The Game of Life

Now that you've described your real career (from last post), how do you choose activities to live and support your real career?

First, Martha Beck recommends that we think of almost every human activity (including most jobs) as a game we play. I have a friend who is currently taking a series of exams for certification as part of her new career. When she explained with certainty that she failed her most recent exam, I said, "That's o.k. It's all just a game." Now I was not trying to be-little my friend's chosen profession. I happen to believe that if she thinks of the whole process as a game, she will feel less attached to the outcome, and whaddaya know, probably pass her exams. It's when we think that our entire lives are at stake in a situation that we lose consciousness, awareness, and power.

For the games you play or consider playing, ask yourself these four Joy Diet questions:

  1. Does playing this game contribute to my real career or detract from it? Do not play a game that takes you away from your life's purpose no matter what the winnings. According to Martha Beck, "If you spend your whole life playing a game that is not your real career, you'll lose even if you win."
  2. Am I having fun? This doesn't mean there's no effort or hard work involved, but it's worth playing.
  3. Am I good at this game (or could I be good at if I practiced)? It's really hard to leave something you're good at. But if this is the only question that gets a yes, you may want to consider another game. There are plenty of games you can win and love.
  4. Do I like the other players? My teammates? My competitors? My coaches? This is such a great indicator of a game worth playing. Do you get to hang with your peeps? Your tribe?

Related to question number one is one of my favorite tools from The Joy Diet: Alternating between mouse vision and eagle vision. In the midst of a task or activity, call to mind the major life goals you listed in the last post (Your Real Career). Then, look at what you are doing in that moment. Go back and forth a few times between your real career (eagle vision) and your current task (mouse vision). Is your current activity taking you toward your real career? If so, how well is it doing this?

I find this fascinating because I have so many things I need and want to do, I often question my choices. Some activities are obvious in their merit. Running will help you maintain a healthy body. Studying will get you that degree. Writing on Facebook walls will keep you connected (in case you thought Facebook was a complete waste of time!). But what about all of the other things we find ourselves doing - cleaning the house, e-mailing, preparing meals, filing, shopping, showering? Martha calls this maintenance work and says it's fine as long as it supports our more goal-directed behaviors. However, doing maintenance work that keeps you from moving toward your goals may be a way to avoid "the scary, exhilarating work of your real career." So if driving, going online, cooking every night and cleaning out your sock drawer is taking time and energy away from your real life's work, it's time to bag it or barter it.

Keep in mind that it doesn't take a huge adjustment to change course. I tiny tweak in your mousy behavior (making a list, getting out your passport, writing down a phone number) done over and over will lead you to your eagle goals. Slight adjustments at the wheel of a boat or plane determine your destination.

Now go play!