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Feel Trapped On The Work Treadmill?
Unwind. Be In The Moment. Here's How ...

By Paul Strikwerda

Voice Actor

Do you know the First Law of Ecology?

Everything's connected to everything else.

As I was leaving the gym recently, I had to think about the connection between the world of weights and treadmills inside, and the world outside. 

To me, there isn't much of a difference. It's all about sweat, commitment and endurance. Every time I leave the fitness center, I feel lighter, stronger and more alive. 

Working out is working out for me! Some of my colleagues aren't feeling it. Even though they don't exercise, they sound like they're trapped on a treadmill carrying a heavy weight on their shoulders. 


No matter what happens, they feel they have to keep on running the rat race. These are people who live in constant fear that's manifesting itself in many ways:
  • They won't leave home without a mobile device.
  • They might text or check email while driving.
  • Some will tell you they can't afford to take a break.
  • Others will take their home office or studio with them on the road or on vacation. 
Why? Well, you never know, you know. Going to that remote B&B for some R&R might cost you clients. And once they're gone, they'll never come back, and that's a fact. 


Don't build your career on fear. Build a career on balance. Even God rested on the seventh day, so why would it be unwise to unwind and leave your work behind? 

Do you have boundary issues, perhaps? When it comes to vacation, I don't compromise. It's not a luxury. It's a necessity. 

That's why I unplug. And every time I go to the gym, it feels like a mini-vacation. While I exercise, I completely disconnect from the rest of the world. I'm not thinking about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. Those are mind games anyway. 


I do everything I can to leave my troubles and triumphs at the door and be in the moment. You should try it. I dare you. It's wonderful. It's therapeutic. 

Psychologists call being in the moment an "associated state" as opposed to a "dissociated state." Being associated means being absorbed by and immersed in the present. It's a state of deep and often joyous focus.  

Hungarian psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, describes it as the merging of action and awareness while we narrow our field of attention. 

In this state of mind, something funny happens. Our sense of time is completely distorted. Some people will even tell you that time stands still. 


Being dissociated is the opposite. Instead of being in the moment, dissociated people distance themselves from it.
  • They're not in the experience.
  • They are observers instead of partakers.
  • Their distracted minds drift to what has been or what may be.
  • They are not emotionally involved in whatever is happening.
When we're in this state, we hear someone speak but we don’t really listen to what's being said. Someone's touching us lovingly while our mind takes us to tomorrow's business meeting. 

"Not now," says the mother to her attention-seeking child as she stares at her smartphone. It's hard to focus and enjoy what we're doing when we're dissociated. 

When the appetizer is served, we think about the main course. When we're eating our entré, we wonder about what's on the dessert tray.

And time is always ticking. 


Of course, no one is completely associated or dissociated in every situation all the time. Being associated is not necessarily better either. It depends on the context. Sometimes it is beneficial to be an uninvolved, unmoved observer. 

In order to analyze a situation, it can be necessary to set feelings aside. Emergency room doctors have to distance themselves from the emotional turmoil in order to do what they need to do. A funeral director can't be overcome by grief every time he lays someone to rest. 

A therapist can't be a patient's best friend in order to be effective. A war photographer uses the lens of his camera to deal with the horrors of the battlefield. 

At other times, it is essential to be associated.
  • Athletes need to destroy distraction in order to run the race.
  • Musicians become one with their instrument during a thrilling performance.
  • Actors merge with their character as they experience and act out a whole range of emotions. 

No matter how much we might love our work, I happen to believe that it is healthy to step away and dissociate ourselves from our professional activities if we wish to lead a balanced life. 

Clients come and go, but family and friends will always be there and they deserve our full attention. Otherwise you might end up like Steve Jobs. One of the reasons he asked Walter Isaacson to write his biography was, Isaacson wrote in Time magazine, "I wanted my kids to know me."

You might be a brilliant individual, but to me that's a rather sad statement, don't you think?

"Do you want to know what your father was like? Why don't you read the book? I heard it was so good, they're going to turn it into a movie!" 

That's no way to go, so here's what I suggest you do. 


Spend time with the people you love, and when you do, be in the moment. Give them your full attention. Look them in the eye. Truly listen. Hug them (if that's your kind of thing). 

Tell them how much you appreciate them. Resist the temptation to take out that iPhone and check messages every single hour of the day. Believe me, life will go on. 

Get away from your familiar environment. If you stay home, you'll be back at your computer before you know it. Distance creates distance. 


And don't just do it for others. Do it for yourself. If you don't take care of this house you live in you call your body, one day it will push the alarm button and make you pay attention. When that happens, it usually ain't pretty. 

And since this is the only house you have, you better take good care of it. That's one of the reasons I work out. 

Take time to recharge your batteries and inspire others. Distance yourself from work and get closer to nature and to those who are dear to you. 

Don't tell me: "I'll start tomorrow." You know how that goes. Every day is yesterday's tomorrow. Today is just perfect! 

Create new memories and associations. When you start to make heartfelt changes in one area of your life, things in other areas will begin to change as well. That's just the way it works.

Whether you realize it or not, everything's connected to everything else. 
Paul Strikwerda is a 25-year veteran of the voice over industry whose Nethervoice service features German and Dutch voice overs, translation and evaluation services. Born in Holland, he has worked for Dutch national and international radio, the BBC and American Public Radio. Although 90% of his work is in English, Strikwerda also records in Dutch, German and French. Clients include Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, and the Discovery Channel. He also publishes an informative and entertaining blog, Double Dutch.

Double Dutch Blog:

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Comments (4)
Ken Budka
9/4/2012 at 12:39 PM
Thank you, Paul. Your words truly resonate with me.
Maxine Lennon
9/4/2012 at 9:18 AM
Love what you're saying - timely reminder...
9/4/2012 at 2:00 AM
I'm grateful to you, Paul, for being so generous with your wisdom and expertise. I love how you always get to the "heart" of the matter, pulling no punches. This one hits home.

This past Labor Day weekend, I took a trip to visit friends in the local mountains and couldn't log onto my email from their home computer; try as I might, it didn't happen. The result? I had a great 4 days off. Yes, I had my cell phone (not a smart phone) and the world was still to get in touch with me, but for the most part, I was "away from the office" and I survived, although that wasn't my first thought when "reality" hit.

Having passed the 4 day test, I look forward, albeit with some trepidation, to being 3 weeks "away" while out of the country entirely. I just might have to make a copy of your article to take with me to meditate upon, and just breathe. Ever a work in progress.

Thank you!
Pearl Hewitt
9/4/2012 at 1:35 AM
Paul you couldn't have written truer words! I love this article. Thank you for sharing your wise and wonderful thoughts with us.

Hugs are definitely my thing and I'm sending one to you :)
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