Help me get outside!

I don’t want to spend all summer playing video games indoors. What can I do?

Our elder helps an ambitious letter writer to make a plan of action.

Dear EWC

I am 15 years old, and my main hobbies are staying inside playing video games and watching online media. At the start of this summer, in mid-June, I made plans to enjoy the summer with my friends, but unfortunately, they don’t respond to my messages, or even say hello, so I’m stuck with nothing but myself to keep me company. Recently, I have been wanting to become reformed, to refine myself into a better person, but this is easier said than done for me. I have little to no motivation to do anything of these things, which range from getting outside more to reading books, learning a new language, and fixing my sleep schedule. Right now I feel stuck in life, and I wish I could ask my family for advice, but they complain about anything I do and don’t seem to understand that I’m not like everyone else. Any kind words of motivation would be nice. Sincerely, A boy with ambitions.

Cairnie replies

Good for you for recognizing that your current actions are not getting you what you want, and being motivated to make changes! This is a crucial step to becoming the person you want to become.

My first advice is similar to what you wrote. Get yourself outside. Get some fresh air, take a walk, take a hike, run some errands for the family, hop on your bike, go swimming, something to get yourself moving outside.

I also suggest paying attention to getting enough sleep (without having your devices — phone, computer, tablet, etc, nearby) and making sure you are eating healthfully. Tell your folks of your plans, and ask them for help eating better.
Whenever someone wants to make changes, I think several steps are important.
First, think about why you want to change. What is the outcome you are looking for, what is the goal you want to reach, and why does this matter (for example, maybe you want to make friends, be better at a sport, get better grades, be happier, whatever your goal might be)? Knowing what you want to accomplish and why will give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as you make progress, and when you reach your goals.

Second, break down the overall goal into smaller steps, and build a timeline/schedule for achieving them. Take it one step at a time. For example, sleeping: set a bedtime for yourself. Set aside the hour before that time to start to wind down. Brush your teeth, change out of your clothes, put your devices away, etc. Have a plan and follow it for the first day. Evaluate your success, and make any tweaks necessary to do this for a second day, and a third day, etc.

It takes 30 days of a constant effort for something to become a habit, so give yourself a month to make your changes.
Making friends: I’m not sure what you’re really asking here, but imagine yourself doing what you enjoy with groups of other people doing the same thing. What would that be? Are there clubs or organizations this summer or at school that you can join? Is it too late to get a part-time job?

You write that your two hobbies are staying inside and playing video games, which can be very isolating. My suggestion is to do the opposite — get yourself outside and do things where/when other people are doing what you like to do.
I also believe that volunteering, community service, civic engagement of some type (whether in your town, at your church/synagogue/mosque, with a nonprofit group of interest to you) will make you feel better. Helping other people usually gets us outside our own feelings, and it feels good to help others. To see who needs help — seniors, children, animals, a garden? Offer to volunteer at your local animal shelter, community garden, soup kitchen, etc.

It will get better, but I think you need to help yourself. You sound smart, and you sound motivated — great start! Make a commitment to yourself, map out a plan, and take each step on the day at a time. Start with one to two personal behaviors (a plan to get sleep and being active outside, for example), and a plan to engage with others (such as by volunteering now, and by joining a club once school starts).

You can do this. I see success in your future. And while I’m not sure about the dynamic in your family, I think if you tell them what you want to do and how, and ask for the help and support, they may surprise you in a good way.
Good luck! You got this!

Letter #: 444967
Category: Self-Improvement

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