I Want Off This Hamster Wheel

by Alli Polin on May 3, 2013

Create a more fulfilling life off of the hamster wheel

Ever wake up one morning and think to yourself:  “There has to be more than THIS.”

Do you know what it’s like to be working so hard yet caught in a cycle that feels a lot like running on a hamster wheel?  I do.

Mine may be an aqua “Coach and Consultant wheel” and yours may be a pink, or blue or green, corporate, student, Mom, or entrepreneur wheel but make no mistake, it’s still a wheel.  It looks so normal, right?  I see you, you see me and yet we’re both running in circles afraid to get off.

It’s time to get off of the wheel!

Five Do’s to Break the Frame & Find Your “More”

(First, start by worrying less about all “the don’ts” and other rules you’ve made up for yourself and get ready to embrace positive action!)

Do What You’re Afraid to Do

EXAMPLE: Reach out to the CEO that your friend of a friend knows to set up a 15-minute call.

When we give our fear control, it becomes a big, huge, scary monster that is shouting all of the worst possible outcomes at us 24/7.  Harness the energy the fear gives you and lose the rest.  Hate to say it, but who cares if you fall on your face?  Try laughing instead of crying, dusting off, and trying again.

Do What You Most Want to Do

EXAMPLE: Write the darn book and stop talking about it.

I’m guessing you have a million excuses: time, money, time, responsibilities, time, work pressures, time…  I think you see where I’m going.  Life is too short to only think about big things you want to do or accomplish.  Doesn’t matter if it’s writing a book, running a marathon or bungee jumping, DO IT.  Your life will be richer and nobody will have to listen to you talk about it longingly for the next 20 years.

Do What You Least Want to Do Too

EXAMPLE:  Go to your 10th meeting of the day and get engaged.

Unfortunately, living a life with more meaning and more fulfillment, doesn’t mean that you get to outsource all of the crappy stuff.  Here’s what I’ve discovered, even my least favorite things are more fun when I do them with gusto.

Do What Will Make you Grow

EXAMPLE: Take a Coursera MOOC and actually do the reading, lectures and assignments.

When you’re learning, you’re thinking and growing your worldview of what’s possible.  Books, blogs, conferences, MOOCs, networking events, tweetchats all keep you expanding.  When you know it all, you’re done.  You might as well stay on the wheel because there is nowhere else for you to go.

Do What Makes Your Heart Sing

EXAMPLE: Have a big Wii Dance party and don’t worry about looking silly.

It might not be your day job, or your night job for that matter, but find time to do the things you love.  Were you in a band in college and gave it up when you hit the “real world”?  Hit karaoke night.  Do you love to build things?  Download Minecraft and get building.  Be creative, be joyful, immerse yourself and ENJOY yourself.

Here’s the scoop: I want more.   And I’m tired from running on the hamster wheel; it’s killing time and it’s killing me just waiting. NOW is the time for Doing.

  • I want to jump out of bed with purpose beyond getting my kids off to school.
  • I want to be creative and connect with others in big ways.
  • I want to collaborate with other people who share my passion for leadership, employee engagement and creating a great place to work.
  • I want to ask: “Can we really do this?” and have the answer be “Let’s find out!”
  • I want to create a virtual team of people who want to DO and not just TALK.

Is that YOU?

If so, call, tweet, email or post here.  Let’s talk.  Let’s get going.  Let’s CREATE.  Let’s Break the Frame… or better yet, start by breaking the hamster wheel.

(Photo credit)

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Lalita Raman May 3, 2013 at 8:33 am

I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Yes no matter who we are, we all seem to be on this hamster wheel. This post so resonates with me because I’m trying to do some if the things you have mentioned here.

Thank you for putting it all in a post. You speak my mind.

It is work in process for me and I think one of the most challenging work in process :).

Thank you Alli



Alli Polin May 3, 2013 at 8:58 am

It’s good to know that I’m not alone 🙂

I’m working hard to do the same. I hope that many people are fighting against life on the wheel… There is so much more but it is definitely a journey.

Appreciate you tremendously, Lalita!


Johann Gauthier May 3, 2013 at 8:37 am

Great post Alli.
I like to make my heart sing. I did karaoke yesterday evening and this was both therapeutic and exhilirating !
I so agree with you. How often do we schedule fun in our lifes?
All the time !
Take care


Alli Polin May 3, 2013 at 9:38 am

Somehow you always find a way to fuse joy into all you do! Blogging, poetry, skiing, rock concerts and of course, karaoke! You are a constant reminder that life is about living, not jogging in place and fooling myself into thinking I’m moving forward. The richness of experiences missed can never be replaced – now is the time! Many thanks, Johann!


Stephen Lahey May 3, 2013 at 8:48 am

Great suggestions, Alli! For me, short breaks from routine tasks really helps. I try to rest and refresh well before I feel burn-out coming on. Sometimes a ten minute phone chat with a friend, or a short walk on a sunny day can make all the difference.


Alli Polin May 3, 2013 at 9:44 am

Resting and refreshing help to give us the stamina to push ourselves to try something new even when we’re super comfortable just where we are. Great reminder of how important that is to the pursuit of more fulfillment in our lives! Thanks so much for your comment – definitely an important addition!


Terri Klass May 3, 2013 at 9:22 am

Terrific post, Alli and very timely in talking about the book project! We all get stuck on that hamster wheel at different times and it is just what you say about “fear”. We can’t get moving because we are worried about falling on our faces or being rejected or just not being good enough. Today is a great day to begin a new pursuit. Thanks!


Alli Polin May 3, 2013 at 9:42 am

You’re right, Terri! So often I tell myself I’ll do it tomorrow. Why not today? Appreciate you!


Michelle Mazur May 3, 2013 at 9:23 am

Loved this post Alli! I’d add do what you least want to do or outsource it.

I want more too. I want to do what I love and do more of it. I want to get out of bed an be inspired for the day ahead. Thank you for reminding me of that fact.


Alli Polin May 3, 2013 at 9:40 am

GREAT addition, Michelle! We don’t have to suck it up and do everything – especially if in the process it is sucking our soul.

I want more! …and unless I do something about it, it will never happen. Glad there are people like you that help give a spark to my fire!


Grenae Thompson May 3, 2013 at 10:05 am

You read my mind, Alli! Living on a wheel sucks the very life out of us. I love how you write and the way your enthusiasm shines through. It makes me want to stop talking myself out of writing again for fear that I have nothing of value to share. Making time for becoming the people we want to be is important, and nobody ever wanted to be a hamster! Thanks for inspiring me to take action today!


Alli Polin May 3, 2013 at 10:12 am

Thank you, Grenae! Oh my gosh does it EVER suck the life out of us! Do it! Start writing again! I’m a master at talking myself out of things but also know that by saying no to what I want to do (or at least not now) I’m not really saying yes to making life as big and full as it can be. One thing I can guarantee you is that you have much to share that will be of value to others. Getting to know you on Twitter and learning from your insights has benefitted me!


Grenae Thompson May 3, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Thanks, Alli. A big fan. Appreciate your encouragement!


Dan Forbes May 3, 2013 at 11:22 am

I’m in. Let’s Collaborate; let’s Create; let’s Make a Difference; let’s Lead!!


Alli Polin May 5, 2013 at 6:26 am

Absolutely, Dan!! When we commit to living two feet in, others join us. Glad you’re in too!


Amber-Lee Dibble May 3, 2013 at 5:49 pm

I have another meeting via Skype this morning… You nailed me to the wall with this.

“Do What You Least Want to Do Too”… umm, are you talking to me? Then, crunch time, I have to open Skype in a moment, and this post really is talking to me, I think… so I went and read it again…
“Do What You’re Afraid to Do”
Oh. Yeah. I’ll be back, after… or track you down.


Alli Polin May 5, 2013 at 6:24 am

Hope that Skype call ROCKED! Do you know how to give less than 100%? Is that even in your DNA? For me, as much as I dread the Do What You Least Want to Do… until I do it, and then I’m glad that I DID! Living life all in? You are a model for that in all the messy glory that it can bring. I want MORE because I know it’s possible – that there is, indeed, more. I see others, like you, wringing so much out of life I’m not willing to miss another moment.


Karen Jolly May 3, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Great post Alli! I remember listening to Zig Ziglar long ago when I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. He talked (in that wonderful drawl of his) about no matter what you decide to do give it everything you have and go wayyy beyond in doing a great job. I was reminded of this when I read your points because when life becomes the hamster wheel sometimes you have to just dig in where you are and give it more than you ever have in order to find your way off the wheel. I think allowing yourself to admit “I want more” is the first big step. Thank you – you’ve got me inspired to dig in this weekend and do, be and live MORE! 🙂


Alli Polin May 5, 2013 at 6:28 am

Love hearing about Zig Ziglar’s advice to go wayyy beyond doing a good or even a great job. Your words are really landing with me, Karen. I’m asking myself, am I really digging in where I am with intention and full commitment or am I just wanting? Even if it is just wanting, acknowledging that feeling is a BIG step to propel me into action. It’s not too late!! Greatly appreciate your comment and insights, Karen!!


Craig Hadden – Remote Possibilities May 5, 2013 at 7:08 am

That’s quite a list in this post!

Zig Ziglar’s got some cracking quotes. Here’s a pertinent one, from several of his in my quote file:
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

P.S. Just read your About page and thought “That looks like a gum tree behind you!” So I was intrigued to read on and find why. Now I’m intrigued to know “why Alice?” (I’m in Sydney myself.)

(BTW, I like the way you call your About page “Meet Alli”. I called one of my earliest posts “Meet the FiRST framework”, to be similarly action-oriented & engaging.)


Alli Polin May 5, 2013 at 8:19 am

Glad you stopped by here, Craig! That’s a great Zig Ziglar quote – one of my faves from him. Motivation is a choice. I’ve been known to be tempted to wait for things to happen and gee, I’ll be sitting still forever if I give into that!

Alice Springs has been quite the adventure! Sometimes, when I travel to Sydney, it feels a little bit like coming back to civilization. Alice had the opportunity so it was either choose Australia and choose Alice or walk away from a life changing adventure. Been wonderful so far!


Hoda Maalouf (@MaaHoda) May 6, 2013 at 5:25 am

Great post Alli!
I am actually rolling on different hamster wheels running concurrently.

I definitely do hope that I could break some of them and do the list you have mentioned above!



Alli Polin May 6, 2013 at 7:51 am

Hoda – I can definitely relate to what you’re saying! It can be tough to break free and focus on re-engaging the original reason you got on the wheel in the first place. I’m exhausted just thinking about two wheels at once! Hopefully you’ll find a way to break the cycle very, very soon! Life is awesome and it’s hard to enjoy it from the wheel.




Hanan December 15, 2016 at 6:11 am

Great post! Thank you for this. I have forever felt stuck but recently decided to get off the hamster wheel and do things that make me feel at peace. I am reading more, painting and travelling more than I ever wished for. 🙂


Alli Polin December 19, 2016 at 5:13 pm


Thanks for your comment! Definitely resonates with me – choosing a heart at peace changes everything, doesn’t it? Thank you for sharing your journey 🙂



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