Always Going Never Arriving?

Do you find yourself constantly rushing from one task to the next? Do you feel like the poor hamster who is unable to stop running but never really gets anywhere? How many of your good intentions have died before you ever saw any results? 

A woman living unconsciously, surrounded by chaos and Think about everything you want.  

Do you want a healthy body, a calm, collected mind, or present time spent with your family? Maybe you crave peaceful moments doing activities or hobbies you love. Perhaps you have set goals around education. Goals like learning music, learning a new sport, or learning a skill.

The above are basic needs that should be part of every human’s experience. We are here on Earth to love, learn and grow. Unfortunately, it often feels like we are here to work, shop, marathon binge-watch Netflix and keep Jeff Bezos in rocket fuel.

When we look back on life, we will not feel satisfied if we see that we were trapped in a cycle of mindless consumption, broken goals, and failed intentions.

So what’s keeping us from living our ideal life? 

When I close my eyes and think of my perfect life, I imagine expansive time and peace. I am unhurriedly working on my projects. I have plenty of time to do yoga, run and play with my kiddos. I don’t imagine scrolling for four hours on TikTok (I love TikTok, so I’m not bashing it – but man, it can take your entire life if you’re not careful!)

So what keeps us in a state of hyper-attention? Why are we in a state of constant activity and motion but never reach our destination? What keeps us unconsciously running from task to task? Why do we rarely do the things we know we are on this planet to do?

This perpetual state of unconscious living is more than just a societal expectation—it’s a well-crafted strategy by big corporations.

Instincts Hijacked by Technology

We must delve into human instinct’s depths to understand why we are so susceptible to the ploys used to play our instincts against us. Think about it. Our ancestors survived and thrived by being alert. They had to be vigilant and aware of the threats and opportunities to ensure they weren’t a saber-tooth tiger snack. This instinct is still an intrinsic part of our modern makeup.

Nowadays, however, technology has given corporations a never-ending door into your brain. With smartphones, televisions, billboards, labels, packaging, and shiny flashing lights, they can capitalize on your primitive instinct, keeping you in a constant state of alertness. Their marketing strategies bombard us with stimuli, creating a perceived threat of missing out or the potential for gaining something. An instinct that once kept us alive now threatens to drown us in overwhelm. Constant bombardment works. Our wiring kicks in and leads us to make the purchase, eat the junk, or spend three hours watching TV. Sometimes all three at the same time. This, of course, is precisely what big corporations want. 

The Dopamine Effect

Another ancient survival mechanism being played against us is dopamine. Our modern world, saturated with immediate gratification, significantly impacts our neural reward system. When we buy something, our brain releases dopamine, creating temporary happiness and satisfaction. Corporations take advantage of this by creating advertising campaigns that prompt these dopamine hits, keeping us in a cycle of buy-consume-repeat. 

A woman sitting in piles of dopamine inducing junk food, scrolling o n her phone looking anxious.

Dr. Anna Lembke’s book, Dopamine Nation, provides an excellent deep dive into this dilemma. I highly recommend it if you want to understand just how dire the situation has become. 

As a side note, have you ever wondered why you always eat junk despite starting every morning swearing today you will stick to salads? You are not at fault. Billions of dollars are spent ensuring food products, once purchased, play against your natural wiring. The brain has natural mechanisms for telling us when we are satisfied. That works with nature’s foods. But, companies spend billions to ensure those your favorite snacks are just fat, salty, or sweet enough to trigger pleasure, but insufficient to trigger satiety. Read that again. They purposefully design junk food to override your natural ability to tell when you are full. Then they blame you for not “eating less and moving more.” 

In his excellent (if not discouraging) book, Fat Sugar Salt, How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Micheal Moss talks about this “Bliss Point” and the tremendous amount of money spent to ensure every easy, fast product on the market meets this criterion. 

So good you can’t have just one? Our waistlines are telling us we shouldn’t have any, but our instincts have us shoving our favorites in our mouths and surpassing the “recommended serving size” (what a joke) many times over.

The Consumer Culture: A Boon for Corporations

The unconscious consumer behavior mentioned earlier is a significant driving force in our economy. By encouraging the culture of ‘more is better,’ corporations benefit immensely. Every ad, every promotion, and every new product launched is a carefully strategized move to make us buy more, even when we don’t need it. It’s not just about physical products; this extends to digital services and online content consumption.

The Attention Economy

Buts it’s not just food and product purchasing that plays into this consumer. Corporations are vying for one crucial resource—your attention. Every minute you spend on your phone scrolling through social media, watching ads, or using a product contributes to their bottom line. They want you distracted, engrossed, and, most importantly, unconscious of the time you’re spending on their platforms.

Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, famously said, “Our minds are being hijacked.” His Ted Talk on attention economy is worth watching!

One little exercise I like to do to make sure my phone time is contributing to my life rather than stealing my precious moments to line the pockets of Big Tech is to ask myself these two questions. When I pick up my phone, I ask, “What am I doing, and how will it benefit me” When I set down my phone, I as, “What did I learn, or did this activity bring me closer to my goals?

Even if my goal is “veg out and waste an hour” that’s ok, as long as I am conscious that is what is happening. Because too often, I’ve found myself opening TikTok or Instagram to just clear notifications and then realizing two hours have slipped into the ether. Often I can’t even remember more than maybe one of the 500 videos I just consumed.

Breaking Free From the Matrix

A woman depicted breaking free of unconscious living or the matrix, colors bursting around her and a joyous smile on her face.

Unconscious living benefits corporations, not you. It steals your true potential for growth, joy, and personal evolution. 

The key to breaking free from this matrix is conscious living—being aware of your actions, consumption patterns, and the time and energy you’re giving away. 

Take the time every evening to consider where you spent your energy and time. Are you satisfied with the results?

If you “need to veg,” take time to notice if your chosen activity is leaving you relaxed and feeling better or if you feel even more tense than when you started. Evaluate if your digital consumption habits serve you or are merely distractions. Question the marketing messages you’re inundated with every day. And most importantly, make conscious living your urgent priority.

The deck may seem stacked against us, but remember—knowledge is power. Awareness of the matrix is the first step toward dismantling it. We can redirect our lives towards genuine growth and happiness with conscious choices and mindful living. 

After all, as Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”