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Life Have You Spinning in a Hamster Wheel? You Can Still Benefit

hamster in wheelMy kids live for PetSmart shopping trips. Even though our trips take us there for dog food, bones and squeaky toys, we always end up detouring over to the caged animals. My boys love searching for the snakes, camouflaged in their pen, hiding among the sticks. Meanwhile, the girls ooh and ah over the cute, furry bunnies. “Look at the floppy ears Daddy,” they happily squeal, as only little girls can.

I find those things interesting. However, only one thing at the pet store causes me to pause and put down my 30lb. bag of Purina One chicken and rice blend dog food. The actions of these critters mesmerize me each and every time.

Hamsters.

Furry little bodies. Noses always sniffing. Tiny feet. Little bitty ears. And what’s with the constant running in the exercise wheel? They just make me laugh.

On one shopping trip, my crew watched this hamster get in and out of its wheel for five minutes straight. Run, get out. Get back in, run, get out. Get back in, run, get out. Over and over again it did this. We were rolling in the aisle with laughter.

As I watched the hamster gymnastics, I thought, “What a metaphor for life. So many people stuck in a rut, running but going nowhere. They accomplish nothing, as they do the same things over and over again.” I congratulated myself, as I swiped my debit card at the checkout line, for being such a clever thinker. Leaving the store, I jotted down a mental note to write a blog post about that someday.

A funny thing happened on the ride home among the “Stop thats” and the “Hey daddy” questions coming from the five year old in the back seat. I began to think my brilliant analogy might be incorrect.

I couldn’t get past why the hamster continued to return to the exercise wheel. It seemed to be stuck in a repetitious pattern of behavior. “Yet they have a brain,” I thought. “Why would they do something that appears so useless?”

Was their behavior indicative of something else? Were they actually receiving some benefit from their actions?

After returning home and feeding our ravenously hungry dogs, I hit the web to find out.

Turns out hamsters LOVE to run.

In fact, many studies have found hamsters to run over five miles in one night on exercise wheels. Theories suggest they run as a means of exercise – for activity. They may run as a substitute for the limited exploration they can find in a cage. It has even been suggested that wheel running may be self-rewarding, in the same type of way an endorphin release creates a “runner’s high” for the marathoner.

So running really does benefit hamsters. It’s not mindless behavior. Who knew?

It’s often been said that life is filled with ups and downs. The majority of the time however, we encounter times that are just flat, tedious and dreary. School’s the same. Work is the same. The kids are acting the same. We feel like our days are directionless, with no forward movement.

The worst part is that we are drawn back or feel forced back into the same daily activities, the same work situations, the same schedules, day in and day out. It frustrates us that we are compelled to repeat these patterns each day as we seemingly accomplish nothing. And we do feel like the hamster in the wheel. Running the race of life but going nowhere, getting nothing in return.

Ah…but we are receiving something in return. That’s the paradox. Whether or not we choose to see it is another matter altogether.

We are learning discipline.

We are building endurance.

We are still engaging in activities and not withdrawing into a useless shell.

We are most likely learning coping strategies.

Maybe it’s just about preparing for the next step up.

Or even developing contentment.

Even when running in the monotonous wheel that can be our life, we are still benefiting somehow. If your only option right now is to return to the wheel each day, then take the good you can receive from it. That decision will be more beneficial than just sitting on a log in your cage all day.

Perhaps you don’t enjoy or see the benefit of your job or daily routine. What lessons are you learning from being in that situation?

Next Post: A 15-Yr. Old Life Should Never End This Tragically

Prior Post: How to Survive the Dark Side of Rental Real Estate

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Comments

  1. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    Love the attitude here, Brian. It’s not necessarily okay to stay in a rut if you’re not happy, but it is okay to find bits of that rut that are enjoyable, and to enjoy the journey along the way, isn’t it. 🙂

  2. One thing I notice is how people tend to quit or get tired of things so quickly that they never seem to get that long-term benefit of sticking something out. My job had recently become less challenging and I was yearning for something new. While I got a bit frustrated recently by the lack of new challenges, I was recently pulled in on something that will require many hours of learning new skills and working through new challenges. I wouldn’t have been given that opportunity if I hadn’t stuck it out and done a good job with the responsibilities I already had.

    • That’s true DC! We often don’t stick at things long enough to see the benefit. We get sick of it and just when we were about to see a breakthrough we give up. It’s great that you are experiencing some new things at work. That always seems to juice me up to.

  3. Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    I’ll put my time in at the wheel as long as it gets me to somewhere better later on. I think the key is to be able to appreciate all you do have while you feel like you are running in the wheel. Routine is good in some cases, like with a first grader. I know people who are already counting the days until they retire in five or ten years. I would never wish my time away because today might bring a gift I could miss because I’m counting the time until it’s over.

  4. Great analogy! Sure, the hamster wheel of life may be boring and repetitive, but it’s training us and making us better.

    • That’s right Lisa. I feel that way many times with my running. It’s monotonous and boring training sometimes but I know it’s beneficial and preparing me to achieve a goal.

  5. ha ha! I think of hamster wheels that same as people who run on a treadmill day in and day out. Looks painfully boring. 🙂 But I think you’re right about the “hamster wheel of life.” Sometimes life may be saying to slow down and be present with what you already do have…and prepare you for something that may throw you off your wheel later down the road. Great post!

    • The only way I can run on a treadmill is to have my iPad resting on the console playing a show. I like how you phrased that – “slow down and be present with what you already do have.” That’s a nice way of putting it.

  6. FI Pilgrim says:

    At many of the low points in my life I end up telling my wife “I feel like I’m just spinning my wheels right now, like nothing I’m doing in life is making any difference”. It’s a tough place for me to be, thanks for the encouragement and perspective that it’s likely not true, but only based on our expectations. Thanks for the good word!

    • I can relate to what you are saying. It’s all in our perspective I guess. We tend to focus on the negative aspects of our situation instead of looking at the positive. When we do that, there is no way we can see the possible benefits that are happening in our lives even in the down times.

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