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Life Wasters We Embrace

October 2, 2010

Life Wasters We Embrace:

When I was a teenager performing well below my abilities in high school, my mother came home from work and saw me in my usual spot, watching television when I should have been doing homework. This was typical. Homework was often hard and required effort. Television was easy and absorbing, so that is how I spent far too much time.

This day however my mother said something to me that stuck. She asked, “When you finish watching TV, what do you have? Have you accomplished anything? Are you any further ahead than you were before? Have you helped yourself or anyone else in any way?” Those questions made me think.

I enjoyed watching television and still do today, especially when there is something worthwhile on. It’s an entertainment medium and way of relaxing. Yet after hearing my mother’s questions, I became acutely aware that TV was not a substitute for constructive activity. It’s a choice to be passive and unproductive, which in excess is detrimental to achieving goals or making a difference.

I also remember an observation that someone made at about same time as my mother’s comments. I do not remember who said it but it also stuck with me. He said, “Television has turned the family circle into a semicircle.” Instead of talking, interacting, and learning with each other, families watched shows together. TV became a substitute for real human engagement. And I suspect our relationships with each other became less robust and meaningful. In a sense, we were living vicariously through television.

Today, computer and video games have joined television as unproductive activities. They are sources of momentary gratification and reinforce passive behavior, which has little or no value in the real world. I think these forms of entertainment are fine when balanced appropriately with constructive and fulfilling action. It’s when they become a replacement for purposeful activity that opportunities and personal growth are forfeited. It is easy to get sucked in to these entertainment mediums. It can be an insidious process.

My mother considered excess television watching a time waster. I consider it along with electronic games as potential life wasters as well. Just imagine what could be achieved if the excess time engaged in these activities was used to create a greater good or pursue a worthy goal. And how fulfilling and meaningful that could be.

I’ve learned to walk away from the television or avoid it when there are better or more worthwhile things to do. I watch only in moderation and when there is a specific show I want to see. Even if all I do instead is go for a walk, read, ride a bike, call someone, jot down ideas, or work out. These alternatives produce outcomes that cannot be attained through passive, and sometimes solitary, electronic entertainment. These are daily choices we make that by themselves don’t matter much. However, cumulatively, that can make a huge difference in what we become and the overall impact we have in our life.

Both passive and active choices have consequences. Little choices add up and affect our lives over time, and sometimes we can only see the impact in retrospect — in terms of how close or far we are from the life we desire.

Each day, consider your choices.

Steve Weitzenkorn

Steve Weitzenkorn, Ph.D., is a learning innovator, organizational advisor, experienced facilitator, and lead author of Find-Fulfill-Flourish: Discover Your Purpose with LifePath GPS – a book, tool kit, and workshop series focused on guiding people toward more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 2, 2010 3:15 am

    Hi Steve,
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful insights about media and life. I like your mum’s question: Are you any further ahead than you were before? Have you helped yourself or anyone else in any way?” Those questions made me think too.
    Your views on daily choices resonate with mine, in that “cumulatively, that can make a huge difference in what we become and the overall impact we have in our life.” Participating in social and learning networks, sharing our perspectives and challenging our often held views and beliefs – especially on self-gratification and passive behavior. Such engagement would lead us to reflect what it means to live life more meaningfully, both individually and collectively. Choice, based on critical reflection, as you highlighted could be our lighthouse to life.
    What do you think may be the important criteria in making choices on a daily basis? To what extent will the application of transformational learning theory help us making a better decision?
    John

    • October 2, 2010 3:48 am

      John,

      What a great question you ask. I believe the criteria for making daily choices should be a reflection of one’s values, intentions and aspirations. I believe that who we are is demonstrated by our behavior and impact, not what we say we are or want to become. That’s why it’s so important to live our values even when it may be personally disadvantageous at a given moment. Our identity is a function of those choices. So the criteria, in my mind, should be based in being true to the self you want to be (or consider yourself to be) and to the person you are striving to become. Do they reflect that and move you in a positive direction, whether incrementally or in leaps? I encourage people to emulate their vision of the future for themselves and the world they wish to create in the present.

      What are your thoughts?

      Steve

  2. October 2, 2010 5:01 am

    Hi Steve,
    So true, action speaks louder than words, that’s how your views resonated with mine too. Being positive and reflective are what I aspire to, even in face of challenges in my life.
    As a Catholic, I would pray that my Faith would keep me strong and growing, and that God’s love is bestowed upon everyone He has created.

    So, living in love and peace with ourselves, our friends and relatives, our neighbors, and even the ones I meet here in the virtual space (networks) like you is one of my criteria in making choices on a daily basis.
    Thanks for your words of wisdom and the conversation. This is a gift to me.

    John

  3. October 2, 2010 7:41 pm

    hi!This was a really splendid theme!
    I come from roma, I was fortunate to search your subject in digg
    Also I get a lot in your blog really thanks very much i will come later

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