It’s easy to get sucked into the rat race. There are so many external forces telling us that we should go to college, study hard, go to grad school, get a corporate job, work our way up the ladder, get promoted, make lots of money, get married, buy a house, have kids.
Where does it end? When do we get to stop and enjoy what we’ve created for ourselves?
I know I’ve felt like I’m on a train and it’s heading in the wrong direction. In my case, I switched directions in grad school, moving from a lucrative major that totally bored me to a less lucrative field that I love. It was a hard choice at the time — I had committed so much to building a life in that direction — but in the scheme of things it was not so drastic.
I’m always intrigued by people who truly and completely abandon the standard path. People who check out of the rat race and do whatever pleases them that day, that month, that year.
Would you live off the grid to get out of the rat race?
I recently watched a House Hunters episode about a family who moved off the grid to a remote island in Fiji. They had two young children including a 1 year old, and they chose to live on an island that had no electrical grid, no restaurants, no anything. On the 6 days a week that a plane didn’t fly there, it was a 24-hour boat ride to reach an island with modern conveniences like hospitals.
Their reasoning was that they were tired of the rat race. They wanted to feed their family with fish they caught themselves, to focus their energies on basic needs, and leave the rest of their time for simple pleasures.
Their choices are obviously extreme compared to what most of us have chosen. They are also missing an important facet of happiness – increasing meaning in our lives by creating something to work toward in the future. And yet their choice is so beguiling to me.
We create such busy lives for ourselves that we don’t always have time to stop and appreciate what we’re spending all of our time working so hard for. It’s hard for many of us to see, in a tangible way, how all of the time we spend working, from sitting in meetings to writing reports, is improving the world.
Happiness is our ultimate end goal. Money, attained by participating in the rat race, is simply one way to try to get at happiness. It is not useful except in its potential to help us be happier.
There are other ways.
How far would you go to escape the rat race? Would you go off the grid? Have you ever made a drastic change to get out of the rat race? Or do you participate because you think it’s more important to plan for a secure future? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.
(Photo credit: bass_nroll, Flickr)