Professional Development

5 signs you’re stuck in the rat race

Written by Eric Titner

We’ve all heard the phrase rat race before—it refers to a seemingly never-ending, pointless, and even self-defeating pursuit, and it’s often used when referring to one’s job or career. Individuals who are stuck in the rat race are unhappily going through the motions in life, trudging through the daily grind of their workday feeling unfulfilled, unchallenged, and uninspired until they go home at the end of the day—only to repeat the whole process again.

Individuals who are stuck in the rat race are more than just unhappy—they’re actually negatively affecting their health and well-being. According to a recent Forbes article, individuals who hate their jobs face some serious consequences, including increased risks for stress, sleeplessness, illness, and mental health issues. An article by The Atlantic even goes on to suggest that workplace unhappiness can shorten your lifespan!

Obviously, individuals who are stuck in this unfortunate situation have every good reason to try and get out of it. Are you one of them? The truth is, sometimes people get so busy and wrapped up in the responsibilities and activities they have going on in their daily lives that they fail to take stock of their current situations. You may very well be stuck in the rat race and not even know it!

Use the following signs to determine if you need to make some changes to your daily life.

1. Your energy and enthusiasm levels are low.

Are you like the energizer bunny when you get up in the morning? Do you go through an average workday full of “get up and go” enthusiasm for what lies ahead? Or maybe you’re more like a wilted flower or droopy basset hound who practically needs to be dragged through the day, and can’t wait to get back home so you can…lie around and do absolutely nothing. We all have good days and bad, but if more often than not you’re facing each day with a real lack of energy and enthusiasm, that’s a good sign your stuck in a rat race and may need a change.

2. You’re stuck in the past.

Do you spend more time thinking about “past glories” than future opportunities? Do you gladly reminisce about days gone by and what you have done at the expense of what lies ahead and what you will accomplish? Individuals who are stuck in the rat race avoid thinking about the present and the future as a protective mechanism—keeping them from having to confront an unhappy reality or an uncertain tomorrow. If this sounds like you, you might just be stuck in a rut.

3. You lack purpose.

Folks who are in happy places in their lives are fueled by a sense of purpose and gamely tackle each day, along with the challenges and goals they’ve set for themselves. Those stuck in less fulfilling situations? Not so much. And it’s not hard to imagine the vicious spiral this creates, leading you to accomplish less and less as the days drag on. Don’t get stuck in a rat race spiral!

4. You’re noticing changes in your health and wellness.

We’ve already touched on this one—when you’re stuck in the grinding gears of the rat race you’re going to experience a negative effect on your health and well-being. The ravages of stress, tension, sleeplessness, anxiety, and more will begin to gnaw away at you—and you’ll notice it. Tack on to this that people stuck in the rat race often make poor diet and exercise choices and it’s easy to see that this is a road to ruin.

5. You feel powerless to effect change or think there’s nothing better out there for you.

One of the real tragedies of being stuck in the rat race—as if we haven’t mentioned enough of them already—is that it robs you of the very ability to see a way out of it. It’s common for those stuck in a rut to feel that there’s simply no way out or have such a negative raincloud following them that they can’t even fathom that there’s something better out there. It’s not a good place to be.

If after reading this you’ve realized that you’re stuck in the rat race and are starting to worry or panic—take a deep breath. It’s always better to know the truth and it’s never too late or a bad time to figure out where you are with your job situation—good or bad—and make a change!

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About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.

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