On the Treadmill of Life

The curious thing about man is that he is always seeking something. He may seek one thing today and another thing tomorrow but he is constantly seeking. The objective of the seeking is always to move from a state of discomfort and dissatisfaction to a state of comfort and satisfaction.

Man is never satisfied with what is – the current experience. As man observes his surroundings and assesses his present situation, in itself and in comparison with others, sooner or later, he starts to experience discomfort and dissatisfaction. Not liking this experience he starts to seek out a state of comfort and satisfaction.

And on this path, he inevitably gets on the treadmill of life which runs with 3 controls – Quantity, Quality and Variety. These are the only three buttons on the treadmill. At any given moment, man perceives that his satisfaction is going to be derived from pushing one of these three buttons.


At one point, he might think that he needs a higher quantity of something in order to be satisfied. At another time, he might think that he needs a better quality of something in order to be comfortable. And yet at another time, he will seek out a different variety of something to attain satisfaction. A little more sometimes, something different at another time or something better the next time. This is how man runs on the treadmill of life. He keeps running, yet never arrives at his desired destination.

If you look around you, almost every man is on his personal treadmill. And this permeates all his life, in whatever he may be doing.

Consider money – a thing that no man is ever satisfied with how much he has. So he will usually run after more money. When that fails, he will try to invest in different types of money such as Gold or Bitcoins. He will also try to invest in money instruments which promise better ROI – mutual funds, share markets and other financial tikdams.

When it comes to dissatisfaction with his house, a man may try to move into a bigger house or furnish his existing house to give a premium feel or he might just move from one type of house to another – maybe from an apartment to an independent bungalow.

Relationships are always a big source of discomfort, so a man might want to improve the quality of his existing relationship by spending quality time with his partner. Some men might want to associate with multiple partners as that gives them satisfaction while others might want a different partner in their life.

When bored of eating the same dal and rice every day, a man might want to eat a different delicacy to satisfy his appetite. At other times, he might want to simply go on an eating binge to satisfy his desire. Some might want a better quality of rice and dal to feel satisfied.

Same is true of experiences – people choose the place of vacation depending on what they think will satisfy them – more time at the same place, or a more luxurious experience of staying or going off to a new place altogether.

Consider knowledge – some people want more knowledge to feel good, some people want more insights about their knowledge while some people want to acquire knowledge of a variety of subjects to feel good.

People live their life on the treadmill – choice of clothes to buy, choice of movies to watch, choice of a health and fitness program, choice of a company to work for and so on.

Even with organizations, the direction of effort is always determined by one of the 3 buttons. At one time, the organization may want more – more revenue, more profits, more headcount. At other times, it may want better quality – better manpower, better customers, better work-life balance. While at other times, it may look for a different outcome – different business lines, different country to work in, a different CEO and so on.

As the treadmill moves, on one day, quantity will determine our satisfaction, on another day, quality will determine our comfort and yet on another day, variety will decide our level of satisfaction.

As one becomes comfortable with a certain quantity or quality or variety, it becomes a threshold below which there is discomfort. Therefore, man is constantly on the treadmill to seek out more, better or different and pushing his threshold of comfort farther and farther. Eventually, the law of diminishing returns kicks in and man has to expend more effort, time and money to derive the same incremental satisfaction.

Some people are able to observe this circus and want to step off the treadmill. They are attracted to spirituality and meditation as a means of achieving ultimate satisfaction and comfort. But this is a booby trap. People still remain on the treadmill except now they want to do more meditation and yoga, or improve the quality of their concentration or simply try following a variety of spiritual practices. People do not realize that they are still on the same treadmill.

The true escape from this treadmill and the true gateway to satisfaction and comfort is awareness of current experience. Simple bare awareness of the current experience.

Awareness is awareness. There is nothing like more quantity of awareness or a better quality of awareness or a different variety of awareness. And therefore when you are aware, you are not on the treadmill.

With awareness, there comes about a radical change in our perception of things. What seemed desirable and worth striving for no longer seems to be so. Many people are afraid of this state thinking that it will take all the life force and the motivation to perform, away from them. It is not so. People do not realize that it is the treadmill which is making them run and that they are not free to go anywhere else. With awareness, man can be truly free, not bound to the treadmill, not allowing quality, quantity or variety to determine his satisfaction and comfort.

Then, looking at his surroundings with awareness, man experiences comfort and satisfaction in the current situation itself. He has the freedom to create something new, not simply more, better or different.

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