Why do we call it the rat race?

Many of us are raised with the notion that we should work, and work, and work so that we can achieve, achieve and achieve, because once we achieve, we will be happy. This is the rat race. At some point along the way we were sold a bill of goods that if said, if we go to college, get good grades, get a good job, we would be happy. So how is that going for you? Or maybe you’ve completely given up and just focused on the pleasure you can find in the moment without real regard for the future.

Tal Ben-Shahar says that these models does not work for most people because it ignores the basic need for a sense of both present and future benefit (Ben-Shahar, xiii). In order to be happy we need to find both meaning and pleasure in the moment and in the future.

It seems our society is engineered to produce rat racers. We are rewarded for results, the completion of the journey, however we are not rewarded for processes. This sets up a system where we are forever relocating the metaphorical end zone of happiness, because as we achieve one goal we then move the end zone further out and then we tell ourselves we will be happy when we achieve the next goal. The question you need to ask yourself is how can you be happy now, and in the future (Ben-Shahar, 25).

Introspection: the problem with telling ourselves that we will be happy when we have achieved something, like graduating or getting a job is that we are subconsciously telling ourselves that we will not be happy until that thing happens. There are plenty of people who are high achievers but do not experience the stresses and frustrations that the rat racers experience. These are people who work just as hard but they are enjoying the process, and enjoying and making time for the other aspects of their lives, like family, friends and hobbies. What changes would you make in your life, so that you enjoy the process and the destination? What 3 steps could you take to start moving towards those changes? What changes must you make in your perception (beliefs) and your processes (actions)?

Ref: Ben-Shahar, T. Happier, learn the secrets to daily joy and lasting fulfillment. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2007. Print.

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