One of the great joys of living in Canada was being invited to our friends cottage in the Muskoka’s (a beautiful lake area two hours north of Toronto) for a week in the summer. Going north for vacation in Canada may seem redundant but it really is beautiful. I knew many people whose goal was to move permanently to their cottage. The beautiful surroundings, and the restful time on long summer nights seemed the ideal way to spend the entire year. But the problem is that when you move to the cottage it is no longer the “cottage.” When the place you escape to becomes the place you live permanently then you loose the place you can escape to.
So it is with all of our diversions when they become obsessions.
When you stop enjoying golf (or any sport) as the diversion it should be and become so obsessed with it that it’s all you think about, and your day is ruined when you don’t play well – then your diversion has become an obsession. The great game that diverted you away from the daily cares of life no longer serves the function it was originally intended for when it crosses over from a diversion to an obsession. You have moved to the cottage.
Which leads me to professional sports. It was fun to follow the Orioles last summer and root for them to win. It was a great diversion – entertainment -as professional sports is meant to be. But when they lost to Kansas City (Kansas City?!) I was far more upset than I should have been and it made me think about my own tendency toward obsession. I don’t make a dime when they win. I don’t know anyone on the team. I don’t even live in Baltimore any more! But when they lost I was no longer entertained, I was upset and angry. The diversion had become an obsession. I had moved to the cottage.
France is my biggest obsession, but I have discovered that my time there is loosing it’s great diversionary function. It used to be that when I went to France I didn’t have my cell phone with me. I didn’t get internet and I didn’t receive email. I couldn’t read the newspaper or understand the TV and radio. It was a great place to get away from it all and be diverted from my life in the States. But now I have an iPhone with a French sim card, a French phone number and I can actually read at least some of the paper. And as cool as all that is, I’ve lost the great diversion that was France. My cottage has gone away!
The diversions are necessary in our lives. They give us perspective and balance. We step away, focus our minds on engaging another culture, hitting a golf ball or keeping the box score and return with our minds refreshed bringing new thinking to our work and life. They help us stay energized for what we do every day, but when they become obsessions they can be counterproductive. Obsessions take us away from the most important things in our lives and cause us to focus on the wrong things. They give us a false sense of accomplishment and take our eyes off of what we should be doing.
I’m afraid that our culture has become enamored with their obsessions. On the day that Vladimir Putin was invading Kiev most American males were more focused on the NFL draft. Think of that. A sovereign nation was being invaded and we were talking about which oversized college kids would become millionaires. Anyone else see a problem there? Our national diversion has become a national obsession.
1. What are the diversions in your life?
2. What are the obsessions in your life?
3. What benefits do you see from your diversions?
4. What downsides are there to your obsessions?
5. When you get some downtime this Holiday season, will you get the diversion your need?