Updated: Jul 20, 2020
This is a short story from a rat that stopped racing but has since started winning.
You might have heard of Robert Kiyosaki’s version of a rat race. It's a self-defeating cycle. Robert believes that it stems from human emotions named fear and greed over money. First, the fear of living without money motivates us to work hard, and then, once we get that paycheck, desire starts by making us think of all the wonderful things money can buy. This leads to the idea of greed. It’s perfectly normal to yearn for something better, prettier, more fun, or exciting. So, people also work for money because of desire. They crave for cash for the joy they think it can buy. But, the happiness that financial fortune brings is often short-lived, and these individuals soon need MORE – more money for more satisfaction, more pleasure, more comfort, and more security. Material gluttony creeps in, so they keep working, thinking monetary wealth will soothe their souls that are troubled by fear and greed. The pattern is then set. The pattern of getting up; going to work; paying bills; geting up; going to work; paying bills. Robert claims that while it’s very easy to get in, most people never make it out. The key is to build proficiencies over money through accounting and investing (i.e., learning how the numbers work and mastering how to grow your assets). “MIND OVER MATTER.” “NUMBERS DON’T LIE.”
Change the location of the rat from the circular wheel you’re currently imagining, into a classroom… a workplace… a networking event… social media… miting de avance… or, perhaps, a home, and you’ll see what I’d like to call a 'spiritual rat race'. That prevalent, huh? Y-E-S! Yes. You heard me right.
I was once caught up in a spiritual rat race (Guess at one point, all of us will have taken such a race, or at least observed it to be true). Of course, I didn’t get myself there overnight but through unconscious efforts in making bad decisions over and over. Repeatedly, I turned a blind eye. Enjoyed too much non-sense that I lost common grounds. Too big a deal? Certainly. Guess I was too busy chasing for those extraordinary moments that I forgot to pay attention to the small details of life (the ‘small things’) which have proven to be far more important over time.
Year 2018 was the most challenging year for me thus far. The tide of 2017’s not-so-good transition from Manila to London carried forward and I wanted to lose myself into the drown. Looking back, I was building a pile of sub-prime junk through bad utilization of debts (Yup, there’s plenty of good ways to use debts.); too salty, sugary and/or fatty snacks and meals; binge watching; and lots and loads of complaining. I didn’t notice, so I didn’t take action. I was overweight and unhealthy despite being surrounded by people with healthy lifestyles. Earning a decent income didn’t keep me from being financially broke. I became lazy on personal development. I got stuck on work I didn’t want to be in the first place because I just didn’t mind who’s steering the wheel.
I used to have a personal scorecard in assessing the quality of my life. I typically ‘stock-take’ every year and build my short, medium and long-term goals from there. The areas I would then score (5 being the highest; 1 lowest) are: Career, Financials, Relationships (loved ones), Spirituality, Passion, and Health & Well-being. I see to it that I don’t get to score myself lower than 3 at any assessment point and that the simple average should be at least 3.5.
Guess I was too busy chasing for those extraordinary moments that I forgot to pay attention to the small details of life (the ‘small things’) which have proven to be far more important over time.
Then, it all changed. I am fortunate enough to have read Rick Warren’s ‘Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For?’ a book purposely given to me by a driven friend. Rick states that goals are temporary (like one’s existence on Earth) whilst purposes are eternal. He preaches that we have five (broad) purposes on Earth – which should equip us in the next life, that is, the eternity – by answering these life’s five greatest questions (i.e., "What will be..."):
(1) “The center of my life?” WORSHIP. Surrender.
(2) “The character of my life?” DISCIPLESHIP. Christlikeness.
(3) “The contribution of my life?” SERVICE. Via our SHAPE: Spiritual gifts. Heart. Abilities. Personality. Experiences.
(4) “The communication of my life?” MISSION. Spread the Good News.
(5) “The community of my life?” FELLOWSHIP. Loving and sharing with other believers.
Simply put, our purpose is “to be a member of Christ’s family, a model of His character, a minister of His grace, a messenger of His Word, and a magnifier of His glory” (Ibid). But, Rick points out that the way we fulfil those purposes – i.e., the time, places, plan and style – is absolutely unique individually.
I’ve found the escape plan - thanks to Rick. I knew I was getting out of the spiritual rat race. Little did I know, I was also about to win life. I learned that everything here on Earth is only preparatory for eternity. I realized that it’s NOT about ME. And, that our life’s greatest privilege is to be used by God to change the eternal destiny of another human being.
I've set myself free from the 'fear of living without' (envy) and from the 'greed over everyone's approval' (people-pleasing). I now focus on being the best I can be with what I have been given, and I believe I’m now cured from the ‘disease to please’ everyone around me.
I still struggle every day. Still working on the financial mess I've put myself into. Still trying to burn the stored fats that initially wanted a short-term lease but now treat my belly as their permanent residence. I still binge-watch when it feels safe. I do a 'lazy day' once in a while. But, now I know I'm winning. Even if I fall short of my monthly budget. Despite gaining incremental weight. In spite of losing hours to a day on watching series, trilogies, sequels or prequels. Difference? I changed lane. I submitted myself to the idea of God's will and timing.
I stopped racing. Glad to have had a pause for a few months after being cut from work as I was suffering from depression and anxiety. I believe it’s God’s way of telling me, ‘Hey young lad, you kind of lost your way – care to talk?’
I now walk the path of eternity. A lane that you could always take; a race you need not do. I've gotten myself out of the spiritual rat race and I took that as a win. And now, I'm just celebrating the gains for I know that I can only win in the path I've chosen - as all losers are actual gainers. And, winners will be everybody but those trapped in the spiritual rat race.
Most people never realize the trap they are in. Have you been accounting for your mistakes and picking up from there? Have you been investing your talents, time and money on the causes that matter the most? Or, are you just getting by? Change your lane. Stop racing and start winning. There’s no better time than today. Get yourself out of the spiritual rat race.