For many Americans, careers are a constant scramble for the top. They dream of bigger houses, fancier cars, trips to foreign latitudes. The thought of more-better-bigger drives many people to take on increasingly more responsibility and longer, more stress-filled work. But some are beginning to wonder—is the juice worth the squeeze?
The Big Lie
In her article We’ve Been Sold a Big Lie, Simona Rich feels too many young people are seduced by what it means to be successful in life. She says for all their hard work and money they earn, they’re still stuck breathing toxic air and entertained by technology that increasingly denies direct human connection. Many are living a lie that was designed to look real. Rich suggests one way to get “unprogrammed” from such thinking is to stay in nature for a month—free of technology and processed foods. Rich’s take on the rat race and her solution may be too extreme for some, but she does address an underlying truth about developed countries and the need to live a simpler life.
Happiness: Doing What You Love
Regrettably, far too many of us take jobs that are unfulfilling, boring or unrewarding just to acquire more stuff or, as the Germans put it, become an angeber (poser, show-off). To be truly happy, and by definition, the happiest among us are often those that have found a métier that allows them to live modestly well without the boats, BMWs and ski condo in Aspen. Some may even regard their career path as a dead end with no more rungs to climb. Granted, there are a few who, like sharks, need to keep moving and devouring to survive. For them, the hunt is the “juice” that makes them happy. They need to follow Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good” mantra to feel alive. In 5 Ways To Escape The Rat Race & Do What You Love, mentor, teacher and blogger Grace Kelly advises those eager to escape the rat race to soul search their biggest “why” for leaving. She suggests writing down the pain and suffering of staying where you are, then decide how long you plan to endure it.
Self-Appraisal, Meet Self-Denial
If you want to be happy, perform a self-appraisal of the material things you really need. You need transportation, so deny yourself the beemer. You need to eat healthy, so deny yourself the fancy restaurants. You need a roof over your head, so deny yourself the big house in the guard-gated community. Some of the happiest, healthiest people in America bike to work every day, eat a bag lunch and live in a modest home without a pool or maids. By downshifting your lifestyle, you avoid funneling funds into the capitalist trifecta of black holes—fancy cars, big houses, and endless foreign vacations. In Leaving the Rat Race for a Simple Life, Bill Holland suggests one should shop wisely, live within a budget, pay off any debts, and buy only what they can afford without incurring debt.
If you’re on the ladder and want to stop climbing, think about what you really need to be happy.
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