What do you think about when you hear, “The Rat Race?”
On this episode of Homesteady, we will explore the idea of the “rat race.” What is it? And, most importantly, how do you escape it? We will explore these ideas, and give you some steps on how to escape it and live your idea of your ideal life.
The term “the rat race” finds its origins in a series of experiments where rats, motivated first by hunger, and then by avoiding pain (behaviorism’s operant and classical conditioning for you fellow psychology enthusiasts out there) develop patterns of repetitive behavior based upon the ease or difficulty of attaining the goal set up by the experiment.
When we say, “I want to escape the rat race, buy a homestead, and move out to the country,” how do we do it? In order to escape the rat race, we need to understand it. Using the aforementioned experiment as a guide, there are essentially four elements to the rat race:
- The rat
- The race
- The stress
- The reward
Let’s break down each piece.
- The Rat. There is scientific proof that humans and rats, despite our obvious physical difference, have a lot in common. (Did you know rats laugh when tickled? Check it out.) Rats have empathy, a sense of humor and fun, and they are able to think about thinking. If we go directly back to our rats in the experiment, these are rats that did not self-select to be lab rats, who were motivated by their stressors to find a solution that relieves their stressors. Sound relatable? We often find ourselves, as humans, in lifestyles we did not choose, being motivated by our own stressors of feeding our families or escaping a painful situation. Unlike the rat, however, we are able to make a plan to change our lives.
- The Race. What is this race, and how did we enter? What were your dreams when you were in middle school? How about high school? Are you on a path of following your dreams as they have evolved, or have you found yourself placed in a lifestyle that feels like an unnatural fit? What about each part of your lifestyle: does your commute, how you spend your workday, and how your breakdown of hours, work for you? Lastly, are you working to achieve your own goals, or are you advancing someone else’s plan?
Often, people work long hard hours at jobs they hate, to earn money to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like. — Nigel Marsh
- The Stress. What do we do if we find ourselves acting like a stressed out rat? We often begin our journey by wanting to take care of our families and fulfill our basic needs. Humans do need to eat, and as adults, we often find ourselves with older or younger family members to take care of. However, as we satisfy our basic needs, we often find our need for “more” growing. We stop feeling satisfied by fulfilling our needs for food and shelter and begin to accumulate more materialistic needs for “more.” Also, how, like the rats, are we motivated to learn behaviors to avoid pain? Often the pain we want to avoid is psychological as opposed to physical. When we have the “right” jobs and possessions, we do not need to feel the pain of others showing skepticism or disappointment in our choices. Feeling like a “success” is a strong motivator for keeping up with others. We are also often motivated by debt. We go into debt to buy the things we don’t need, and are motivated by keeping up with payments to avoid the pain of falling behind financially.
- The Reward. What is the reward? How do we know when we have found the reward in our own lives? In the rat race, we often find a ladder of career promotions that come with greater efforts and earnings. With more success in a traditional corporate career path, we see individuals with beautiful cars, bigger homes, and more social influence. However, there is always a “next” on this path to happiness. Whatever level of achievement we reach, there will always be a nicer car, a bigger house, or more money. But what if we are just trying to stay away from the “shocks” of life? We live paycheck to paycheck, just getting by, staying ahead, paying our debts.
Why did we even sign up for this? Mostly, because public school has taught us to do this, all of our lives. We learned to work for rewards, to do what others told us to do, and the feel the “shocks” of grades.
Don’t despair! You CAN get out of the rat race. Unlike rats, we can make a difference in our own lives.
TODAY: Tell yourself, “I will NOT be a lab rat. I have control over my OWN life.” Regardless of your work and life circumstances today, you are able to take steps to develop your own path in life.
RECOGNIZE Your own Rat Race. Once you realize what your own “rat race” is, evaluate what works, what doesn’t work, and what needs to change. Write down what needs to change, and hold yourself accountable to finding an exit strategy. Maybe this book will help?
Avoid Stress. The most common stressor we all share? Debt. Avoid debt if at all possible. Dave Ramsey’s book can assist you in evaluating your financial choices. If we avoid debt and save money, we will feel more satiated.
Redefine the Reward. Is the reward buying things? If you are stuck in a cycle of buying things in order to satiate your appetite, try to decide what would satiate it instead. More free time? More social time? What about more time with your family? Know that this takes time, and start to develop an exit strategy.
Make a Vision Board like Alexia the Suburban Escapee, who is an Expressive Arts Therapist (and who is writing this now because she has DROPPED OUT of the rat race), uses to keep her eye on her reward.
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Join us for our live episode with Dave of Northeast Edible, as well as some other homesteader who have left the rat race, and learn about fruit trees and orchards this Tuesday at 9 PM on our YouTube Channel. We will have a Pioneers Only Q&A at 10. Excited about planting orchards? We have an exciting on-farm opportunity for you to join us! Learn more here.