The Feeling of Running in Place
I think of this analogy a lot. Because it’s what so many of us are doing. And feeling. We are trying to get somewhere, but when we stop and take a look around, we are still in the same place.
Our book isn’t done even though we write every day. Our house isn’t clean even though we pick up every day. Our life isn’t perfect even though we communicate with our family every day. We are doing the work, or so we think, and we are left running in place.
The Hamster Wheel
When hamsters are on a hamster wheel, they are effectively running in place. They are exerting maximum energy to go around in a circle, over and over again. Never getting out of the cage. Never getting farther than the foundation of that wheel. But they run anyway. And so do we.
But what are we running for if we aren’t getting anywhere? Like, we are in the same place as when we started running. We are the hamster. We spin and spin and then, at the end of the day, we get off in the exact same place we got on.
It’s a hard feeling to stomach every day. It makes us feel inadequate, lazy, and worthless. But it’s also our fault. Every morning we get back on the same wheel and expect a different result. That’s on us.
The only way to get off the hamster wheel is to break it. The hamster may still be stuck in a cage, but we aren’t. If we stop opting for the same ride every day to break our negative momentum, maybe we can stop the never-ending cycle of monotony that is our circular results.
When you’re stagnant, you aren’t moving. And really, you aren’t trying to move. So you would think it’s a lot different than running in place. But it’s not. Because most of us are running in place, but not actually running. We just think we are.
We think we are doing all we can to propel ourselves into a new routine, but we aren’t. That just makes us feel better. To say we are trying so hard, but the world is holding us back. Most of the time, it’s just not true. When you give up because you know it won’t do anything to try, you aren’t running in place. You are doing nothing. You are stagnant.
When we accept stagnancy, we allow ourselves to be motionless. Not in terms of exercise, but in life. Think of motionless in relationships as emotionless. That ‘don’t care if you stay or go’ attitude. It’s not helping you and it’s certainly not helping your relationship.
When we accept stagnancy in our lives, it further drives home to us that this is just how it is. Ho-hum, this is all I can do. But it’s definitely not all you can do. You can stop letting your life be so stagnant and make a change.
Make a small change. Make a big change. Make four changes. But do something. Because when your life starts to move from running in place to sitting on a couch, you’re in need of a change. Because you’ve stopped trying.
Why You’re Not Getting Anywhere
You feel like you are running most days. Some days you feel like you’ve given in to sitting on the couch, but most days you are pretty confident that you are putting the work in. But you aren’t getting anywhere. Why?
If you are working hard enough, why are you still in the same place as you were last year? Because you aren’t working smart enough. You are clocking in, doing the job, and clocking out and expecting scalable results. But just getting the job done doesn’t earn you a promotion.
You’re not getting anywhere because you aren’t adjusting. You aren’t changing. You aren’t forecasting. You just are. And just being there is not going help you run a mile. Or three. Or a marathon.
To stop running in place and get somewhere, you have to act. You literally have to get off your a** and make something happen. And to make something happen you have to make adjustments to the mundane.
I know it’s easy to just do what you normally do, but face it, you are bored. If you are always running in place, you are bored. You could be running through mountains, fields, paths, forests, but instead, you are just lifting one leg up and one leg down, and going nowhere.
You’re stuck. Part of you has accepted it. But if you can come to terms with how you got here, you can create a plan to get out. And to get off the hamster wheel. And back into the flow of the real world.
How To Stop Running in Place
Literally. Think about it. If you are running and running and not going anywhere, all you have to do is move. Move your body forward. You have to take action because your legs are so used to staying in the same place. But once you take that first step, you know you can take another.
It doesn’t have to be an overhaul. You don’t have to Kondo your closet. You just need to begin to make adjustments to your stagnancy. Stop throwing your clothes on the ground when the hamper is three feet away. Stop checking your email before you write and only check it after you’ve written. No matter how garbage your words are.
The only way to start running is to accept that you’ve been running in place all along. You have to accept that you are scared. That you don’t have all the answers. That there will always be people who are better than you at the thing you are best at. You have to accept how you got to this place. The place you always end up in.
If you make some adjustments and accept how you got here, you now have the building blocks for change. But only you can change. The adjustment won’t hold itself accountable. It’s you. You have to continue it until it becomes a substantive change. And you can’t change if you haven’t accepted that you were the reason you were running in place.
I ran in place for years. I told myself that it was the way it had to be. That there were certain external factors holding me back and that there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Well, that was bullsh*t.
Some days I still run in place. Some days I do it because I can and nothing bad will happen. But when I do it every day, something bad happens without me even knowing it. I start to feel bad about myself. And anyone who feels like this knows how much negative momentum these feelings can have.
But at some point in my life, I stopped. I stopped making excuses. I accepted responsibility. And I took action. There are still days when I like to sit on the couch, both figuratively and metaphorically, but now I know enough to make sure that when I get up from the couch, I get up in a different spot.
I stopped running in place because I was tired of always being in the same spot. Tired of the same scenery. Tired of listening to the same sad song. Tired of watching the same show, over and over again. And all I did to stop was to move forward.
When I moved, I adjusted. And with acceptance, I changed. And I no longer run in place. I just run. Free and unrestrained. And I will get where I get, but it will never be the same place that I started.