests that we have no choice in any events in our life.  Living by this philosophy can lead to giving up on life.  In this world, our life is little more than a piece of driftwood floating on the stream of fate.

The Smarter Choice

The alternative mindset is that we live in a world full of choices.   From this view point, the world fills with possibility.  In a given situation we face a huge range of options. If you are in a meeting with your boss, you could choose to answer her questions earnestly and to the best of your ability, you could choose to be challenging and stand up for your views, or you could choose to run out of the door screaming and never come back.   Each choice has potential consequences and inevitably some consequences may appear preferable to others.  However, we have the power to choose.

The Hamster Wheel

Even if we believe in choices, it is easy to close ourselves down to our options.  We can get into a routine or a rut.  Life becomes about survival.  Welcome to The Hamster Wheel.

Getting off the Hamster Wheel can give us tremendous energy and power.  It allows you to feel in control of a given situation.

Choose Life

Over time and through self-reflection we can learn to slow down and see the bigger picture.  Once we realise we have options, life stops being about survival and starts to become about possibilities.  We step off the hamster wheel.

When we are making deliberate choices it becomes easier to take responsibility for our actions.  When we choose and commit to our actions we can own the results regardless of the apparent level of success.   We make choices, we commit to them, we accept the results and we grow as a person.

Exercise – Getting off the Hamster Wheel

This exercise is a quick way to get off the hamster wheel and learn to see all the options.  You can work through it in advance to plan your biggest decisions by doing it every morning.  This also works in the moment when you feel stuck on the hamster wheel.  Asking these questions opens us up to the reality that we do face options.

  • What is the challenge that I face today / am facing right now?
  • What are my options?
  • What other choices could I make (regardless of how feasible they may be)?
  • What could I do if I had no fear?
  • Which choices best align with my values and who I am as a person?
  • What support can I get in taking this choice with power and committing to it?

Getting off the hamster wheel and choosing life is a tremendously powerful approach to life.   Try it today and see what happens.

Picture credit – Sebastien Davies (from Flickr – Creative Commons)

The Less Ordinary Guide to Loving the Holiday Season

Reading time: 2 minutes 3 seconds – Enjoying Christmas – Priceless

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but it’s two weeks until Christmas (gulp). The season of joy, happiness, family and celebration is well and truly upon us.  However the nonstop whirl of eating, drinking and being merry, combined with the organisation needed means that this can be a very stressful time of year.   To avoid weeping over the turkey or chasing granny with the carving knife, I’ve compiled four ideas to make this a Less Ordinary season.

1. Pay Yourself First – at this time of year we can be constantly on the run.  Often we don’t stop until early January.  This year, make the resolution to look after yourself a little better.  Try setting aside 10 minutes each day for some “me time” – it’s not really a lot to ask for.  Look for a way to get a little exercise, even if it is walking to the shops to keep mind and body together.  In short, do a little of what you like every day.  We can lose ourselves at this time of year – Pay yourself first and you can give more to others.

2. Be Generous – the Holiday spirit is about the fellowship of all humanity.  Be thoughtful and generous in giving your time and treasure.  A great way to really appreciate Christmas is to volunteer some time to a charity, and even get your family or loved ones involved.  Giving with no expectation of return brings joy to the world and a great sense of peace and satisfaction.

3. Count your Blessings – chances are you’ll be enjoying the Holidays with a roof over your head, heating, a good meal and the company of others.  Being grateful for what we have at this time of year puts our life in perspective.  Try to spend a minute every day (it could be whilst you’re commuting, on the escalator, even waiting in a queue at the supermarket) to reflect on how blessed your life is and to offer gratitude for this.

4. Slow Down – this time of year is typically lived at 100 miles per hour.  We run from pillar to post with no time to stop.  When life is lived at this speed it is all too easy to lose track of the bigger picture and get bound up in the hysteria.  To stay in control, try slowing everything down by half a beat.  Walk a little slower, take an extra half a second to think before you speak, stop and take a deep breath and appreciate the world around you.  By setting an intention to slow down, you’ll live in the moment more of the time, rather than having your mind wrapped up in the next event.  Slow down and really enjoy the Holidays.

What are your secrets to making the most of this wonderful time of year? – please do leave a comment or your thoughts on this article.  And if you enjoyed the article, please subscribe to make our dream of having 100 subscribers for Christmas come true by clicking here.

Think Big and Achieve More – Slow Down to Speed Up

Reading time: 2 minutes and 48 secondsSlow down

Two weeks ago, I went through a patch of feeling pretty frustrated and disheartened.  I was pushing and striving with all my might to achieve my personal and professional goals, and maybe not seeing the rewards I felt were deserved.  How could it be that I was running at 100 miles per hour, doing so much and yet apparently getting so little back?

On reflection, I realised two things.  First, it was time to put away the smallest violin in the world and lighten up.  Second, in racing so quickly I was unable to appreciate the progress I was making.  I realised it was time to slow down my thinking and look at bigger picture of my life.  By good fortune, I had a week vacation planned in Tuscany and I’ve just got back from this.  I was able to slow down, disconnect and get the perspective I needed.

On our break, we were in the middle of nowhere with no television, internet or telephone.  We didn’t race around or try to do too much.  A few days in, time seemed to slow down and the world started to feel less pressured.  I was able to look at life from a fresh perspective and focus on thinking big about the future without the chaos of the now. The feelings and judgments that had been playing on my mind evaporated.

I took my journal on holiday and one thing I did was look at my goal setting from 2007 for the next few years.  I had been too busy to open the book at home, yet on review I realised that I’d actually achieved almost every big hairy audacious goal I’d set two years ago.  Although in the heat of the moment I felt like I was going nowhere, when I slowed down I saw my journey in a fresh light.  I was encouraged to think big and set my vision for the next five to ten years of life.   I took my time, reflected, dreamed and have sketched our some pretty exciting challenges for myself.

Obviously, I am now back in the “real world” and the challenge for me is how to stay in this slowed-down mode and ensure that I keep my perspective.  I’m convinced that avoiding getting sucked into the daily maelstrom of life will help me stay focused and move faster toward the next horizon.  It will also help me to meet the inevitable set backs and bumps in the road with the right attitude.

Here are some of my ideas for how I will “Slow Down to Speed Up”:

  • Understand and use my natural energy cycles – science has shown that we all have a natural cycle and rhythm for our energy during each day.  Some of us are larks and are highly energised in the mornings, others are nightowls and get most energetic in the evening.  I took the time to map out my typical rhythm on a graph, plotting energy against the passing hours.  I intend to use my early morning when I am at low energy levels to slow down and not force things.  Currently I slam down a coffee and try and make myself work however not much really gets done.  Instead, I’ll try to read, exercise and do some breathing exercises during this time.  It’s a chance for me to slow down, reflect without losing out on my most productive time each day.
  • Breathing and self-reflection exercises – I try to stop for between 5 and 15 minutes every day to practice breathing exercises.  I find that this time helps me to feel more energised, have a better perspective on life and control my emotions.  Some times, I simply follow my breath, sometimes I reflect on how grateful I am for my life and the world around me.  It stops me taking myself so seriously and helps me to slow down.  For me, each 5 minutes is the closest thing to a mini-holiday.
  • Regular check-ins – One key observation from my holiday was that it was great to be able to share my reflections and planning with my wife.  Having someone to remind you of your progress, laugh about your failures, and hold you accountable for the future brings a great perspective on life.  We’re planning to set aside a regular time each week to slow down and check in.

I’m sure that by slowing down, I’ll actually be able to move forward more quickly than ever.  The practices I’m putting in place will help me to be more focused both on external achievement and also more self-aware.  Take time to think about how you can slow down and please share your comments with the Less Ordinary readers.

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