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Escaping the Rat Race

Can we get out of the Rat Race?

Written by Monica C

A lot of people, particularly those who hold 9 to 5 jobs, are often unhappy and bone-tired. Some are even desperate for something new.

Holding a job can become very exhausting. This is especially so if the pay isn’t that great. You work for long hours and yet get very little compensation or recognition for the effort that you put in. This can pile on the frustrations, but you need to continue to work because you need to make a living.

But what if there’s a way to make a change? An escape from the Rat Race?

The Rat Race Concept

The present urban working life is characterized by unpleasant, constant, and grueling competitiveness. It is not surprising that it is referred to as the rat race.

The 9 to 5 work lifestyle that enslaves modern society is a rat race. People are like rats in a maze competing relentlessly with one another to get to the cheese first. The cheese is a miserable recompense and yet rats persist in competing for it.

Holding a job requires you to compete with your co-workers to get a pay raise or a promotion.  You put in long hours. Everybody wants to get ahead, oftentimes at the expense of family life, leisure, and reflection.

The rat race typically involves the lack of work-life balance. You have very little room for independent and creative output. Holding a job usually involves long commutes, high-level stress, and a general dissatisfaction with life.

The Rat Race and Society

Society clearly supports and enforces the concept of the rat race. Almost everybody seems to think that material gain defines success. Every little child is bombarded by the message – from his parents and the school system, that if he wants to be successful in life, he has to study well, join the workforce for a well-paying job, get promoted, and get rich.

Our culture dictates that material success is the be-all and end-all of all our efforts. It is the primary consideration. Relationships, contentment, and personal happiness do not even come close.

It is not far from the truth to say that everybody is enslaved and held hostage to the dollar, pound or currency of choice.

People who are employed have to contend with multiple problems. They have to cope with heavy workloads and hectic schedules. They have to deal with a work environment that is largely competitive, goal-oriented, and coldly impersonal in character. They have to deal with stress and anxiety.

People often feel that they have no control over their lives. They run from one task to another. They handle multiple responsibilities. There is very little room for creativity, a satisfying high-quality home life, and personal satisfaction.

It is not surprising that there is a large percentage of unhappy, desperate people who suffer from emotional fatigue, depression and burnout.

Materialism

Our present-day society seems preoccupied with material possessions and comforts. It attaches great importance to money and the comforts and luxury it can buy. There is very little room for cultural, intellectual, and spiritual values.

Consumer materialism has led people to accumulate debts. There are many individuals for whom work becomes a means for self-preservation rather than an occasion for economic advancement. They accumulate a pile of bills from leading luxurious lifestyles that they can hardly afford. Now they have to spend the rest of their lives working to pay off their debts. Their jobs have become a form of slavery.

A lot of people are sick of it all. They want to break free from the rat race. They are fed up with the long back-breaking work hours. They want to break free from being programmed to purchase things that they don’t really need. They want to be free of debt.

How to Break Free

A good, well run company is responsible for seeing to it that its employees are given the resources to manage their increasingly demanding roles. It has to find ways to enable their staff to meet targets (even demanding and ambitious ones) through the application of reasonable time and effort. It has to provide technical and managerial training to help their staff cope with work demands. Many now provide stress management training like meditation, relaxation techniques, energizing hypnosis, and other similar ones to enable its employees to effectively manage mounting pressure.

That being said, it is your responsibility to acknowledge ownership of your life – and to see to it that you live your life in a fulfilling, joyful, and holistic manner. It is your life – live it.

Here are some suggestions which you may find useful:

Consider your options.

There are no hard-and-fast rules about how to make a living.

Nobody dictates that you have to plod your way Monday to Friday on a 9-to-5 work schedule. Nobody says you have to hop straight into a full-time desk job right after you graduate from school. Nobody can do anything if you decide not to suffer through 40 years of full-time work. You can opt to retire even before you reach 60 – and nobody can do anything about it.

Listen to your own drummer.

Do not allow your parents or society to dictate what you should do. If you want to leave the rat race, go right ahead.

Don’t live to keep up with the Joneses or to impress your neighbors.

A lot of people work or get into debt to buy things (which they don’t really need) with money (that they don’t actually have) just to impress their neighbors.

A lot of people fall slave to having to work hard simply because they want to impress other people. They let other people define their sense of worth. They buy things they can’t afford to impress their neighbors. They accumulate huge debts and live paycheck to paycheck.

Are they happy? Being a slave to the dollar will not bring you real happiness. In fact, it steals your joy.

Get rid of the notion that your success is defined by your wealth.

You don’t have to amass possessions simply to send the message that you are successful.

Live simply.

Do you really have to borrow money to finance another car? Do you really need a luxurious 2500 square-foot house for your family? Do you really need a lot of state-of-the-art equipment and appliances? Do you really need all those designer clothes?

If you live simply, you don’t have to put up with a job you don’t like.

Take a look at your spending habits to find out how you can cut expenses. If you have a family, get them on board.

  • Minimize going to expensive restaurants for your meals. Make it a habit to prepare easy, nutritious, and appetizing meals at home.
  • If you are single, you may want to consider moving back to your parents’ home for a while to save money. Or you may want to share an apartment with some friends so you spend less on rent.
  • Look at your subscriptions. It is highly probable that you don’t need all of them. Cut those that you don’t use much.
  • Watch DVDs with your family or friends instead of shelling out money to go to the movies. Prepare some popcorn.
  • Get rid of the cable but maintain the internet.
  • If you have student loans, look at the possibility of having them refinanced.
  • Manage your life.
Happiness by Steve Cutts – outlines the crushing struggles of the Rat Race

Your life is so much more than your job. It is just one aspect. You have to spend time in quiet reflection to think about what is really important to you. If you want to have a rich and fulfilling life, you have to pay attention and spend time on areas other than work. You have to make time for family, friends, and other social relationships. You have to include nutrition, sports, relaxation, and other fitness and well-being concerns. You have to incorporate philosophy, religion, love, fulfillment, and other similar issues.

Maintain a clear personal vision.

You have to determine what is truly important to you. You have to reflect on your values and strengths. You have to have a clear purpose in life. What are your life goals? When you know all these, and incorporate them in your life, you add meaning to your life.

Have the right mindset.

You don’t have to stop working full time right now. But you do have to open your eyes to the possibility of quitting your 9 to 5 job. You have to consider other options like a passive income scheme or a business that incorporates passion (teaching scuba diving, blogging, or doing graphic design) and the opportunity to make money.

Rising Above the Material

A person who can’t break free from the rat race shows certain characteristics. Shee lets other people define his self-worth. She thinks that being successful is defined by the lifestyle he lives and the possessions she accumulates. But is she truly happy?

A person who is truly happy has joyful, enriching, and emotionally-satisfying relationships. They feel whole. They feels at peace with themselves. They have nothing to prove to other people. They do not feel the need or see the value of endlessly pursuing material gain. They live simply in the way they see fit.

Take a close look at the society that tells you that success is defined by material wealth. It is filled with people who are overweight, frustrated, stressed out, unhappy, and in debt. 

Research points out that suicide is the Number 10 leading cause of death in our country. It probably has to do with the fact that a lot of people in this land of milk and honey are depressed from the miserable realization that they live in a dead-end society.

More and more people want to stop being part of a community that is consumer-driven, boring, spiritually empty, hollow, and enslaved to money.

As the great Pink Floyd song once stated: “It doesn’t have to be this way”. There are alternatives. You can break free of consumerism or materialism. You can get out of the rat race.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share this article if you found it useful.

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Video: Financial Independence Promo

For the past two years we have run a real life class on financial independence and how it fits in with our lives. Here was the brief video promo.

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Who are the Aspirationals?

The Modern-day Aspirationals

The use of symbols to show social position has been with us since the start of civilization. Owning scarce materials and using them are symbols that show class membership. Status symbols separate the actual rich from those who only aspire to be rich; known today as the “aspirationals.”

Time has not changed the desire for status. The social and economic changes in the 21st century altered material consumption, consumer behavior, the meaning of status and how people achieve it.

In trying to imitate the rich, aspirationals focus on the appearance of what they believe is the lifestyle of the actual rich. To make things worse, the media takes advantage of the consumers’ aspiration for a wealthy lifestyle and strong sense of status through advertising.

One can become wealthy through the compulsion to work, but at a price. The overworked and busy lifestyle has become the aspirationals’ status symbol. Unknown to the aspirationals, the increase in wealth does not buy them happiness.

The fact is, the busy life robs them of the freedom of a leisurely lifestyle, which the rich enjoy. Contrary to common belief, the rich are the way they are because they can relax and enjoy everything life has to offer. They do not spend money on material things. Until the aspirationals realize how wrong their lifestyle is, financial freedom will remain a dream to them.

Aspirationals – the New Elite

Before the industrial revolution, the wealthy elite or the leisure class dominated society’s top echelon. It was then easy to distinguish the rich from the less-affluent members of society; the leisure class established their social and economic status through their possession of material goods.

Those at the lower end of the economic class imitated the habit and lifestyle of the rich. The desire to appear rich prompted a disposition towards materialism which was often wasteful, irrational, and beyond their means.

The imitation of the rich through conspicuous consumption manifests the importance attached to social status rather than the value of the object.

The advent of the Industrial Revolution, however, changed consumer behavior and the forms of material consumption. The manufacturing introduced led to the rise of the middle class and the reduced cost of manufactured goods. The middle class who accumulated wealth through meritocracy and cultural capital became the new elite – the aspirationals.

The rise of the new elite introduced an aspirational lifestyle with a new set of values and norms. The aspirationals worked for long hours, changing the dynamics of work. They held a different outlook on leisure, consumer behavior, and material consumption.

The distribution of authentic goods made possible by mechanization and specialization allowed the new elite to acquire property. With the accumulated wealth, they now have available disposable income with which to buy status through the acquisition of conspicuous goods.

A new aspect of the aspirational lifestyle is the appearance of “business.” Aspirationals work long hours, sending the message that time is valuable. This has the effect of reducing leisure time. Being busy and the lack of time for leisure have become the new status symbols.

The hectic way of life is contrary to the time when the Aristocratic elite occupied the top of the social class. The Aristocratic life of taking time off for leisure was indicative of wealth and social position. You could still see the taking of leisure today in TV shows like the Lifestyle of the Rich and the Famous.

Valuing productivity and busyness over leisure changed the aspirational’s lifestyle. The need for efficiency and productivity kept them busy even when on vacation, making the “to-do list” even when they are at rest.

The effect is for people to feel guilty when they take the time off for relaxation. But, in the long run, they regret missing out on leisure activities.

The Media and the Aspirational Lifestyle

The media is another force which contributed to the status consumption of the new elite. The media has a profound influence on consumer tastes and trends. The media spreads images of the lifestyle of the rich as something to emulate, which cultivates a new behavior of the middle-class consumers.

Marketers promote their brand by presenting individuals with the desired qualities their target consumers seek. For instance, strong athletes for the energy drink or beautiful women for the skin care. The purpose of the aspirational advertising is to present reference groups that are glamorous and accessible by buying and using their product.

What is not obvious in the aspirational advertising is its attempt to tap into the aspirationals’ need to appear rich. Further, the advertising presents a social comparison that could put the consumer at a disadvantage. A comparison between the out-group and the aspirational’s in-group imply that the in-group is inferior to the out-group.

Going back to the beautiful models as a reference group, a comparison implies that the consumer’s in-group is not as soft-skinned as the model. Identifying with the inferior in-group could threaten the consumer’s self-esteem. The consumer may not even be aware of the negative effect of the comparison.

Media today is pervasive and sophisticated that it reinforces consumerism, creating needs where there are none and turning luxuries into necessities. The existence of the internet facilitates consumer acceptance of products through blogs and comments expressed on websites.

The influence of media is deep, but people may not be aware of the effect. People think they can escape the advertising trap and that they are free to do what they want. But, the fact is, the media guides the way people appear and dress.

Debunking the misconceptions about millionaires

Many believe that the rich are rich because of connections and heritage. It is a popular belief that the rich are great spenders. It is the belief that the rich are educated with advanced educational degrees. Further, many people has the notion that the rich are business owners.

What is less known is that the rich are rich because of their habit of accumulating assets. The rich have a knack of valuing experiences instead of objects. They also strengthen relationships that could protect and build their wealth.

In Dr. Tomas Stanley’s Millionaire Next Door, seven attributes mark the millionaires:

Millionaires are frugal. Most people think that since millionaires have money, people expect them to spend a lot of it on most anything – from food to big houses. On the contrary, the millionaires are frugal (the opposite being wasteful.) Frugality is the foundation of building wealth.

Allocation of time, energy, and money to contribute to wealth-building. Efficiency is a significant element in accumulating wealth. People who become wealthy know the significance of allocating time, energy, and money to increase their net worth. The rich spend more time on investment planning to increase their wealth.

Financial independence is valued more than high social status. People who become rich work to become secure financially. The aspirationals work to appear rich but do not have the means to live up to the rich.

Rich people did not receive economic outpatient care from parents. Rich people learn how to be frugal, responsible, and self-reliant at an early age, and they show these attributes in their consumption and lifestyle.

Adult children of rich people are economically self-sufficient. Rich parents ensure the self-sufficiency of their children by reducing the size of their estate. Not to do so would subject their children to estate tax liability when they pass away.

They are accomplished in identifying market opportunities. The rich know  what and how to target business opportunities and pursue them. If they need to spend to pursue the opportunities, they do so knowing the return will more than compensate the expenses.

They choose the right occupation. Knowing the right occupation is indicative of a person’s character. The level of wealth of the rich is not determined by the type of business but by his character. Businesses can change, but character is a feature that no one can take away. The same is true with intellect. For instance, a creditor can take away your business, but not your character or intellect.

Money as a means of escaping the rat race

Becoming wealthy is not about luck or getting the right break. The millionaires accumulate wealth because of habits that enable them to increase their net worth. These habits are ambition, integrity, optimism, persistence, resilience, and frugality. There are many more habits that could enhance one’s ability to accumulate wealth.

There is a difference between the rich and the aspirationals. Becoming rich is not about material possessions, it is about the ability to accumulate wealth with ostentatious spending.

In trying to appear rich, the aspirationals fell into the trap of aspirational advertising and succumbed to the “busyness” as an indicator of social status. In the process, they rob themselves of the ability to enjoy life and experience leisure activities, which is the key to accumulating wealth.

In wanting to be rich or to appear rich, people end up in financial ruin, unable to keep up with the lifestyle of the rich. An aspirational will have more chances of success if, instead of living a hectic life and material consumption, they spend their valuable time on planning for investment.

Thank you for reading. Please share this article if you found it useful.