Speaking of balance, I wanted to write about the problem with over-obsession. Our culture is obsessed with obsession, and it’s not always healthy. I think some of us are more inclined than others to have a sort of “hyper-focus”, but this discussion is more of that. Our inner selves inspire obsession and the culture encourages it; it’s up to us to control it.
There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about brands, products, fitness, music, sports, careers, etc. Obsession in and of itself isn’t always a negative thing. The problem is when that obsession takes our attention away from other priorities and we neglect other important areas of our lives.
I’m actually bit of a gamer. As some of you may have experienced, video games seem to have a bit of an addictive quality to them. Whether it’s the appeal of the competition, the sense of adventure, or the escape from reality that they provide, it’s easy to get sucked in and to obsess. I wouldn’t say I’m addicted, but there have been plenty of times when I shouldn’t have played “one more game”, or I should have spent my time being more productive. Going from a college bachelor to husband and father working full-time, my responsibilities have certainly changed over the past few years, and my gaming habits had to follow suit. There’s nothing inherently wrong with gaming; some people find it a total waste, but I’d argue there can actually be some merit. I think Gary Vaynerchuk said it well, “Technology doesn’t change us, it exposes us.” It’s up to me to communicate with my wife and find that balance and make sure those games don’t lead me to neglect my far more important priorities like my faith, family, health, job, etc. Basically, everyone has their “guilty pleasures” or passions or forms of entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional Netflix binge, but not at the expense of your kids. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying ice cream, but an obsession puts your health at risk. It’s up to each one of us to assess our own situations to determine if we have an unhealthy obsession.
It’s important to note that just because something in our lives isn’t an “unhealthy obsession” doesn’t automatically make it good. There’s no good balance for something that’s intrinsically evil.
So besides having our personal inclinations, does our culture further promote over-obsession? By my casual assessment, it seems that when there’s such a strong focus on money, power, fame, etc. obsession is at the center. Businesses want us to be obsessed with their products. How many people are going to buy the overpriced iPhone X because they NEED it? Is it wrong to buy it? No. In some cases? It could be. What about sports? Not only does the NFL want fans to be obsessed with football, the athletes need to be obsessed with their sport to make it to the big time. If they don’t make it a top priority, someone else will and beat them out. I won’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, but it definitely makes me wonder: Is there an unjust amount of pressure on kids and even adults to have this “hyper-focus”? Again, everyone’s position is different; but kids shouldn’t feel pressure to put all their effort into one activity that makes them neglect a more important priority. Besides blistering hard work and incredible talent, maybe this is third determining factor for who “makes it big”: the ability to have that obsession. Whether or not it’s an unhealthy obsession is case by case.
The last point I want to make is a different one; it may even sound like an excuse. You may have heard the adage, “Don’t let your fear of failure keep you from [something inspirational]”, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s scary to try something new, to start on a new path, because there’s always a risk of failure. While it’s important to not let the fear of failure keep you from trying, it also shouldn’t keep you from quitting. What?! It’s one of the difficult questions we sometimes have to face in life, and there’s no universal answer. We get so focused, even obsessed, on something, and then we have to let it go. When we’ve spent time and effort, even years pursuing a goal, working on a career path, or whatever it may be, we might just have to give it up. The reasons may vary; perhaps our position in life changes, our interests or mindset changes, or the path we’re on just isn’t what we thought. When we quit, it doesn’t necessarily mean we fail; in fact, it may be the only way to succeed. If the time comes to give up a pursuit, a passion, or an obsession, we can’t let that fear or failure prevent us from changing paths for the better.
So, as the title of the series suggests, we have to find the right balance for us and our situation. Enjoy pleasures, pursue goals, be obsessed, but don’t neglect those other important priorities; and if it’s time to move on, you’re not a failure, you’re taking a difficult step towards success.