We all want to get somewhere in life. That ‘where’ varies from person to person. And it is either very clear and defined or nebulous. But to some extent, we all have at least the vague desire to grow or get somewhere different.

However, there is something about the way the world is designed that makes it easy to slip right into a routine and ride that routine for years on end. Especially in the working world. We get a job, we build a business, or a career, and we get deep into the nitty gritty. With the pressures of work and life responsibilities, it gets easy to fall into the pattern of working straight from Monday to Friday, taking a break for the weekend, cramming all of life that we can into those two days, and then back to it again on Monday.

So we run that programming from week to week, and time blurs by, weeks turn to months, months to years, the years to decades. And that is fair, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. We do need to work, we do need to be productive, we do need to provide, we do need to be active.

The problem starts to rise when we fall asleep at the wheel. We continue to run the pattern without thought. It gets easier to just run the program and respond to the needs and demands of our wheel, that the bigger questions of why, what and where get lost.

It is important to be engaged and active in the business of living, it is also important to step off that hamster wheel from to time to time to take stock and recaliberate.

Take a step back

Doing so isn’t very easy. If you are in corporate or a job, you are probably always on the move, always on the go, always producing, with hardly any time to just stop and breathe outside your mandated leave or vacation days. If you are an entrepreneur or in business, you are probably always inundated by the needs of the business, or of clients, that becomes your world, it becomes so hard to tear yourself away from all of it, to find stillness, to think.

But that is precisely what you have to do.

You have to step away and ask a few questions. Is this still working? Is this what I want to keep doing for another year, another 5. Am I getting the results I want? Is there a better way to get this done? Will this still be relevant in 5 years? Should I start pivoting now?

Those are the questions that help you figure out if you are actually moving forward or spinning around in circles. It is very easy to spend an entire year in frantic activity and end up with nothing to show for it. The hamster wheel can be plugged in to a machine where your efforts generate the energy required to provide the results that you want. Or it can just be there spinning away, a lot of energy being created but being wasted.

Allow yourself to heal

Over the past month, I allowed myself to take some time off . I eased off on the gas on client projects, and gave myself ample time to do something that had been eating away at me for a while – work on personal projects.

But every time I sat down to work on these projects , I was hit by a blank. I hadn’t been in this space for so long, it was hard to get back into it. Inspiration was cloudy, the pieces just weren’t quite coming together. Everything felt awkward. I could easily work on the client project, but putting that energy into my personal work now felt like the hardest thing.

So I did nothing instead. Because the point of stepping off the hamster wheel is not just about allowing you to go after those things that are truly important to you, it is also about creating empty space.

Sometimes, you actually need to heal, or at least recover. All those creative, physical and metaphorical muscles strained in the work of your hamster wheel need time to recover. You need time to remember yourself, to reconnect with purpose.

Find balance

The wheel is important. It is usually what sustains us. It is what feeds us and keeps us. We just have to make sure it is actually going somewhere and we are not stuck in place. That is the tricky part. To resist the temptation to just keep working, without looking up to see where we are going.

Hopping off the hamster wheel allows us to see the forest for the trees, so either we confirm that yes, we are moving in the right diretion and we double down. Or we realise we have missed the mark and need to hop on a new wheel. Either way, the point is doing it with intention, living by design.

That is the challenge, finding some kind of dynamic balance, not allowing the hamster wheel to take over all of our lives, but preserving enough presence of mind, enough empty space to make sure that we are actually making progress, that we are moving forward, that we remain open to inspiration, that we are not just surviving, but thriving.

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