How to deal with the feeling that you have to do something productive all the time.
3 practical steps on how to unplug from the rat race
Running, running, running. Aren’t we?
And we finally have some little time to relax we simply can’t. The mind is racing. We are thinking about the next thing to do, all the tasks and errands that must be done, all the deadlines that must be met.
In this essay, I want to give a systematic approach to putting the rat race on pause in 3 simple steps.
Step 1. Awareness of the pressure factors.
The first step is to always understand what makes you run. Here are some of the most common pressure factors:
You are watching Instagram and you see all those “successful” people in your feed.
One is climbing Kilimanjaro, another one is driving a new Rolls Royce, the third one has married a fitness model. And all of them have a perfect six-pack and a stack of cash on the marble table.
You watch them and the desire arises. You feel like you are underachieving in life. And you start chasing those things — things that are imposed, things that are not yours.
We all have to do what we do. Tasks, meetings, paperwork. But when we finally have some time to take a breather we can’t stop our mind from thinking about work. We close our eyes and we see a to-do list. Nightmare.
You have to remember at all times, that before anything else work must be perceived as a game. Yes, indeed, it is given us to learn and to sustain ourselves, but it is also given us to enjoy ourselves and help us find fulfillment in life.
Alan Watts mentioned this in his lectures.
Do not confuse your vocation and your job. A job is something people do to make money. There are jobs that must be done but people don’t want to do them and so we pay these people money.
Now, money can be easily confused with happiness for obvious reasons — it feels good to hold a wad of cash. So people fall under the illusion that money equals happiness and they start chasing material wealth making it a primary objective in life which is an absolutely absurd thing to do.
You came to this planet not to make money. You are here to make meaning.
Thinking about your age.
Time flies. And we are not getting any younger. There are so many things that you want to achieve, so many places that you want to see, so many things to experience. And it is a good thing that the thoughts about your own mortality fuel your productivity. Just be careful and don’t lose this precious present moment while chasing your dream. As long as you are alive and breathing, you have time. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Do not give in to the YouTube army of overachievers who try to upsell the idea of productivity. Yes, we must work hard and do our best, and yes, we must devise a strategy of life but at the same time, we must allow ourselves to learn how to be calm and inactive during the time when nothing is happening.
Sometimes parents can push you to do things you don’t want to do. They love you and they have some expectations, but at the end of the day, they don’t know what it is like to be you, and all they want for you is to be happy.
Not all of us are born to be great scientists, doctors, lawyers or CEOs. But all of us must strive to improve this world in their own humble and unique way. You can listen to the advice of the beloved but bear in mind that they don’t know what is best for you. No one can know that. Only you.
Well, that’s my pressure factor. I am scared shitless by the alternative of spending a mediocre life and that’s the force that drives me. However, we will all die and this is the only thing we can all be certain in this life. But as one existentialist put it:
It’s true that we are all doomed but it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun on the way.
Death is coming. But it will happen at some moment in the future. And by the time it comes for you, you won’t be thinking of your achievements. You will be thinking about how much of the life did you grasp, and how much of the time was wasted by you in daydreaming.
Step 2. Disillusionment.
The word “disillusionment” has a negative connotation in English, and I don’t understand why. I think the primary meaning of the word shouldn’t be “disappointment”, the primary meaning must be “the death of the illusion”. Waking up to the invalidity of your fallacies, what negative can be about that?
And here comes the biggest fallacy.
This whole productivity chase is nothing but a thought. All your thoughts are illusions. They are imposed on you by the thinking mind. And if you truly believe in what that voice in your head tells you, then you don’t have the thought. The thought has you. You are the slave. The thought is the king.
Practice meditation and one day you will inevitably come to a simple but profound insight: there is nowhere to go, and nothing to achieve. You have already arrived in the place where you were destined to be, and you have always been here.
By letting your mind race worrying about all the things you have to do, you are forgetting the most essential skill in life: how to sit in quietude and do nothing letting life flow through you without any control and without any effort.
Bhagavad Gita says:
BG 3.17: But those who rejoice in the self, who are illumined and fully satisfied in the self, for them, there is no duty.
BG 3.18: Such self-realized souls have nothing to gain or lose either in discharging or renouncing their duties. Nor do they need to depend on other living beings to fulfill their self-interest.
Think about it for a minute. For a man who is self-satisfied i.e. a man who draws satisfaction from within, from his own inner world, for a man who dedicated life to the discerning of self and who has no desires, duties do not exist. He is self-contained.
A man who came to the realization of true self has no goals. He works and fulfills his duties but not because he is driven by the yearning of achievement but because he must set an example and reveal to others the only true motivation of an awakened being. He acts from the feeling of responsibility, not from the feeling of attachment to the results of his work. That is one of the main indications of spiritual maturity.
Do you want to know how to find that “off” switch to your productivity chase? Do you want to learn how to tame your racing mind? There is only one way to do that. You must grow spiritually.
Step 3. Being productive in rest.
Unless you have decided to escape the matrix and live by your own rules somewhere in a hidden village of the Amazon forest you have to play by the rules of the society you are living in. And those rules state that within the matrix and being a part of it you will always be judged by your credentials.
Anywhere you go people will want to see what you learned, and what you have accomplished in life. And that is only logical because it gives them an idea of what is the scope of the problems that you are able to solve. They will want to see your value.
So do what you do best at work, but when it is time to shut down — do it with the same level of conscientiousness.
Do things that replenish your energy. You won’t be wasting your time because most of them also implicitly increase your productivity.
- Exercise. Remove stress and grow your brain. Good looks and physical strength are a nice bonus.
- Sleep. The best remedy for times of confusion.
- Read books/Write.
- Draw/play music.
- Take a hot bath.
Understanding that you don’t have to be productive all the time truly comes up to these 3 elements:
- Having clarity on the pressure factors that push you to be productive
- Understanding that every pressure factor is merely a thought and you are in control of the response to the thought.
- Amplifying productivity through restful activities.
Work hard. Play hard.
And by play hard, I mean spend some time alone, recharge and return to your center before the next battle begins.
It will begin soon.
Thank you for reading my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.
If you want to support me on my mission, please, share this book with someone you love. Maybe they will find what they seek on its pages.