Isn’t it funny how badly life can suck?
Okay, well, not suck.
But, like, just fail to live up to the expectations you once had for it?
I mean, when you’re a kid the future feels so full of promise.
You’re going to take on the world, be someone of note, and make a difference.
Then you wake up one day and realize you’ve spent a decade (or more) working a job you loathe, for a boss who doesn’t care about you, and for money you may or may not really need.
You’ve been climbing a ladder to nowhere, in a constant state of discontent.
It’s easy to feel an overriding sense that there must be something more.
Sound familiar? If so, then I hope this article will prove useful…
It’s all about how to escape the rat race- a goal that holds a special place in my heart. If you’re tired of the daily grind and feel yourself steadily losing interest in it, then something has to change.
Getting out of the race should be the first port of call!
Keep reading for my take on escaping the rat race and living a more fulfilling life.
The Human Rat Race Meaning: What Is the Rat Race?
Let’s start by going through the rat race meaning for anyone who isn’t sure whether they’re stuck in the rat race or not.
Here’s how I define what the rat race means:
It’s the pathway through life we’re sold from childhood:
School -> uni/college -> job -> career -> house -> family …and so on.
It’s the idea that having, doing and being ‘more’ is the key to happiness.
It’s the vicious cycle of using all of your time to earn money, leaving very little time left for the things you really want to do in life.
It’s the constant felt need to buy new material goods to justify the time you’ve spent earning that money.
It’s the idea that happiness is bound up in some future state- when you get that promotion, that raise, or that car...
It’s the bar that keeps being raised.
But, if all that doesn’t explain it, then here’s a dictionary rat race definition:
Now we know what the rat race means, I want to go through a few ideas that made getting out of the rat race a priority for me.
Read on for why I think everyone stands to gain from leaving the rat race…
3 Considerations to Incentivise Getting Out of the Rat Race
Here are a few ideas that made me realise the rat race wasn’t for me!
I hope they do the same for you. But, if you’re looking for more inspiration on how to get out of the rat race, this post might help as well.
1. Life is Short (Getting Out of the Rat Race Helps You Make the Most of it)
This fact gets batted around to the point where it’s almost become a cliché.
But life really is short.
Every passing year seems quicker than the last. Worse still, you never know when disaster’s going to strike. Depressing as it sounds, you could walk outside later today and be hit by a bus, or be struck by lightning…
There are no guarantees in life, which makes the idea of wasting it even sadder.
Unfortunately, the rat race seems purpose-made for that eventuality.
I think there’s something numbing about it. The unchanging routine and incessant demands on time and energy cloud your vision and help you forget the fact you won’t live forever.
But the race has been so normalized now that it’s hard to see another path.
Before you know it, you’re in it; like quick-sand, the longer you’re in its clutches, the more difficult it is to escape. Life trickles away as you get embroiled in the pursuit of wealth and status.
Getting out of the rat race helps you take back control.
Once extricated, you have a chance to live a life that actually makes you happy, and that you’ll look back on with pride and satisfaction.
Want to make the most of your life? These 100 life goals ideas come in handy.
2. You Can’t Buy Time
Time’s a limited resource- a commodity you can’t earn back.
Worse still, the demands of everyday life automatically detract from the supply you have available.
Sleeping, eating, exercising, socialising, family commitments…Some of it might be fun, but it all inevitably leaves us with less time on our hands.
The video below does an awesome job of demonstrating the predicament:
Unfortunately, the rat race is great at convincing us we’re spending our time wisely, when the reality is far from the case.
I love this Alan Watts quote, which I think sums it up:
When we finally got down to something, which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, you do that and forget the money, because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.
‘Doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing’.
That line has been stuck in my mind ever since I first came across it!
Time is the most valuable currency we have because we can’t earn it back.
That realisation forces you to take any decision about how to spend your time far more seriously (here’s how I want to spend my time).
I want to safeguard those temporal pennies with the dedication of a child protecting his precious little piggy bank!
Getting out of the rat race puts time back in your own hands. You can then use it to apply yourself to things you genuinely love doing.
Wondering what you’re doing with your life? Check out these 10 tips for turning it around.
3. You Don’t Need Lots of Money
Isn’t money strange?
There’s something intoxicating about it- get a whiff and you can’t help but want more.
Sure, money opens doors and, yes, I think you do need a certain amount of it to be happy. But you only have to look at the unhappy millionaires out there to know it doesn’t hold all the answers.
Unfortunately, though, the devil on your shoulder turns a blind eye to the evidence.
It’s all too easy to get sucked into the habit of spending time and energy in the pursuit of cash. This demand for money (and the fact our self-worth is so often tied up with it) gives the rat race its fuel.
Let’s face it, leaving your current job for a life with more time and freedom will probably entail a significant pay cut!
To escape the rat race, then, we need to change our relationship with money and realize it really isn’t the be-all and end-all.
Heads up, you might also like this post about the benefits of effective communication! Check it out!
Escaping the Rat Race: 9 Ways to Get Out of the Rat Race
Okay, so now let’s turn to a selection of practical steps on how to escape the rat race.
FYI, I’m assuming you aren’t going to inherit a huge sum of money or win the lottery. These, of course, would also come in handy when figuring out how to escape society…
1. Define Your Dream Life
I think the first step to escaping the rat race is working out what you really want from life.
What does your dream existence look like?
It’ll be different for everyone.
Get specific with what your ideal life would be!
Where would you live? What would you be doing? Who would be there with you?
This step’s about redefining your expectations and realizing that the rat race isn’t the only pathway available.
You really can do the things you always wanted; live the life you always dreamed about.
Create a picture of your ideal situation. With that in mind, you’ll have a far better chance of working out how to bring it to fruition.
2. Quit the Rat Race by Quitting Your Current Rat Race Jobs
An unfulfilling job seems to be a key part of being caught up in the rat race too.
So, to escape it and reach you’re newly defined dream life, you might have to escape from work.
That can be a daunting prospect. I mean, your job, however unfulfilling, is what’s fuelling your current lifestyle. It’s paying (or paid) for the house, the car, the holidays, the student loan, and so on.
Leaving it behind can feel a bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face. You might find yourself asking if giving it up is really worth it.
Only you can answer that.
Try doing an audit of your life: are you happy with the way it’s going?
If you aren’t, and you can visualize a better life for yourself, then something has to change. And, like any change, it requires relinquishment and sacrifice.
Don’t focus on what you’re leaving behind though.
Instead, pay close attention to the positives you’re walking into.
3. …Or Escape from Work by Negotiating With Your Boss
Having said all that, you might not actually have to quit.
Do you like what you do and/or don’t feel ready to step back entirely from your current position?
Well, you could be surprised at how lenient your boss will be in renegotiating your work set up.
Think back to what you want from life. Create a set of demands for your boss, which would get you you somewhere close to the dream situation, without leaving work.
Reluctant to see you go, they may be happy to accommodate some (or all) of your demands.
You might be able to work from home a few days each week, or switch to a remote position instead. Maybe there’s a way to cut down on the workload you currently have, or move into a new role with less responsibility.
And if they say ‘no’, well, that could be the impetus you need to leave once and for all anyway.
4. Stop Buying Stuff!
Escaping the rat race entails changing our relationship with money and possessions.
Here’s a quick recap of what I was talking about before:
You want money, so you get a high paying job. The job pay’s well but limits your time. The result? A situation where you’re cash-rich, but time-poor.
To justify the lack of time you naturally spend the money you’ve worked so hard to earn.
You end up with the house, the clothes, the car, the fancy restaurants and lavish vacations.
To sustain the lifestyle you become accustomed to, you’re forced to maintain the level of income that’s fuelling it.
A vicious spiral develops:
As you start earning more, you begin spending even more, forcing you to bring in ever-increasing sums of cash…The situation keeps on repeating.
You walk away with masses of stuff, and a huge number of financial obligations to boot.
Simply, your lifestyle owns you, and not the other way around. It’s easy to start hating your life.
Sound familiar? You end up entering yourself into the rat race, and committing yourself to it for longer than is probably healthy. Life is nothing but a fat rat race!
The trick to getting out of the rat race? Stop spending money on stuff you don’t need.
Live a simpler life. Sell your things. Realize that all those possessions aren’t bringing you long term happiness.
5. Start Saving Instead
Imagine cutting your annual expenditure by 50%.
That might sound ludicrous, but people do it all the time.
It’s epitomised by the FIRE movement (more on this here). FIRE’s an acronym for Financial Independence, Retire Early.
The idea is to prioritise future financial freedom by living a life of immense frugality in the meantime.
You cut back as much as possible, thereby saving huge chunks of income (sometimes up to 70%). Do this for a number of years and you can put away enough money to earn your financial freedom.
Money isn’t everything in life, but it equates to power when it comes to getting out of the rat race.
You need it to survive.
Alas, most people can’t escape the rat race because they don’t have the funds to do so.
But by stepping out of a life of materialism, and saving cash instead of spending it, we find a key to a happier existence.
We buy our ticket out of the rat race.
And no, you don’t need to be earning megabucks to benefit from this strategy. Anyone with an average income can put away enough now to retire early.
In a way, I guess this is like stepping back from the rat race mentally before following through in practice. You know where you’d headed, but accept the financial value of sticking with it a little while longer.
You soon beat the rat race in the process.
Investing in your personal development will help too. Here’s more on why that’s the case.
6. The Race to Escape: Aim for Passive Income
I only heard about the concept of passive income a few years ago.
And since then I’ve been hooked on trying to earn it. This is the route I’ve chosen to pursue in getting out of the rat race and having an adventure instead.
Why? Because passive income is the dream! Let me explain.
Active income is when you trade time for money. It’s the usual set up that we’ve been brought up on: get a job in exchange for a monthly wage that’ll sustain you just long enough until the next one.
It’s like being a fish on a hook: stop working, no more money.
Passive income is the opposite:
Suddenly, you earn income on autopilot, without being forced to trade your time for it.
It comes in many forms.
Some people have so much money already that the interest they earn on it is enough to live on. Others go into real estate and get passive income from the rent they charge tenants. Many people make investments that pay dividends each year.
Some, like me, aim to earn it from blogs (where affiliate income and advertising can- eventually- add up to a reasonable living).
It’s important to note that passive income doesn’t mean there’s no work involved.
My blog is the perfect example! I spend hours of my life writing, publishing and promoting content. And, so far, I earn a pittance from it.
It’s short term pain for long term gain though.
I’m putting in the work now in the hope that my efforts will generate sufficient passive income in the future.
Passive income sounds like a pipe dream. But people are earning it every day of the week.
Want out of the rat race? Then turning your attention to this form of income is a great way to do it.
As an aside, if you’re interested in this approach, then I massively recommend that you read Tim Ferriss’ The 4 Hour Work Week.
He talks about creating your muse, in the context of starting a business and using it to earn passive income. It’s hugely inspiring and full of actionable ideas for make it happen.
7. Leaving the Rat Race? Start a Business
Entrepreneurship is another route out.
This approach won’t necessarily lower your working hours (you may even end up working more- especially at the beginning).
That’s not necessarily a bad thing though.
Again, the relative virtue of each approach on this list depends entirely on personal ideas of ‘the good life’.
Being a business owner means you’re no longer working to earn money for somebody else.
It put you in the driver’s seat, doing something you’re (hopefully) passionate about.
Even better, the nature of business means you’re solving a problem in the world. You get to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives as a result.
It carries risk, for sure. You could fail, lose money, or lose face, and so on.
But I love that.
I’m full of respect for people who are willing to say ‘you know what, f*** it’, and take the leap of faith that’s required to live an extraordinary life.
8. Start Investing
I’m not an expert in investing, so I won’t spend too long on this one.
It’s something, to my own detriment, that I’ve never taken an interest in until very recently.
However, as I mentioned earlier, if you do it right, then it seems another good way to earn enough money to get you out of the rat race.
This approach basically comes down to using your money to make more of it. Rather than sitting on a pile of cash, you invest it in things like stocks and shares and/or real estate.
You spend less than you earn and invest the difference.
As a result of interest and dividends accruing and being paid out over time, you can end up making your money work for you, ending up with more than you started with.
And, in the context of this piece, that cash can help you out of the rat race.
…Depending on the state of the market.
I’m afraid I can’t say much more about this topic than that. I can, however, recommend two books I’ve read recently that might help (see below- FYI, these are affiliate links, meaning I get a small cut of the sale price if you make a purchase…which helps me to stay out of the rat race!).
In very different styles, both books are great at breaking down the investment process and inspiring you to take action.
9. Take a Temporary Break
Who said you had to quit forever?
When life’s far from inspiring, the thought of making a permanent change to it might sound appealing.
However, sometimes an extended sabbatical can be just as good.
You could quit your job in the hope you’ll pick another up with relative ease when you’re ready.
Or, it could be one of the things you choose to discuss with your boss (they may offer you an extended paid or unpaid period of leave, guaranteeing your job will still be there upon your return).
A break of any nature offers a temporary reprieve.
However, make sure it’s enough time to make an actual difference.
Think about taking 6 months to a year out to explore new horizons. In that time you might discover a new passion, or rekindle a passion you once had.
An extended period of leave can reboot your systems, inspire positive change, and be everything you need to feel revitalised and re-enthused with life.
Figure Out How to Escape the Rat Race
Life is full of promise and potential.
But we have to put ourselves in a position to experience it.
Unfortunately, for one reason or another, most of us end up embroiled in a stressful and unfulfilling day to day existence.
We get our priorities mixed up, and end up in danger of wasting what little time we have at our disposal.
The struggle is embodied by the rat race- the interminable pursuit of status and wealth that inevitably leads to an unsatisfied life.
Getting out of the rat race is key to cultivating the life we actually want, and that will imbue it with meaning and happiness.
Hopefully, the reflections and ideas in this post will prove useful to anyone wondering how to escape the rat race.
Now I’d love to hear from you! What’s your primary reason for wanting to escape the rat race, and how do you plan on doing it?
Let me know in the comments!