You know what I hate?
The rat race.
It’s a goddamn soul-crushing nightmare.
Here’s how I got out of it and you can, too.
How to escape the 9 to 5 rat race when you’re unsure how to get out
1) First, you need to know something
I know that feeling of being stuck in the rat race.
That’s where I was at for years:
Working jobs I found meaningless, for people I found exploitative and hours that really ground me down.
I know that’s the daily reality for a huge amount of people.
And you know what…
That’s really sad.
Not you, you’re not sad. But the situation you find yourself in is genuinely unfortunate.
Because there’s so much more you could be doing.
As Ideapod co-founder Justin Brown shares in this video, there’s a way of getting out of the rat race that worked for him.
I found Justin’s insights helpful and on point. He tackles many of the myths we are fed that end up trapping us in an endless rat race cycle.
2) What has you the most down about the rat race?
Most self-help gurus will try to tell you that the key to escaping the rat race is to think about a better future.
They’ll tell you to tap into the power of positive thinking, the miracle of visualization, or even use fancier words like “manifesting” and “raising your vibrations.”
It doesn’t work.
Actually, this can drag you down a pretty frustrating and counterproductive path. It can take you to a place where you’re living in a future fantasy and disconnected from the present and your body.
You feel not good enough, broken, wrong for feeling pain and anxiety.
It’s fundamentally dishonest to yourself to push this down, though.
Failing to acknowledge just how unsatisfied we are is the absolute number one reason so many people stay stuck in the rat race.
They simply won’t admit to themselves how unhappy they are and do everything they can to change it.
You need to start by fully acknowledging the pain and disconnection you are feeling right now in the rat race.
Get right in your emotions here.
Listen to the scream of the subway approaching on your morning commute.
Think about your duties at work and how they sometimes wish you’d never been born.
Really indulge in that awful sensation that you have so much untapped potential which isn’t being used.
Be honest, be real, be raw.
These emotions aren’t wrong or “bad” they are the first step for you truly learning how to escape the 9 to 5 rat race when you’re unsure how to get out.
Take a moment and really sink into this. Focus on the painful and “stuck” emotions that hit you most during your rat race days. What “theme” is emerging?
For me it’s feeling misunderstood and left out. I often felt strong emotions of being unappreciated or not allowed to flourish.
3) Take a look in the mirror
As you sit with these difficult – and valuable – emotions, think about those around you for a moment.
Because they hold your key to breaking out of this frustrating holding pattern you’re in.
As Justin says, “how have you been helping others to overcome the same emotional frustrations?”
Many of us may not even realize the various ways in which we’re already doing this, because each of us has a homing instinct that tries to guide us to our purpose if we let it.
In my own case, I went from a number of manual labor jobs and career tracks including in law, where I felt invisible or only partly tapped into my potential.
Moving into journalism, reporting and eventually also self-development work really helped me help others overcome the frustrations I’d been experiencing.
That feeling of being misunderstood started fading away as I interviewed people in difficult situations all over the world and tried to make them heard and understood.
That feeling of being overlooked started fading away and being replaced by a deep sense of fulfillment as I reported everywhere from Abkhazia to Alberta on everyone from refugees to cattle ranchers.
My work in self-development and relationships only increased this trend, as I began offering advice and help to others struggling with similar challenges to myself in their own lives and love lives.
4) Make a plan
If you walk out the front door right now and just keep going, I have a prediction:
It’s going to be rough and potentially even worse than where you’re at now.
You need a plan.
That plan needs to include practical steps to exit the rat race and enter a better future.
Your plan should have seven main categories, which I’ll discuss in point two.
5) The seven parts of your plan
An effective roadmap to leave the rat race should have five primary components. I call it the FREEDOM plan.
Finding your life purpose
Responsibility for your own life.
Escaping from emotional servitude.
Escaping from ideological servitude.
Doing a step-by-step exit plan.
Optimism mixed with pragmatism
Making sure your money is all set
Most of these steps and goals are somewhat self-explanatory. The purpose here is to list out the ways you will hit each of these and make sure you excel.
However I’ll go through them in more detail to give examples.
6) Finding your purpose
If you want to escape the 9 to 5 rat race, you have to find your purpose.
We all have a purpose. It might not be dramatic or world-shaking, but it matters a lot.
But when it comes to experiencing peace from a stressful life and job, it could be that you’re not living your life aligned with a deeper sense of purpose.
The consequences of not finding your purpose in life include a general sense of frustration, listlessness, dissatisfaction and a sense of not being connected with your inner self.
It’s difficult to overcome that empty feeling inside when you’re not feeling in sync.
I learned a new way to discover my purpose after watching Ideapod co-founder Justin Brown’s video on the hidden trap of improving yourself. He explains that most people misunderstand how to find their purpose, using visualization and other self-help techniques.
However, visualization isn’t the best way to find your purpose. Instead, there’s a new way to do it which Justin Brown learned from spending time with a shaman in Brazil.
After watching the video, I discovered my purpose in life and it dissolved my feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction.
This helped me to find my own purpose and start thriving.
7) Responsibility for your own life
The cheap wine of tragedy tastes great when you first have a sip. But the hangovers are brutal and it leaves a bitter aftertaste.
The fact is that until you take responsibility for your own life, nothing is going to get better.
What I mean is this:
You have to own your life as it is right now.
You may have been mistreated, judged unfairly, kicked around and even deprived or money, resources and recognition.
You may have been forced out of your own country or even had those you love hurt by violent and cruel people.
But you need to take the power you now have to direct your life and respond as best as possible.
The more you focus on what has gone wrong, the more you will disempower yourself and stay locked in the rat race.
It’s time to focus squarely on what you can do to build your own life, even if life has treated you like absolute shit so far.
As one of my idols David Goggins says, “a lot of us out here are pushin’ real hard, but we’re afraid to go to that dark side.”
Let’s fucking go.
8) Escaping from emotional servitude
Let’s be honest:
It’s not just financial need and a tough job market that keeps us stuck in negative patterns.
It can also be relationships and our ties to those closest to us. The strain of staying tied to someone when we feel unhappy can be enormous.
And it can also keep us in places and conversations that we desperately want to move on from.
Sometimes that means breaking up. Other times it means staying together.
Is your relationship in a rut?
If so, let me tell you:
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I’ve been there, and I know how it feels.
When I was at my worst point in my relationship I reached out to a relationship coach to see if they could give me any answers or insights.
I expected some vague advice about cheering up or being strong.
But surprisingly I got very in-depth, specific and practical advice about addressing the problems in my relationship.
This included real solutions to improving many things that my partner and I had been struggling with for years.
Relationship Hero is where I found a special coach who helped turn things around for me and helped me understand what was going on in my disaster of a love life and how to vastly improve it.
Relationship Hero is an industry leader in relationship advice for a reason.
They provide solutions, not just talk.
In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice specific to your situation.
9) Escaping from ideological servitude
Ideology is all around us, and it underlays everything we do. There’s a different ideology in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Indiana and Inner Mongolia, just like there’s a different ideology in your yoga class versus your crossfit training class.
Ideology isn’t necessarily “bad” or “good,” but it can be empowering or disempowering.
When you use ideology to find your true self and surpass its boxed-in categories, it’s empowering.
When ideology uses you to fulfill someone else’s agenda and put you in a box it’s deeply disempowering.
You get played for a fool.
You find yourself retiring after many decades deep in the rat race and then die a week later of a heart attack.
At least your friends and family give a stirring eulogy, but you’re still dead.
You need to bust out of that restrictive and limiting ideological bubble and drill down to your core beliefs and motivators.
What is driving you and why? Make sure you know, before it drives you off a road.
10) Doing a step-by-step exit plan
Your step-by-step exit plan is all about logistics. In a way it’s the icing on the cake.
Yes, it’s crucial, but at the same time, once you’ve completed the preceding steps, the practical parts of your plan to escape the rat race will come together much more smoothly than you might expect.
Your exit plan should include answers to the following vital questions?
- Where will you live? Get specific, right down to the type of residence or community you envision yourself in.
- How will you get there? Do you have a vehicle? Bus pass? Train ticket?
- How you will feed yourself? Everyone needs some kind of work, or at least a trust fund.
- Who will you talk to and be around? We’re all tribal creatures, and having a community of some kind is vital once you’re far from the madding crowd.
- What’s your plan B (and C) if your new life outside the rat race isn’t what you were expecting or significantly disappoints you?
- Optimism mixed with pragmatism
As you exit the rat race, it’s vital that you be optimistic.
All sorts of complications and obstacles will come along to block your path.
At the same time, you want to be very pragmatic.
Have hope, but have a plan.
Your FREEDOM plan can be customized the way you like.
But it should have plan B options, because in life things rarely go as planned.
11) Making sure your money is all set
As long as you don’t have savings, the rat race is going to eat you up.
Interest charges, bills, more and more costs of living…
They’re going to keep pounding you.
Some people work three jobs just to save a bit, and while I don’t recommend it, the truth is that in our brutal economy that can sometimes be what it takes to gain a tiny foothold of financial freedom.
This financial freedom is what will allow you to set your plan in motion and get out of the rat race that has you in its paws.
With money comes a bit of free will.
A chance to go out on your own and at least for a moment to try to make some of your dreams come true.
12) The future is today
If you think about it, today’s present was yesterday’s future.
But now it’s happening right in front of you. And it’s probably not exactly what you expected.
That’s part of why I recommend going easy on the visualization exercises and “positivity” mindset. It can be great, but I think these practices often leave us stranded in future scenarios and ungrounded from the present.
The future is today. The future is now.
The key to breaking out of the rat race and finding a new job – or creating one – is to recognize the power within you.
And that happens when you combine the power of your frustrations, with your purpose and your autonomy and independence.
13) An active scenario
To bring this down-to-earth, let me illustrate how this works.
An example could be the following:
Your name is Matt, and you’re from Dublin, Ireland.
You feel very frustrated with your job working for a duct and heating company the past four years. The pay is average, the hours are long and the respect is minimal. Your coworkers are tolerable … at best.
The job brings up familiar feelings inside you that have frustrated you your whole life, including in your relationships and social life.
You feel bored and you feel like you’re just a doormat for other people to walk all over. You hate this feeling and want so badly to be done with it, and the more you think about it the more you realize something…
Ever since you were young you’ve been doing small things to fight these frustrations in the lives of others.
You’re no saint, but you always made a point of telling others on your childhood baseball team what a good game they had. And you always cared if your friends were having fun when you were out.
You never let others be bored or feel like you were taking advantage of them, and you came up with activities and opportunities to help alleviate that.
Now you want to do it even more. You end up drafting plans to buy an empty storefront and turn it into an adventure land for kids and teens. It’s full of card games, video games, board games and prizes!
There’s two things nobody will ever be at Matt’s Magic Mall (MMM): bored and unappreciated.
It goes way better than you expected and you begin having enough to hire staff, take ample time off and feel truly fulfilled.
You have escaped the rat race.
Nobody likes a rat
Nobody likes a rat, and nobody likes being a rat.
If you’re stuck in the rat race, I know the feeling.
You’re probably feeling discouraged, down, disempowered and a bunch of other D-words.
You’re feeling like your boss is a dick, like your love life is a disappointment, like you’re getting a D grade in the school of life, like you’re a dunce for falling into the same trap as your parents…
Should I go on?
Close that book for a moment and come at this from a different direction.
As I mentioned earlier, you have a lot of personal power inside yourself. Much more than you might realize right now.
You’ve also had a hell of a lot of luck, strength and skill to just physically survive this long in life.
Give yourself some serious recognition for that!
Next up, take a look at your FREEDOM plan and give yourself a round of applause. That’s a serious bad boy right there, and it has the potential to turn things around if you let it.
Wherever you go, there you are. That’s true.
But if you ask me, you have a much better chance of actually being you when you’re out of the stifling confines of a job and lifestyle that’s trying to force you to be someone you’re not.
Is there any way to live your purpose while you’re still inside the rat race?
I want to be brutally realistic:
Right now at this exact moment you may literally be unable to leave your job due to the income it provides.
Or your age, qualifications or other considerations may make finding other work or starting your own enterprise extremely difficult.
I get that.
The most you can do is apply for other jobs and keep your ears open, or consider a lateral move to another company or location.
I fully understand that.
If this is your situation, don’t give up.
The thing about being in the rat race right now is that it can be empowering if you let it.
The way to do this is to go back to my first point where I talked about emotional frustration and that feeling of disconnection.
You can let this experience be like a personal trainer, honing and purifying you down into pure willpower and determination.
If you can’t get out right now, you have to know that in the near future you very well might be able to get out.
I know that I never expected to be where I am in my career five years ago. Not even close.
If you’re in the rat race right now, don’t despair.
You can find hope in the middle of the struggle and strong enough muscles will eventually break through your cage to a whole new world.