12 September 2016

Making Decisions

There's no football for me this year. All my life I've watched a lot of football games in the fall, but this year I won't be doing so. It's not because of anything in particular, just a result of the growing commercial nature of the professional and college levels, paired with the lack of high expectations of the players in both areas. Football has become a completely commercialized endeavor that has lost the fun, in my eyes, as it's embraced money and exposure. Rules tend to be enforced on a selective basis, and often it's hard to understand just how one player can be penalized harshly for something that another player received no penalty for at all. And on a societal level, the players are still being idolized, to a greater extent now than they ever were when I was growing up. The full explanation of why I'm not watching would probably take pages, so I won't go into all the details; this season, though, I won't be watching any football.

When all is said and done, it won't be a big loss--I've always been a casual observer at best. I don't have any real favorite teams, I rarely really cared who won or lost, and I couldn't name more than two or three players on any given team. So it's not like I'm giving up an addiction that controlled my life.

But what does that have to do with living my life fully? It's simple--over the past few seasons, I've been feeling a growing sense of discomfort as I've watched games. I've been feeling that I've been spending too much time watching something that hasn't contributed any true meaning to my life, and during that time I've been neglecting things that really do add meaning. And when I added in my discomfort with the extreme commercialization of the sport, I was experiencing a growing sense of cognitive dissonance as I watched the games. I simply started to feel that I was wasting time that would be much better spent doing other things that involved people who are actually a part of my life rather than focusing my attention on a large group of people whom I will never even meet, much less who will ever be a part of my life.

This is a choice that isn't for everyone. There are those who like the games and who don't mind the inequities that they see--after all, they give them a chance to argue with others about penalties and such. There are those who don't mind the way that we're teaching our young people to idolize athletes. And there are those who simply enjoy watching the games--which used to be me. Now that I've made the decision, I feel a sense of relief and a sense of freedom that I didn't feel before when the season rolled around each September. I know that my autumn now is going to be filled with time with friends, time spent with kids, time spent relaxing, time spent working, but not time spent watching games and getting frustrated with the whole drama.

For me, right here and right now, at this point in my life, this is the right decision to make--I feel it very strongly. And I'm looking forward to carrying out that decision and focusing on things that are truly important, like relationships and learning and paying attention to my here and now, and not a three-hour game that truly has absolutely no effect on any aspect of my life.

02 September 2016

I Believe

Your basic energy signature is the sum of all your thoughts and beliefs.  You define your personality, physical attributes, and behavior.  You are the only one who can create or change your thoughts and your beliefs.  And your beliefs create what you experience as life.    -Bruce I. Doyle III
We've been talking in one of our classes about beliefs--how we develop them, why we defend them, what they mean to us. With first-year college students, their beliefs are still very strong because the students are at an age at which they feel that they're right about most things, but they're also very fragile because the students are constantly being exposed to new ideas, concepts, and information. It's fascinating and rewarding to be able to work with people of this age, and even more so when we're able to explore topics such as beliefs, in which they're extremely interested.

One of the things that we discuss is whether or not it's possible to live life without beliefs. Personally, I'm pretty sure that the fewer beliefs that I have, the more smooth and enjoyable my life is. I've found over the years that my beliefs always limit me and never open up my mind or heart. They limit my actions, they limit my reactions, and they cause me to judge and to reject and to accept. They help me to form biases, and they force me to reject new information because it may conflict with what I "believe."

One of the saddest things that I've noticed is that as I've changed my beliefs, I've recognized the things that I've rejected in the past that I would accept now, based on my new beliefs. That's why I want them out of my life--I can't trust them. If my belief causes me to treat another person or group of people in ways that are less than loving and compassionate, then those beliefs are damaging to me, not helpful, for the way that I treat others because of the beliefs is not the way that I want to be treating others.

Can I let go of all my beliefs? It sounds like a daunting task that has little chance of success, when all is said and done. But can it be done? I believe so. But it's going to take a lot of self-examination, day after day, of my motivations for doing things--am I saying this because I really feel it at the moment, or am I saying it as a result of a certain belief? Did I say I don't want to get together with that person because I really can't or don't want to, or because that person challenges a particular belief of mine? And as I examine and identify more beliefs, perhaps one day I'll be able to free myself of them and see the world with unsullied eyes--eyes that accept the world with wonder and passion rather than eyes that judge and categorize based on a belief that may or may not be valid.