Life is a game, but most of us don’t see the rules of the game that we’ve been conditioned to play. At work, you may recognize that the objective is to be the CEO and make the most money, and you can make moves toward that objective.
You can do that in your personal life too. But most of us aren’t explicit about the objectives of our life games. We don’t even see that there’s a larger game going on. If you have a choice about how you’re going to play the game at work, don’t you also have the ability to choose how you’ll play the game of life? And can’t you design the game instead of just playing the one handed to you? So what if you start thinking of not just work as a game but your broader life as well?
Just as you know people who are playing games at work, you may also know people who seem to be playing their life game by their own rules. They may be the people who work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. so they can coach their kid’s soccer team in the afternoon, or perfect their rock band’s new set, or train for the Olympics, or care for a family member in need. They may also be the people who are working primarily for healthcare and other benefits because their partner is starting a small business or because they are attending night school. They may be people who forego promotions to maintain flexible hours and avoid the headaches that can come with managing people. Or they may be people like me, actively seeking assignments that involve travel and adventure.
Although conceptually it may sound simple, sometimes it can be really difficult to get your head around thinking of your life as a game and understanding how to make it work for you. After all, we’re talking about your personal, professional, and life choices—and all the hopes, dreams, realities, and responsibilities to yourself and others that have gone into making those choices. How do you link those things together so that they reinforce each other to help you pursue your own game and live the life you want?
Start thinking about how you measure your own success. How are you currently keeping score? What are the tangible and intangible things in your life that you keep track of to determine whether or not you are successful? Write them down.
If it’s difficult to figure out, maybe start with the tangible things, like your bank account, your handbag or watch collection, where you vacation, or how many frequent flyer miles you have. Maybe consider whether you measure success by how many followers and connections and friends you have on social media, or perhaps by the number of concerts you’ve seen live, or the beauty of your garden compared to your neighbor’s, or your marathon personal record, or how many times a week you go to the gym. What are the things you strive for, check in on, and try to get more of?
I have friends who day trade, and every single day they measure their success by how their investments have been doing. In truth, they’re not only measuring their financial situation but also their wit, their smarts, their ability to read the market, make decisions, take risks, and reap rewards from their activities.
Others measure their success physically—by how much weight they can lift, how fast they can run, how defined their muscles are, or how many of the latest and greatest new fitness trends they’ve tried compared to other people. Some of my friends compete pretty intensely about how many countries and cities they’ve visited and how exotic their vacations are. And parents sometimes measure their success through their kids’ achievements. These are the parents show- ing up to all of their kids’ sporting events and yelling at the coaches and referees and opposing team players. They’re the ones pushing their kids to achieve more in music and academics and driving their kids toward getting accepted at great colleges because they perceive that to be a measure of successful parenting.
You may also be measuring your success in intangible ways, like how much free time you have, if you get to skip out of work early or avoid the office and work from home. You may note the peace and calm you feel on weekends or the joy you feel when your kids or nieces or nephews visit.
How you measure success is up to you. Be honest with yourself. No one really knows your answers except for you. Go back to your page, and write down the big ways you keep score.
Excerpt from What Game Are You Playing?: A Framework for Redefining Success and Achieving What Matters Most by Robin Moriarty, Ph.D. Reprinted with permission.