The Problem with Treadmills

I was working with a client this morning who has been racing on the Treadmill of Life. He couldn’t understand why, when he has so many fulfilling things in his life, he feels despondent, opeless and unfulfilled. 

His situation is not by any means a unique one and I am quite used to sitting opposite people feeling the same way. Just because I am used to it though – doesn’t make it right. 

You see the problem with a treadmill is that there is no destination. There is no end point, no ‘enjoy the view’ mindset that comes with outdoor running and so, in a way, the end goal becomes to go faster, or on a higher incline; to make your body work harder. That is the goal and the readings on your screen tell you whether you have achieved it or not. 

But the problem with the Treadmill of Life is that there is no reading on a screen to tell you when you’ve reached the top. There is no automatic shut off or ‘cool down’ setting that kicks in when you’ve achieved the goal you set. The Treadmill of Life is full of routine and repetition in the same way that a regular treadmill is except without the high of a tangible, measurable, successful finish line. And therein lies the problem with this type of treadmill. 

If your worth and value is measured by how much you have achieved, how much you have got done and on how much other people praise you for how much you have got done – you will become exhausted by life. You will always be disappointed. Because it will never be enough. 

You can work hard to get that promotion – but you’ll find that as soon as the initial praise and recognition has worn off, and the exciting, brand new, life changing job begins to become the norm and the workload and problems are the same as they were before, you’ll feel like you’ve achieved nothing that stands out, nothing of worth and you’ll start the process again.

You can get your kids washed, dressed at school on time, homework done, healthy lunch packed, juggle the extra-mural schedules and feel that sense of pride and satisfaction. But that evening, as you wash their lunch bags, check and sign their homework, oversee re-packing of sports kits and books for the following day, you’ll feel like you’re back where you started that morning and have achieved nothing. 

If your worth is tied up in what you do – you’ll find that nothing you do will ever be enough. We need to remind ourselves, and discipline our minds to know that our value is in who we are – not what we do.