Cam Adair

We all know that student. The one that has so much potential, they could probably change the world if they would only stop letting it all go to waste. Instead of studying, they’re playing video games. Instead of networking, they’re binge watching Netflix. Instead of going to the gym, they’re eating at McDonalds, again.

We all know that student. Many of us are that student. I was.

My situation got so bad that I actually dropped out of high school. I never graduated, never went to college and struggled with depression for many years. Eventually my situation got so out of control that I wrote a suicide note.

Thankfully, I didn’t follow through and I’m writing to you right now. I realized that I had to make a change in my life. That change had to do with the way I interacted with my vice: video games.

We all have a vice, something in our life, a habit, that keeps us from being our best. Today I’m going to share with you the story behind mine, and how the insights I’ve had about it can help you with yours, whatever it is.

After I wrote the suicide note I knew I needed to get professional help. I no longer felt safe with myself, and the whole experience scared me. But I was also committed to living my life differently. If I wasn’t going to die, then I had to do the complete opposite — live my life to the fullest.

I realized I had a second chance at this whole life thing, and I wanted to see what I could do with it. One of my goals was to learn how to make new friends, because from all the bullying I experienced growing up, I didn’t really have any friends and I wanted to feel more control of this area of my life.

If I was really going to commit to this new goal of mine, I couldn’t play video games, because if I did I would just stay home and avoid going out.

So I quit cold turkey and for 11 months this worked, but then I relapsed. For the next five months I played 16 hours a day and did nothing else but game. I barely even left the house. This was obviously out of control and I knew I had to quit again, but this time I reflected on why I was drawn back to games, and I realized that it came down to four main reasons why I played.

Temporary Escape
With games I could escape. When I was feeling stressed out, I could go and game and forget about the situation, whatever it was. College is a stressful environment. You have more responsibility, more obligations and more challenging classwork. When you get stressed, what’s your vice?

Social Connection
Gaming is a sense of community and it’s how you interact with a lot of your friends. For me, when I was bullied when I was younger, I could find likeminded friends online.

Constant Measurable Growth
Games give you a feedback loop. You get to see your growth. You get to see your progress. Games show you a scoreboard, they give you a level up, etc. And a lot of it is designed through instant gratification.

Games give you a sense of purpose, a mission, a goal to work towards. And they are specifically designed this way. You always know what you need to do next; you need to beat this boss, achieve this score, obtain this weapon. If you don’t have a sense of purpose outside of games, they will become your purpose.

These are all human needs we have. There’s nothing wrong with needing a break from stress, being social, wanting to grow or be challenged and have a sense of purpose. The power comes in understanding what these needs are, why you do what you do and then being intentional in choosing how you fulfill them. Ideally, you fulfill these needs in ways that are aligned with your values, goals, and dreams.

So here are three steps you can take to make it happen:

Step 1: Identify your vice. Is it gaming? Something else? Write it down. Next, what needs does your vice fulfill for you? Does it let you escape from stress? Help you be more social? Is it something you do just because you’re bored?

Step 2: Choose alternatives. Instead of binge-watching Netflix to relax, could you join a yoga club? Play basketball? Meditate? If you find yourself avoiding studying to game, could you study at the library instead?

For 60+ ideas for hobbies to replace gaming, click here.

Step 3: Schedule your time. To break your vice, you need more awareness and more intention. That begins with being more clear in your schedule, especially for your free-time.

Remember to think about the bigger picture. What are you really trying to do? What goals or dreams do you have? Are your habits aligned with them? The truth is, it’s easy to be ignorant in the moment, to pretend you don’t really care, but as time goes on and you gain more perspective, it’s easy to experience regret. Is what you’re doing today leading you to where you want to be tomorrow? Only you know the truth.

Learn more about keynote speaker, Cam Adair and his story: