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The fun of playing, or the goal of victory?
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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Questioner: Pranam Acharya Ji, as you suggested, I have started stepping out of my house and I have admitted my son in a nearby school. I noticed that the teachers are harsh with the students, and I’m worried that my son would be forced to learn instead of being allowed to learn at his own pace. But I also know that there are not many schools that provide a healthy environment to children. How should I look at this situation? I have also noticed that I’m scared to take decisions on my own, thinking that they might lead to bad results. I have too many expectations, it seems. I feel like justifying my expectations most of the time, and I am unable to drop them. Can you please help me understand this better?

Acharya Prashant: Congratulations, you have started stepping out of the house. Now see what you do when you step out of the house. The work, the actions have to be creative, constructive. What you do when you’re out of the house must bring clarity to you, boldness to you, and wellness to the entire world. It’s not merely a personal thing.

So, just as it is important to be exposed to experiences, be exposed to the happenings in the world so that you know the fact of living, so that you know what this beast called the world is, equally it is important to know that when you step out of the house, you are impacting the world in some sense. Be conscious of the impact that you’re having. Gain in health, and bring health to the world.

And you have admitted your son to a nearby school and the teachers are harsh with the students. It’s a little too early to say. Be watchful, see what is really happening in the school, speak a lot to your son, speak to the teachers. Let the teachers be fully apprised of the special situation of your son. And then, let’s see how it pans out from there. Don’t judge too quickly. Give the whole experiment a fair chance. Make sure that you are talking a lot to the teachers.

Any number of hours spent by you in your kid’s school would not be too much. So if every other day you were spending a couple of hours in that school, that’s what is needed. Obviously, you do not need to do that the entire academic year. Once you see that things are harmonious and stabilized, you can step off a little. But don’t be in a hurry to judge the experiment.

(Reading question) “I also noticed that I’m scared to take any decisions on my own and I have expectations and I’m unable to drop them.”

You do not take decisions because you expect yourself to be correct most of the time, as you say. And you do not want to be proven wrong. But to not to take decisions in the fear that they might turn out to be wrong, is in itself quite a bad decision. One fears that something wrong, something bad might result from one’s decision and if this fear is very overpowering, is it already not a very bad thing to happen? If the results of your decisions are to be bad, then refraining from deciding at all is even worse.

So it’s okay. It’s okay to be punched and defeated and knocked down a few times. But play you must. You’re lucky you have supportive people around you. Who is expecting so much from you? And who are you to expect so much from yourself? If you expect so much from yourself, is that not a bloated ego?

You are saying “Oh, I am capable of so much. I expect that I would be hitting the jackpot every time.” And parallelly you are afraid that you won’t be performing well. Do you see this dissonance? On one hand, you expect a lot from yourself. On the other hand, you are afraid that you won’t be able to live up to the image you have of yourself. So the image is false. The image is ego and pride. There is pleasure in sustaining that image. But there is much deeper fun in playing the game.

There is pleasure in according to oneself the image of a great winner. “I’m a great winner.” One wants to maintain that image. But there is much deeper fun in playing the game even if one loses it. Then one says, “This real defeat, having played the game is much more fun than a glorious image of being a winner.”

When kids go out to play, give them this choice. Tell them, “You’re going to play football. There is no need to play football. Let’s just declare that you have won. And it’s a mighty temptation because the opposing team is very strong. You realistically have no chance to win, but I’ll just declare you a winner and the other team will acquiesce. They all will sign on a document accepting that my kid, you have won.”

That’s an option you can give to your kid. And the other option is the kid goes out to play and gets royally defeated. 5-0. Which option do you think the kid is going to choose? A fictitious victory versus a real defeat?

Kids know a few things far better than their mothers do. No kid is going to trade the fun of playing for an imaginary victory. So play, even if you get defeated. Play.

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