Important Lessons for the New Year, Via Football
I tend to think of myself as a fairly introspective person—heck, my navel-gazing is known to reach epic proportions—but the problem with always feeling many feelings and then examining those feelings in depth is that, well, it’s not actually LIFE. Life is the stuff that happens all around you and to you and the stuff you DO. The way you feel about it is important, sure, but it’s not life itself.
This epiphany is brought to you by potato chips and onion dip. More specifically, it’s something that occurred to me as I sat on my couch on New Year’s day, watching football, and stuffing my face with Appropriate Football Food. The end of 2012 had completely wiped me out. Dragging chips through the dip bowl and then lifting them to my mouth felt like all the activity I could handle. After a full year of tragedies and crises and challenges and deaths, we capped it all off with an emotional week-and-a-half of family members reuniting and trying to find our footing with each other all over again.
I was completely spent.
It was in my exhausted state that conventional wisdom suggests I should do any or all of the following: Find my passion, start over, set a goal, exercise more, eat less, be more disciplined, be more spontaneous, and generally morph into a better, stronger, more ideal version of my former self. January 1st is a lot of pressure. What if all I really wanted was a nap? And some chips? And for my home team to win?
Make no mistake; I do set goals for the new year. I enjoy the notion that it’s a clean slate, and I want a fresh start as much as anyone. I’ve even had years where January 1st was met with Serious Resolutions and I made Big Changes as a result. It’s not that the date is magic, but sometimes something external (like flipping the calendar over) can help to be a motivator. Fine.
This year, everything felt trite. Sure, I’d love to lose a few pounds. Yes, I need more exercise. Of course, I want to be kinder and more generous—don’t we all? My heart wasn’t in it, this notion of seeing the first of the year as a fresh new life start.
But as I sat there watching football, I realized that all the things that make sense to me were right there on the screen. Maybe they’re not huge epiphanies or things that will cause me to make drastic changes in my life, but they’re lessons that I think are worth noting.
1) The game’s the thing. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but the way you play it matters. This is true beyond football.
2) When heading towards your goals, you might get hurt. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Risk is inherent in reward.
3) Protect yourself appropriately. Know that you might get hurt, anyway. Those guys wear helmets and pads to play, because they’d be fools not to. And they still get hurt sometimes. And they keep playing, anyway.
4) You get multiple chances to get it right. And even after you’re “out” of chances, eventually it’s your turn again. I think I tend to forget this. Can you imagine a football game if everyone played for that first down like it was the only chance they’d ever have? It’d be super exciting, at first, but eventually everyone on the field would have a nervous breakdown. You do your best. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it’s not enough. Your turn comes around again, either way.
5) Things change, and you only get to control some of them. More than anything else, this past year taught me an (unwelcome) ton about acceptance. Do you suppose the quarterback who went out when his team was ahead comes back on the field after the other team has scored, fuming about how the defensive players didn’t do their job and now his job is harder because there’s more pressure on him? I doubt it. He can’t control the other players, especially when he’s not even on the field. All he can do is play his best. What happened before he got there is over and done and has nothing to do with what he needs to do now.
Too simplistic? Slightly stained with onion dip? Maybe. But I say you can learn a lot from watching a bunch of guys tackle each other, if you’re really looking. And then you find yourself thinking about all the stuff you know you know, but you’re still struggling to KNOW know. You know?
Do you have any wisdom to share as we head into 2013? What’s the simplest thing you want to remember this year that sometimes eludes you?
(For More Mir In Your New Year Go Here.)