If you’ve spent any time with me then you know I’m not a fan of watching sports. It’s not that I inherently dislike sports. In fact, I enjoy playing almost any sport. It’s the, “sitting on my couch and watching other people play,” part I have a problem with. I want to explain why exactly that is, and in so doing hopefully provide some insights on improving any aspect of your life that you’re currently struggling with.
It happens every Fall in Ann Arbor after a Michigan loss, post after post on social media of people professing their extreme sadness and disappointment in the game, the players, the officials, [insert reason for losing here]. After seeing this so many times it occurred to me:
There are thousands of people who are going to have a bad day, some even a bad week, because of the outcome of an arbitrary event that is completely out of their control.
Think about that for a moment.
It’s like saying you are going to have a bad day today because I chose to have oatmeal for breakfast instead of eggs. It shouldn’t surprise you because I have oatmeal most mornings (the clear favorite). Also, The consequences of either choice affect you in absolutely zero physical capacity, and your preference one way or the other had no influence on my decision.
I don’t mean to dwindle your potential love of sports into deciding what to have for breakfast, as it plays a very real role in the human psyche. (I have a lot of clients and friends who are passionate Michigan fans and may forever hate me after this article.)
This is why sports are so popular: they allow spectators to feel part of something bigger than themselves—to feel part of the team. This is most evident when you hear a sports fan talk about “their” team. You will often hear phrases like, “I can’t believe we lost last night,” or, “We’re going to make it to the playoffs this year.”
These fans aren’t actually on the team, but they feel part of the team as a vocal supporter and good juju wisher. As a result of this affiliation, when their team loses these fans feel the sting of the loss.
Here’s the problem. Players on the team have real control over the outcome, spectators do not. So why let something you have zero influence over dictate your mood to such a large extent?
Understanding The “Player Vs. Spectator” Effect
Spectator: No control, reactive attitude, constantly solving problems after they happen, hoping they win in life but without any real input.
Player: Power to affect the outcome, proactive attitude, physically acting to further their goals based on a plan or strategy.
If you go through life as a spectator, you are giving up control and the ability to improve your life. You might be overweight and unhappy, but you don’t think you can do much to change it. You might be unhappy with your current position at work, but you don’t think there’s anything you can do about it–so you deal with it and just go through the motions. You might even wish you had someone else’s life, but things like that simply “don’t happen to people like you.”
If this describes you then you are living your life in spectator-mode, watching your life pass you by without any real input. You are letting life happen to you. I want to switch you out of spectator-mode and into player-mode.
Players understand the outcome of the game (your life) is determined by the choices they make.
If you are overweight and unhappy, as a player you will make a game plan, practice until you are good enough to succeed, and then play for the championship.
If you are unhappy at work, you understand that you have the power to alter your circumstances.
If you are unhappy with your health, you do something about it. It’s your life, ultimately determined by your choices. So you do something about it.
These decisions, these changes, and this amount of power over your life takes effort and hard work. That is what separates players and spectators:
Players are willing to put in the practice to have some control over the game, while spectators just want to be part of the win.
So I urge you, if you are unhappy with any part of your life as it is today or the path you might be on, be honest with yourself. Are you a player in your life, or merely a spectator watching it pass you by?
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