There are two kinds of treadmills.
The visible kind is usually found in gyms (or perhaps the dark recesses of your home, gathering dust.)
After turning it on, you put one foot ahead of the other and walk. And walk. And walk. You can literally walk for an entire day, and yet you’ll be in the exact same place as when you started.
Seems like an enormous waste of time. Except that the more time you spend on the treadmill, the more calories you burn and the more weight you can lose.
This treadmill comes with a reward.
The invisible treadmill doesn’t. It focuses not on walking, but on possessions and accomplishments. It promises you that if you just had one more, you’d be happy. And so you begin to accumulate: A big promotion. A shiny new phone. A nicer car. A roomier home in a better neighborhood. A more exotic vacation. A more fashionable pair of shoes. A bigger stock portfolio. A more prestigious award.
This type of treadmill, in contrast with the visible kind, promises that you will actually end up in a whole new place. But sadly, no. Sure, you have more stuff, but you’re still in the exact same spot, looking for one more thing. Not much of a reward.
As Charles Handy wrote in his book, The Elephant and the Flea, “Life becomes a long-distance race you cannot afford to quit, but also one that you can never win, because there is always someone ahead, always more to get.”
The other day, I found myself pining for a new house, dissatisfied with my current – and perfectly good – home. My life with Kim, it seems, would be so much better if only we could acquire that home on the lake.
Today, I was reading an old journal entry from about ten years go. In it, I was lamenting our crappy apartment, convinced that life would be complete if only we could figure out how to become home owners.
Beware the invisible treadmill.