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Top 5 tips for conducting your own social experiment

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I get asked a lot about how this year without sport works.

‘I just couldn’t do it!’ is the general proclamation.

Yes you could.

It doesn’t have to be sport; it could be TV, the net, shopping, even chocolate!

What is your crutch??

Nor does it have to be a whole year. People who go without for even a month often reflect on how much has changed for them in such a short period of time.

The following is extracted from a piece I wrote for this quarter’s edition of the Youth Vision magazine, ‘YVQ’. I wasn’t too familiar with YVQ before I began, but they have put together a relevant, engaging and edgy publication which is well worth our attention…


Much has changed

Over 10 months into this journey, a lot has changed. I’m going to be a dad for the first time in May. I am more connected and more present to my wife, family, friends, community and the outside world. It has not been all smooth sailing – I have missed a lot of exciting and significant sporting events – and not has everyone embraced the concept, but the robust dialogue I’ve been involved in has been significant.

There are many distractions, crutches on which we lean – shopping, fashion, spending, TV & music, an otherworldly fascination with pop culture ‘icons’, to name just 5. One of mine was sport. But there’s enough around us that if we all just stopped for a moment, we might just be able to identify them and make sustainable lifestyle changes that can draw us closer to being the people we were created to be.


So, if you ever do decide to conduct your own social experiment, here are the Top 5 tips for thriving in a world ‘without’…

1.  Shut up and listen

Often, our crutches are vainly attempting to fill an unknown void in our lives. If you ‘keep the noise up’ and maintain a normal chaotic and frenzied lifestyle, how can you expect to experience real, life-altering change?

You can’t and you won’t.

Make time to sit down and reflect. Regularly. For the love of God, shut the hell up and listen from time to time! Hear from people whom you love and respect what they have to say about you – your heart, your imperfections and your very real qualities that they wouldn’t change for the world.

Give yourself the space and time to contemplate what might be your dependence. Don’t say you’re too busy. It’s a rubbish excuse. And if you come up empty, ask someone significant in your life for their perspective. And demand an honest answer!

2.  Be intentional

Engage with what you are doing. Early on, to maintain the integrity of my journey, I kept things quiet, journaling to myself about the early challenges. Once I felt settled, I was able to open up, talk to people, start a blog, and you know, change that stupid wingdings heading from the very first piece

Make a list if you have to of the different activities or relationships you would like to immerse yourself in more.

Meet the challenge head on. It’s the only way you’ll conquer adversity. Engage with your peers – listen, but where necessary, be willing to confront the worldview of the 687 people who will say to you, ‘Well, that’s good for you, but…’

3.  No replacements!

I found a fellow pilgrim from the USA who had dropped American football for 12 months. He ended up discovering AFL and blogging at length about our great game. Ironic. I had to make a rule not to rent a couple of DVDs every Saturday and watch them on my own, replacing my usual tv and online viewing.

Don’t simply replace your viewing or your spending habits or whatever it may be on something else just to fill the gap. You’re supposed to feel a harsh twang of missing your ex-love every now and again. If you didn’t, your sacrifice isn’t sufficient.

4.  Set ground rules

If you go into this with your eyes shut, forget it. Just ask the people who swiftly and blatantly failed in going without alcohol for the last ‘Feb Fast’, while I soldiered through 2 weddings, a hot February and 2 restaurants giving away free drinks. Not that I’m bitter…

Set some ground rules for yourself – not only am I going without watching sport, but online content is also being avoided. Go all out! If it’s shopping, stay away completely from all shopping centres. If it’s TV, pack it up and give it to a close friend until “time’s up”. Do it properly, or don’t bother. There’s nothing sadder than a feeble, half hearted ‘effort’. Actually, they are bringing back ‘Big Brother’, so I take that back…

And when you’re finished, tell someone what the rules are. Someone who will get in your face. Don’t try to do this alone. There are far too many intentional distractions out there to succeed by your own willpower.

5.  Failing once doesn’t have to mean that it’s over

You’re not cheating on a husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend if you slip up, here! Go gently on yourself if you buy that eyeliner, watch Glee, or read that trashy article on whether Shia LaBeouf is a genuine hard man or simply a bad Hollywood posterchild.

I hate to go all biblical on you, but give yourself a little grace. Pick yourself up, identify what lead you to falling, and resolve yourself to try harder, be better. You have time.

On second thoughts, if you watch Glee, you’re on your own…


About petek8

Pete Evans has just finished going 12 months without watching any sport. The journey stemmed from a sense that the balance was out-of-whack with my time and my priorities. Everything seemed to revolve around creating enough time and space to fit in the last game, games, recap shows or space to surf the net for the latest numbers and analysis. The cycle never ends - one season leads into another, seasons overlap if you follow various sports and the media's insatiable appetite for a new 'story' means that even the greatest of achievements aren't heralded for more than 3 days. So I stepped away from the machine for awhile and intentionally engaging with the journey by writing about it.

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