We all have weaknesses and areas for improvement. Whether we want to admit it or not is another question.
I’m here to admit my obsession with professional American football. And while we are being real, now is a time to reflect on how this obsession almost ruined my business.
If you’re ready for a change (or just want to see the mental workings of a football junkie) continue reading and I’ll show you how to stop watching sports and get back to work. This article addresses the whats and hows I went through to overcome the distraction that is watching sports obsessively.
Knowing Your Enemy: a Pastime of Distraction
For years and years I’ve been borderline obsessed by professional, American football. I grew up in Minnesota, so the Minnesota Vikings are the local favorites. This happens to be a bit of a “death sentence” for football fans. No other team has been as successful as the Vikings without winning a national championship.
This means Vikings fans have the displeasure of either watching an over-hyped season turn dismal or a Cinderella season turn to sour grapes. The most recent of these sour grapes occurred in January 2016, but a litany of other heartbreaking examples stretch back decades.
It’s always the same, it seems, for Vikings fans. Up until fairly recently, I counted myself among them. My Sunday afternoons would swell and fall entirely on the results of the Vikings game.
The highs were pure elation (and fleeting) – the lows were crushing.
This went on for years until the aforementioned sour grape of 2016, which hit me very hard.
The (Embarrassing) Aftermath
When the Vikings lost that close game in the beginning of 2016 I had a difficult time processing it, not just the events of the game but also my emotions. In the following hours, I was cold and distant from my wife, I was morose, and I wasted an entire day. I wallowed in my own self pity and looked to others to pile on more destructive feelings and emotions. I let my work fall by the wayside.
I look back on that now and I’m embarrassed to even admit it. I’m ashamed to have put so much mental energy and emotion into something which has no meaningful impact on my life nor which I could control. I was letting someone else regulate my well-being.
It took a while for me to come to grips with this, and I certainly wasn’t able to while the season was in full swing. But once the season died down and the meaninglessness of pro football became apparent, I realized how little I thought of the Vikings when they weren’t on TV. More so, I really realized how little they thought of me. Why would I put the Vikings in a position of authority in my life if they didn’t do the same for me?
Moving Beyond the Obsession, Finding Focus
Instead, in that off-season, I began to experience how liberating and plain FUN it was to help neighbors, do favors for friends, read, hike, save for our global adventure and focus on home life. I could learn about my wife’s favorite movies and foods instead of who was on the injury reserve list. Or I could hear WWII stories from my elderly neighbor instead of weekly football recaps. I knew the real world was interesting, I just needed to be reminded of it.
By the time summer and then fall (when the football season begins again) was rolling around, I had a completely different feeling about the Minnesota Vikings, “my” team.
They weren’t mine at all. They were owned by some person I didn’t know and they didn’t help me pay the bills, so I chose to give them less attention.
I began viewing them as deadbeat roommates – overstayed guests who aren’t kicking in some cash to help meet rent. They were freeloaders. Not just freeloading on my mental energy, but freeloading on my emotions, physical fitness, and patience.
Overcoming Your Sports Obsession: The Results Are In
For me, the results have been, personally, monumental. I feel like I’ve kicked a destructive, abusive habit. I have a firmer grip on my emotions and much more interest in the events transpiring around me. I’m more in control of my life and the direction it’s heading. I have more say about what I let into my world and what I invest in.
This new found freedom has given me space and time to write more about what I’m interested in, talk more with friends, and create and enjoy experiences with my wife.
How to Move Beyond Obsession and Focus on Your Business
Since overcoming my obsession, I now look at football as pure fluff entertainment. I can turn on a game, any game, and appreciate it for being a highly complex, talent-driven spectacle – but I’ve no longer tethered myself to the emotional ebbing and flowing of wins and loses. Turning off the game when it doesn’t suit me is no problem and I don’t dredge the Internet for stats and highlights in the aftermath of a game.
I feel like I paid off a crushing debt, like I finally told someone the truth. I feel like a new man. Kicking the habit took a few steps.
Step 1: Want to Change
You can’t help someone who doesn’t want it. I found football very entertaining, but deep down I knew my emotions were too closely tied to it. When I started to get disgusted with the way I felt after Viking losses I finally did a compare/contrast with the value they provided.
I realized how little I gained from football and how addicting it was for me to watch. The light bulb went off and I started to make a mental shift.
Step 2: Experience a “Traumatic” Event
Luckily for me this was tanking Viking’s playoff hopes. Fans of bad sports teams have a much easier time of walking away from the fanaticism of a team. Extreme fans of good teams have a harder time. Their football team disappoints less often. I would ask them to look at their interpersonal relationships with family, friends and neighbors. Perhaps you are disappointing reasonable expectations from your loved ones.
Step 3: Put It In Perspective
Ask yourself: Was the event worth the stress and agony you experienced? If it was, then you might not be ready to make the switch. If it was not, pat yourself on the back for making the first step towards football freedom.
Step 4: Question Yourself
Ask yourself “How could my life be better if I kicked the habit? How much worse could my life be if I doubled-down on it?”
Write these answers down. Don’t be shy about exploring what really could happen if you spend the next 5 years obsessed with something you know deep down isn’t conducive to your well-being.
Step 5: Engage in Time Away from the Root of the Event
Luckily football, and many other professional sports, has an off-season. That’s the perfect time to make your escape. If you’re reading this during the regular or postseason, you have several days throughout the week to get away from the sport. Use them wisely! This is a great opportunity to work on your business! Or perhaps, go play sports yourself!
You don’t have to divorce yourself from football entirely, just spend enough time to reflect on how your time and emotions could be spent away from football.
Step 6: Invest in What Matters, Including Your Business
Put your newly found energies into the things which matter to you most. These, for me, have been “old style” activities. Start doing things like, oh I don’t know, read a book, talk to your neighbor, go for a walk, host a supper party, learn to draw, bird watch. This can be just about anything, just so long as it is invested in something you are invested in.
For you entrepreneurs out there, the time you have gained from stepping back from watching sports can now be put into your business. Don’t let your work sit on the sidelines! Spend time investing in yourself and your business goals.
Step 7: Enjoy Return on Investment!
Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far you’ve probably shed the shackles of spectator sports. You’ll have more control over your life and your emotions. Use this newly found freedom to your advantage.
Kick the Habit, Get Motivated
The “big secret” here is you need to do introspection. As with anything else in your life, ask yourself what do you value and why. Try to ask yourself a few questions and give some honest feedback – it’ll only help you in the long run.
While this exercise was for professional sports, you can use it for conflicting personal relationships, hobbies, negative thoughts, and just about anything else. Find what your obsessions are, and whether they are distracting you from what’s important. The truth will set you free!
For more stories and tips for creating an motivated mindset, visit our Business Archives.
Are you struggling with a sports obsession? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below.