Finding north

Michael Jeffs May 8, 2017


First published Aug 16 2016 at studentlife.org.nz by Michael Jeffs

Have I ever told you about the time I was flying a helicopter over the city?  It took me six attempts, but eventually I was able to time a perfect jump and land on a sky-scraper!  You can imagine the thrill that gave me!  You might think I’m making it up, but I’ve done some pretty incredible things.  Problem is, this was a different reality…

Escapism.  It happens when we aren’t willing to face reality.  It happens when the reality we find ourselves in is not desirable, so we forget about the real world by escaping to a place where we don’t have to address our problems.  We might escape into video games that allow us to do whatever we want, or into movies that portray “true love” as we like to fantasize it, or into social media where we can pretend to be someone we’re not, or into addictive substances that numb our brains and allow us to forget about our reality.

Escapism is one of the biggest issues for students today, but the truth is that escaping reality will only make your reality worse.  Let’s take a look at why that is…

1. Escaping reality stops you from accomplishing real things.  We trick ourselves into accomplishing things that are unimportant, while neglecting what really needs to be accomplished.  Eventually we realise that what we have truly accomplished amounts to not much!

2. Reality doesn’t wait for you.  Escaping into a fantasy world, or a different reality, means you get left behind in the real world.  You will still have to confront whatever you are trying to escape from in real life.

3. Your view of reality gets twisted.  Whatever you choose to do to escape will eventually twist your view of reality.  In the end you will feel like you can no longer handle your real life issues, and you won’t understand why things aren’t going your way.

So while escapism is a big issue, the good news is that we can overcome our desire to escape reality!  Here are some ways we can do that…

1. Create a compelling vision for your life.  Like the North Star, a compelling vision will help you navigate through the distractions of life, stay focused, and call the best out of you.  Perhaps you have heard the quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

Have you discovered what your North Star is?  Can you articulate it?  Try writing down a compelling vision to take you beyond escapist dreaming.  

2. Discover the value of time.  If you take time to talk to people nearing the end of their life about their regrets, what you will often hear people describe are regrets about the things they didn’t do rather than regrets about the things they did do: “I would have tried more things”, “I would have spent more time with my family”, “I would have explored the world more.”  

The Psalmist wisely said, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12 ESV).

As we learn the value of time, we will make better decisions with how we spend it!  My advice: pick a priority for each week.  You won’t always accomplish it, but the habit of figuring out what is important each week will help you to ‘number your days’.

3. Match your worldview to reality.  Having a robust worldview is an invaluable tool in the toolbox of life.  It gives you resources to deal with the ups and downs that you will experience through life.  The more your world view maps to reality, the more harmony you will experience in your life.

To construct a great worldview you need to answer questions such as: where am I from?  Where am I going?  Why am I here?  What are the rules for life?

I have discovered that a relationship with Jesus offers us compelling vision for life, enables us to discover the value of time and to outline a robust worldview, enabling us to reject escapism as a means of coping with life. Check out some of the resources on this website to learn more about how a relationship with God works!  This is a great place to start!

Words by Michael Jeffs (Edited by Yijie Wang, Matt Coyle, and Margaret Coyle)

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