If we were to imagine life as sport, then when we’re young we don’t do much more than just learn to keep our balance, and to get our body to do what we want it to, when we want it to.
After we’ve got general control over ourselves, we begin to develop a sense of how our sport works. We learn to walk and to talk, etc. After that, we go through childhood and through puberty where we learn all of our sport’s rules and traditions, etc..
By the time we’re a teen we’re pretty much only focused on scoring. And in various ways, that’s what we’ll do for the rest of our life. We’ll try to score bigger jobs. Or more money. Or more status, or power. But it will all feel like the same striving –unless we become conscious.
Before we’re conscious most of us will spend our lives complaining about other people, as though them being themselves and living their life is done as an affront to us personally.
But think about this philosophically: life is this great opportunity to play. But it’s not like we can set up our own game. We need all of the other players. For our lives to even exist, we need the human and natural opponents that we fight against.
Considering the necessity of those natural competitors, there is no use in wasting energy complaining about the inevitable. Not when we can invest that energy in being grateful that the game even exists.
Life emerges because we have been fortune enough to be invited to have experiences of any kind at all —through no conscious choice of our own. Our consciousness just showed up one day with the opportunity to play the game of life. The question is, what kind of game are you going to choose to play?
First off, to be physically fit is a key factor for long term success in any sport. So it’s important that we eat well, sleep well, and that we stay in shape and look after our health.
It’s important to note, we should not do those things because they’re good for us. We should be motivated to do them because they actually feel good to do because they are signs that we respect ourselves.
It’s not hard for life to feel good. It’s just that we’re usually ignoring its joys in favour of telling ourselves a story about how it’s terrible it is that we have to exercise and have opponents in life.
The best runners in the world—the Tarahumara Indians—believe people should run at the a speed they can converse at. So instead of living a life where we spend it engaged with a whining internal monologue, we can go run with a friend and turn our talk sessions into walk and run sessions where we talk about something that helps us feel better than we do.
Once we can manage our own consicousness and we can use our life’s energy to contribute to our own success, and the success of those around us, then we’re ready to be a part of a team. Because like it or not, life is a team sport.
The game of life will feature players who’ve played in your position and so they can relate better to the challenges you face. And there will be other players who will see the play very differently.
If we’re a conservative, concerned defenceman, we’re watching for threats. Meanwhile, our capable teammate may be someone optimistic, enthusiastic and aggressive about finding and exploiting opportunities.
Due to those different roles in life, we will find differences in what we might think is the right thing to do in a given situation. This is not a conflict between the people, as it can appear to be. It is only a conflict between the perspectives. It’s important to remember this in order to be able to appreciate and maintain good, helpful relations with our teammates.
Once we’ve committed to being dedicated to putting the team’s goals ahead of our own, we are philosophically ready to play. Presuming we’re also physically ready, the next question is what style of play will we employ in life?
We can play by the rules or we can cheat. And how far will we go in cheating if we do cheat? And does this line in the sand move if we’re losing in an important game, or is it absolute? And what if it’s our own player’s infraction? Are we as anal about following the rules then?
Those sorts of decisions will define the character of our play. When people think about our game overall, this is what they will generally use as our identity: our character.
The reason our character is important is because next we’ll be discussing how we face challenges. Sport is a competition. So we will have egos as opponents who will actually put effort into trying to screw us up.
We can scream at them, appeal to the referee, or any other thing we want. But as painful as they may be, without the opponents there is no game. So we can do like a Buddhist and accept that, or we can spend our lives complaining about the fact that challenges –human or natural– are inextricably tied to the concept of playing a team sport.
Without another team, our team is just a bunch of people milling around in similar clothes. So our character is made up of how we play. And we maximize our play when we cease to argue with the fact that we need opponents in order to have any game at all.
As I noted at the beginning, it’s easy to get caught up trying to get laid, or get rich, or get married, or get pregnant, or get whatever. But we don’t win at the game of life by scoring more than the other team.
We don’t win by having more points. Because the goals are non-transferable. It’s not like when we die some dude with a clipboard greets you and says, “Ah, I see you earned a lot of money in your life. Well because of all of your effort in that lifetime, we’re going to let you be a well fed house cat this time.”
No. Our status and our accomplishments and our money don’t mean anything once our time is up. When we eventually realize that fact, in a profound way, our game suddenly shifts into pro mode.
We’re playing the most seriously when we realize that our game can end at any time. We’re playing seriously when we realize we can’t take our prizes and achievements with us.
We’re playing most seriously when you realize that you can enjoy trying to win the game, but there’s no way to actually win at life. There is only the playing itself. Which leaves us with the paradox that states, the most serious players are those that play for fun.
Now, even if you’re at work, go out and find ways to make it play.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.