Bryan: Have you ever run across a person who seems to be on a “gerbil wheel?” One who always is in a never seems to be enjoying and has a thousand and one goals, all of which clutter the meaning of living in the present. A person with goals so focused on the outcome, making the meaning of achievement fuzzy. A lifestyle that can lead to excessive burnout, butchered relationships, and disconnected from those who are most important.
Since I entered college I have been on this gerbil wheel. And you may ask, how does someone arrive on this wheel in the first place? I am going to explain how my life before college led me directly to the wheel and how once I entered college, I let the wheel control the speed of my life.
For me, in high school, it was always the feeling of never being good enough. From sports teams to friend groups, to SAT scores and grades, I always fell below the cut line. Moments such as watching my two best friends from the bleachers play in the basketball state-semifinal. The two friends that I trained with 3x a day, 6 days a week, for 9 months to make a high school varsity basketball team, only to hear the coach tell me in 10 seconds “Sorry Bryan, there is to play on the perimeter this year.” It was moments like I just described that stick with me at my core today and push me further when other people are willing to quit.
When college started, I was on a mission to prove my self-worth to others. Unfortunately, the way I measured and justified my worth was through my achievements, jobs, and other accolades that nobody cares about at twenty years of age. Because I was so determined to prove others wrong instead of being happy with who I was, I was never satisfied, always so serious, and I thought “doing more” was the best route to take. Simply put, the word balance didn’t exist in my life. This strategy only led to a cycle of unhappiness because I was so focused on what I had to do next. Fortunately, for me, I discovered the lever that controls the gerbil wheel, giving myself more control of being mindful and enjoying the present moment.
Perhaps, when we look at what others have, it creates this elusive vision for us of what our lives should resemble, thus resulting in us constantly chasing intangible things and running down all these roads we haven’t thought through. But how do we know if we will ever reach our destination? Perhaps, there may be a point in our life when we catch ourselves on this gerbil wheel, and I am here to explain what I have learned during my time on the wheel and why I believe it is important to slow down, and “hop off the wheel.” –
I believe some people live on this metaphorical “gerbil wheel” because they want “more” in life. But what does “more” mean? For instance, “more” may represent people finding another internship, taking on two projects instead of one, or taking on opportunities at the expense of themselves or their families. Why does this happen? Because people may be chasing the next promotion, another bonus, or more achievement accolades. My first-hand experience shows me that when we are so focused on the outcome and the end result, we never enjoy the process that goes into the journey. Therefore, after completion of one task, there is always that next pillar of achievement to reach. I believe the inherent problem that lies in always focusing on destinations instead of the journey is that it leads to living a life unsatisfied.
So, the question then becomes, how do you get off the wheel and enjoy the moment?
I realize I am human; I don’t have all the answers to this question. Even today, I still catch myself on this wheel. But I have implemented changes in my life because I know the feeling of my breaking point from staying on this wheel too long. Today, I can focus on those small changes that I have implemented. I have learned to be more selfish and simplify my life with a narrower focus. For example, I only have one job outside of school instead of two. I don’t say “yes” to everybody when they need me. I take time to think through opportunities when I’m asked. I “shut my mind off” by 6 or 7 every night and focus on having fun. I use the weekends to recharge, go out with friends, instead of working.
As college students, we need to realize we can’t be Superheroes and take on everything that is asked of us.
If we keep chasing “more” we will never find that pot of gold when we reach the destination we had in mind at the beginning. Life is about enjoying the small tokens of gold along the way.
This post originally appeared on www.thewishdish.com