April 16, 2017

What Happened when we Took Away the Television.

Whoever said following your dreams would change your life only gave you half the story.

The other half remains. Our life does change alright. At first it goes downhill and we barely get a chance to catch our breath and take stock of the unstoppable rollercoaster we have willingly boarded. After we have been smacked about and thrown off a couple of times, the “dream cart” finally starts going uphill.

This happened to me. Let me share my story:

I am a motivational speaker and blogger based in India. I have been traveling and speaking for the last 17 years. When life finally granted me the opportunity to ditch my nine-to-five  job and start positively influencing lives with my only talents—comedy and speaking—I thought everything was set.

As it turned out, I was far from it.

It’s difficult to practice what we preach. I was telling people how not to get distracted from their goals. I had two hour sessions on goal-setting and achieving. I would talk to clients about the importance of relaxation for a fresher mind and a better tomorrow.

With all the constant traveling, new pillow every night, and no time to rest between airports—I was forgetting how to relax and reset. The lessons I gave in “right-click refresh,” I was not practising myself.

Have you ever experienced burn-out? Not being able to fall asleep even when exhaustion has hit every cell of your body?That’s burn-out. How did I combat it? The dumbest way possible—television.

Six years ago, TV was a default setting for me. I would return home or to my hotel room and promptly switch it on. I realized that TV was slowly becoming my misguided effort to calm and comfort myself.

Four out of five times, I ended up becoming more numbed than renewed. And when it wasn’t TV, it was YouTube, Netflix, or my hard disk. Some form of entertainment—just to try and relax. And why was I doing it? Habit.

I had found my dream job. I didn’t realise I would also need to drop my baggage of old habits in order to move forward.

The problem with TV is it gives us the mirage of rest. Not actual rest. When we are actually resting, we are fixing our restlessness. And that fix comes from looking back at our day, analysing our thoughts, and introspecting on the good and the bad.

When we rest, we decide on the good things that we need to carry forward into the next day, and the bad ones that we need to trash right away. I wasn’t indulging in this important exercise. I felt I was wasting my energy somewhere—I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

To be able to analyse one’s thoughts takes peace, and more importantly, silence. A peaceful natural setting, a good book, some fine stationery to mull my thoughts over are what I needed, not lame distractions. I did realize it at some point, maybe during flights, where TV wasn’t present to numb my head with far-from-reality drama.

It’s been six years since we removed the television from our home. It’s unbelievable what this small, but seemingly difficult step, did for us.

These four things happened:

1. My son became a very good reader. He reads almost one book per day during vacations. He has memorized more than 1500 difficult English words at the age of 11. It would have been difficult for him to achieve this had we given the idiot box the responsibility of his upbringing.

2. We sleep early, sleep more, and sleep peacefully. We wake up feeling lighter—refreshed.

3. I meditate twice a day. During meditation I don’t have to handle or process what I “last saw on TV.”

4. We play together more. Ludo, cards, carrom-board, and our own cute games. We discuss, analyse things, and talk more. We eat well. We bond. We have created the space and chance to enhance bonding.

Board games and bonding renew me far better than television ever could.

Relatives and friends still try to give me advice: “Akash. You are boring. How do you chill out? TV is important.” They are right…from their perspective. They haven’t seen the world through my eyes.

Yes, news is important. But I believe that 90 percent of the news we see, we don’t need to see. The remaining 10 percent is required but not in the intensity, or with the rhetoric, with which it is presented.

So I trust the vanilla newspapers (next day newspaper) and news apps on my mobile phone. Yes my son resorts to Hotstar—similar to Netflix—for the few final overs of his favorite cricket match.

Nothing is right or wrong. Our decisions about how we want to live our life are entirely personal to us. The idea is to not let any of those temptations around get to us, in a detrimental way. The idea is not to form hardened habits that take us nowhere—or worse, take us away from our goals.

I always tell my audiences:

“Whatever is not taking you toward your goals is taking you away from them.”

I guess I took my own time realizing what was taking me away from my goals—my own misguided efforts to rest. The decision to have the idiot box removed from my mantelpiece is working wonders for my mental health.

My sincere wish is that we all find the courage to let go off things that make us feel nice and cozy—but aren’t moving us forward.


Author: Akash Gautam

Image: Brando.n/Flickr

Editor: Lieselle Davidson

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