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Help! Get me off the hamster wheel!

Last week I saw a gif on Facebook of a hamster running so fast that you could hardly see the wheel or the hamster! The implication, of course, is the person who posted the gif feels exactly like that poor, little, fuzzy hamster.

Every day I talk to people and hear some version of the basic hamster wheel story – “I’m tired of spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere. I feel like I’m stuck in the mud. I’m so stressed out and exhausted. The faster I go, the more it seems I have to do.”

Sound familiar?

The problem is that once you’re on the hamster wheel, it’s difficult to gain perspective on how to jump off or slow it down.

Well, here’s a start on how you can gain control.

One big reason people are stuck on the hamster wheel is that they lack a clear objective or purpose.

One of the first questions I ask new clients is “do you have a personal purpose statement for your life?” If the answer is “no,” then I have a pretty good idea of how to begin to solve the hamster wheel dilemma.

If you’ve ever been part of any project or initiative at work, then you know that the first thing you need is a clear objective. Most projects, meetings, or initiatives go haywire from the get-go when there is no clearly defined objective. Everyone finds themselves running around like golden retrievers on a squirrel farm, chasing everything that moves and catching nothing.

If you’re on the proverbial hamster wheel, you probably pretty much say “yes” to every idea that sounds good. And let’s face it, that’s a never-ending list. Great sounding ideas are infinite, but unfortunately our time and energy are finite.

You want the new house, you want the new car and the new patio. The kids want to sign up for soccer, band, ballet and jujitsu. You want to throw the biggest birthday bash ever, or you want to go to the biggest birthday bash ever. How about remodeling the kitchen, getting the Halloween decorations up, and putting away the yard furniture? Did I hear there’s a new Crossfit gym opening up the road? Maybe it’s a good time to lose weight, go on vacation, or start volunteering. Oh, I still need to finish that degree…

The list goes on and on and on. It gets longer and time gets shorter, and there you have it: hamster wheel to nowhere-land.

But when you have a clearly written, well-thought-out, life purpose statement, now you have a North Star guiding light that helps you make decisions and say “yes” only to those things that drive you toward your highest purpose.

What we’re really talking about here is defining clear boundaries for when to say “no.” Everyday we’re faced with multiple decisions. We come to many small crossroads where we say “yes” or “no.” Do I stay at work late to finish up a project, or do I go to the soccer game? Do I go to the gym, or do I go to the birthday party? Do I take a nap, or do I have lunch with a friend?

With a purpose statement, not only are you able to prioritize, but you will feel more fulfilled because your choices are clearly aligned with what matters most to you. You eliminate the guilt that sometimes comes with sayings “no,” because you know you are living in your purpose.

Here are some questions to answer that will help you get started on creating your purpose statement:

  1. What are you most proud of and why?
  2. When in your life have you felt most at peace?
  3. Who is one person in your life that you most admire, and what are 3 qualities about that person that you most admire?
  4. What would you want people to say about you at your funeral?

Once you have your purpose statement, you will begin to put all other decisions into perspective and prioritize your way off the wheel and onto the straight path to progress.

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