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Getting Off the Treadmill of Life

Getting Off the Treadmill of Life
Treadmill

    Do you wish you could slow things down, especially your mind? Life is hectic and harried, but there are several ways you can jump off the hamster wheel of life to get some much needed respite. You only need to mentally commit to it and you can make it happen. Here are a few ideas.

    1. The Bathroom Break
    You may laugh at this idea, but it isn’t called the rest room for nothing. For many of us, our day is a never ending stream of requests for our attention from others. When you find yourself hitting the wall, go take a bathroom break whether you need to go or not. Go into the stall and have a seat, close your eyes, take a deep breath (if it’s safe), and relax. Try putting your hands over your eyes and rubbing your temples. You’ll feel better even though this is a short break. Use the time to think about what you really need to do next instead of just reacting to every request.

    2. Meditation Nap
    This has been featured on Lifehack before. Here is a very quick synopsis: take a 5-20 minute break where you stretch, close your eyes, and empty your mind in a relaxed but wakeful state. You will be amazed at how much this can rejuvenate you!

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    3. Appointment with Yourself
    Set aside a one hour appointment with yourself during your day. No one needs to know that the appointment is only with yourself. Where? Library or a bookstore are both nice quiet places you could retreat to. What should you do during this time? Since it is not a huge amount of time, I would suggest using part of the time for a meditation nap, and then use the remainder to think about your dreams and how you can move towards them. You might want to schedule this kind of time once a month or once a week even.

    4. Play Hooky for the Day
    Sometimes when you’re working hard, it can be easy to feel like you’re never going to reach your dreams. You may feel tired, down, or frustrated. This is when you should take a whole day for yourself! If you are doing work that is not towards your dream, use the day to redesign your life. Where do you want to go? How do you want to live life? Map out how you will get there. Start today! If you are already working towards your dream and you are simply exhausted, use it as a day to play and relax. Go see a movie, visit a museum, anything that will allow you to forget about work and enjoy life.

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    5. Change Your Perspective
    Sometimes we can’t get our minds off our work, even when we come home from work. So how do you slow down your mind? Many turn to TV to help turn off our minds. But how about doing something totally different? You could: go to an art opening, do some volunteer work, visit a lecture at the local library, go see a live play or live music, or anything else that will help you forget about work for a while, but at the same time open your mind to other ideas instead of turnig your brain off the way TV can.

    6. Change Your Location
    Another idea for freeing your mind is to go to a place you don’t usually visit. Or go to a place that you do go to frequently, but this time really take notice of what’s going on around you. For example, a great place to go is simply out in nature. The woods, the beach, the mountains, the park. As a child how did you feel when you were in these places? Can you notice those things again today as an adult? Go ahead and take some time to enjoy fond memories. Let them take you away from it all. Do the smells, sounds, and scenery of a place talk to you? What do they say? What do they motivate you to do differently going forward?

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    7. Play!
    Take some time to play some games, sing, or dance with your children or with friends or family. Make it a point to become really engaged. Tell yourself that all your worries and thoughts will still be there when you’re done playing. Commit to letting it all go while you do so. If it’s hard for you to do this, then schedule it with someone with whom you won’t be able to break the date. Have fun for a change. A good warm up is to play some music before to get your fun self moving and grooving and leave your work-a-holic self in the dust!

    8. Going to Sleep
    At night, there are a couple things you can do to get off the treadmill of life. First be kind to
    yourself by going to sleep when you’re tired! Find a way to turn off the TV an hour or more before your target bed time. TV is a stimulant, even if you think it helps you fall asleep. Better yet, leave the TV off except for your favorite shows or educational TV. Don’t be afraid to be alone with yourself or alone with your spouse. When the TV is turned off you can begin to think, to unwind the day. Try it or a week. If that’s hard for you to do, you could try putting the TV in the garage for a week to failproof it.

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    The second thing you can do when going to sleep is, if you find yourself thinking too much, try this mantra, “Empty the Mind.” Just repeat that as often as is necessary to release your mind’s clinging to work, worry, and ceaseless thinking. Remind yourself that by releasing your thoughts and succumbing to rest, your subconscious mind will continue to work on the problems for you while you sleep. You will wake up refreshed and with the energy needed to tackle your challenges anew.

    Which idea will you try today? What other ideas do you have for escaping the treadmill of life?

    K. Stone is author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. A few of her most popular articles are How to Stop Being “Busy” and Live Your Dream Life, Creativity Blocks? Bash Through in 15 Steps, How to Nap at Work – or Anyplace You Need a Rest, and The Cure for Overworked, Overtired YOU!.

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    K. Stone

    The founder of Life Learning Today, a blog that's dedicated to life improvement tips.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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