Are you Stuck in the Hamster Ball Cycle?

I used to think this question was overrated – I mean, really, who cares how someone spends their Friday night? Obviously it’s out with friends, a partner, or doing something with family. Everyone’s got plans, just like any other night. Pretty typical in my mind.

But after considering it further and realizing where I typically ended up, I realized that how you spend your Friday evenings says a lot about you and where you put your time. In the modern day Western world, most of us run on a strict time schedule, living by the hours, the minutes, the penciled-in meetings, classes, places we need to be. We gripe our way through the week while chasing towards the weekend like we’re on a hamster ball.  When it’s finally Friday, we feel a sense of relief, hence the saying “TGIF.” For most of us, work is over, school is out, the five day rise-and-grind is done!

But what now? What does this mean to us? When does the fun begin? Who are we spending it with?

Recently, I’ve asked myself this very question. And the answer isn’t pretty.

From the brink of Monday morning until Friday makinglivingafternoon, I’m constantly in a cycle of classes, work, running, obligation after obligation – but when the weekend is there, when campus “shuts down” on Friday night, I’m asking myself, “what’s next?” “Now that it’s over, where do I go from here?” I put myself in a constant hamster ball state, chasing the wheel for the weekend, on a spurt of movement too fast to make time for any quality friendships or things that really matter. Even simple things that I enjoy. And then when the weekend finally gets there, I’ve got no one. The sense of relief instantly turns into a state of dread. This is not being said for pity, but to evaluate where I’m devoting my time to and recognize how a week without any “weekend” often leads to no real weekend at all. Instead of going out and having a good time, I end up writing this blog post. Sitting, waiting, wishing. Exactly the opposite of taking action! Since I’ve put all my time into these self-created obligations, it only makes sense that the same thing continues into the weekend. For me, there is no end. It’s a continuous hamster wheel cycle without a break.

Similarly, couples often fall into this trap. A typical family day: wake up, parents/couples head off to work, kids go off to school – upon getting back home, kids do homework and watch TV and surf the net, whilepreparingtolive mom may help take care of that and other household duties. When dad finally gets home, late and exhausted, he may just eat a quick dinner (if anything) and retreat to the room for sleeping. Sometimes with little to no interaction. When Friday comes along, they may attempt family activities, but likely resort to the networks they have maintained all week long and managing their own weekly obligations. I know that’s how Sundays are anyway (even at my house). This leads to increased distance between family members and sometimes even broken bonds. I believe this is the cycle and underlying cause behind such a high divorce rate. Do you know anyone who this has happened to? Can you relate?

It’s not simply a “workaholic” problem (although I very well may be one!), but a matter of where we are investing ourselves. A lonely weekend isn’t simply the result of being “anti-social” or not being likable. It’s the result of not investing ourselves enough socially.

You see, wherever we put our time is where we see results. We reap what we sow. If we want a fun-filled weekend, plans on the coming Friday night, it’s up to us to create them during the week. It’s up to us to sow the relationships with people we want to spend weekends with.

There are 7 days of the week. 5 on weekdays. 2 on hamsterthe weekend. This seems so obvious to us, yet do we realize that the weekends only make up less than a third of our time? Just like we spend almost a third of our lives sleeping (essential by all means, just not time most “enjoyed”), we also spend much of it working.  If you’re grinding out the 9-5 + typical commute, that’s 2/3 working or sleeping. While by no means is it realistic to suggest devoting all of our spare time to pursuing social or family events , it is imperative that we have at least one quality conversation (daily) with each of the people that matter most to us – or even a new one.

The hamster ball cycle has got to stop. Continue to chase your dream, your passion, whatever it is. But there’s no use in chasing the clock. It’ll lead you to nowhere. Stop for water breaks along the journey. Replenish yourself with moderate doses of exercise, with books, with friends, with good times – the things that are really, truly good for you. And good to you. Ask yourself, where’s this wheel leading me to? What is the timeline for reaching the destination? Pause to enjoy the journey before it’s too late.

Inspired in part by BrainPickings: 

The Shortness of Life: Seneca on Busyness and the Art of Living Wide Rather Than Living Long

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