Saturday, May 16, 2009

Opting out of the rat race

“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat” said Lily Tomlin, American actress and comedian. That’s an acute and deep analysis of the modern lifestyle that most people seem doomed to live over and over, all their lives! A blind race after the so-called finer things in life; for money and power and social position and accepted definitions of success; all these factors have combined to make the modern Indian a driven creature running, running, till the day they die.

But is this the only way to live? Isn’t there any other way to have a full, and fulfilling, life? Is the stress and daily angst of the rat race; the associated physical, emotional, and mental health problems; the inescapable evils of a modern life? Not necessarily, as a lot of people in urban India are discovering. Opting out of the rat race is becoming a distinct possibility in the age of information, technology and outsourcing.

There are numerous stories of people seizing control of their own lives and changing direction in mid-stream. From sales professionals giving up lucrative jobs with MNCs in order to teach MBA, to engineers turning restaurateurs; young people are choosing to walk away from the high stress, high speed, insane run up the ladder, to do something they enjoy. It’s huge! It’s a risk! But most of them agree, it’s worth every minute of it! They may make less money, at least for a while, but what they gain instead more than makes up for the financial loss.

First of all, there’s a huge fall in stress and angst levels. That brings with it massive health and lifestyle benefits. Occurrence of diabetes and hypertension are sky high in many professions. Younger and younger people are being afflicted, and most of them have no family history of either disease. Experts agree that this is caused by the high levels of stress these people function under, everyday. Get rid of the stress, and voila! Problems are reduced significantly, sometimes even totally disappear!

Less time spent running after money means more time on your hand for doing things you love and spending quality time with family and friends. Creative pursuits, hobbies, and social interaction, all reduce stress further, not to mention make life a joy, and give an immense amount of meaning and fulfillment. And the really fun thing is that you don’t even have to give up on the money! Consultants make good money these days, as can freelancers and business owners. Maybe it wouldn’t be as much as your executive salary package, but the advantages as many too.

So take a serious look at your life, and consider opting out of the rat race. Even thinking about it helps. Feeling like you have an out, anytime you want it, makes the here and now less like a jail.

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