How Playing a Game Changed My Life

October 22, 2012  

In my book, “Goal-Free Living,” I talk about the importance of Seeking Out Adventure.  Trying new things is one avenue for enhancing your creativity.  As Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is just having enough dots to connect. Dots being ideas or experiences.”  He claims that people who are more creative have had more experiences.  Well, my sister has decided to be proactive about seeking out adventure.  But for her, it is not just about becoming more creative.  It is about enhancing her life.  It is a form of self discovery.  I asked her to document and share her perspectives in a guest blog entry.  So, with great pleasure, I would like to give you Deborah Shapiro’s new game…

Stepping out of a relationship is challenging, at least for me.  And after the conclusion of my most recent relationship there was a debilitating void.   I began to realize that my life’s activities had revolved around the individuals I had been with. Once alone, I had no idea what to do with myself.  Our friends were the same.   Our activities revolved around what he liked to do and I was happy to accommodate as I cared more about who I was with than with what we were doing.

I was left with an existential crisis on my hands.  Who am I?  What are MY passions?  What are the things that bring ME joy and happiness?  Why do I feel so alone?   I had no idea how to answer these simple questions that someone at the age of 45 should have long discovered.

After much consideration what I saw was  that I needed to take different actions to have the life I so desired; actions that would disrupt a very predictable future reminiscent of my past.

So, I decided to play a game.

The Rules:  Since I didn’t know what I really enjoyed doing nor understood where my passions lie, a fitting game to create was to take on a new activity every day.  The intention was for me to experiment with a whole new set of actions or do those things that I hadn’t done in a while. I would create a running list of items as they surfaced and would tick them off at the appropriate moments.

One of the essential rules created was that I would suspend all judgment of whether I would like the activity or not.  How could I know if I liked something if I hadn’t ever done it?  Additionally, I am at a different point in my life.  If I had tried something previously with limited success, perhaps now would be a more fitting time.

The Results (so far): Although it has only been a month since I started this game, the results have been staggering.  Life altering, to be frank.

Look at all these friends!

Due to the nature of the game, I had to reach beyond my traditional circle of friends so that I could be amongst others who were willing to participate in those activities I had identified.  In doing so, my circle of friends has grown exponentially.  My once quiet phone is now ringing off the hook with amazing individuals.  And surprisingly, those that I had thought were “not my type” have ended up being some of my most cherished friends.

This realization created a new rule:   In addition to not filtering activities based on my preconceived notions, I will no longer limit who I will do them with.

I had always thought that, at my age, people would already be settled into having a set base of friends with little room for newcomers.  But what I have discovered is that there are many others out there as hungry as I to forge new friendships. I was feeling alone.  But, in the wake of this new game, I find it somewhat comical as to how anyone could feel alone amongst a population of close to 7 billion.  I was responsible my loneliness.

Look at all these things to do!

Equally as comical, is the fact that I had ever said, “I have nothing to do.”    Because of this game, I have been trained to listen for any activity that could present itself.   Ideas are literally EVERYWHERE.  You just need to listen for them.

I’ve gotten ideas from Facebook, the news, passing conversations with neighbors.  The best source?  My new friends.  They know of and are excited about my game and want to join in.  There has been a recent onslaught of emails and texts containing ideas from trapeze lessons to swing dancing, hot yoga to paddle boating.

These activities have always been there, the difference is that I am now listening with intent.  But more importantly, I have a structure in place to fulfill on these events.  Without that structure, an idea would be just that…a nice idea.

Every day really IS a new day!

In searching for something new, I started to see what wasn’t.  My life.  I began to recognize that I had a pattern for doing virtually the same thing, the same way, every day.  I wake up.  Brush my teeth.  Make coffee.  Clean the house. Go to work.  Send emails. Make dinner.   Watch TV and then go to bed.    No wonder why people are dissatisfied with their lives.  In my case, I had unwittingly created routines that had me condemned to a life of ordinary.

So I started to look at how I could adjust some of these patterns.  How about tea instead of coffee?  Or taking a different route to work?  Maybe listening to a different genre of music or watching a new show on TV.    How about eating something exotic for dinner? Or writing a handwritten note to a friend instead of sending an email or text?

I have long complained that technology has made life impersonal.  I have just begun to see that I am the one making it impersonal, not technology.  Just because it is easier to send an email or text, doesn’t mean I have to.

By making these small adjustments, I saw that every day is truly my own creation!  My life was stagnant, because I was making it that way.  That is the good news – bad news.  However, seeing this now opens up the opportunity for me to create my days any way I desire.

Playing a game has changed my life

Why has playing a game been so effective for me?

In games, there is no right or wrong.  There is nowhere to get to.  YOU create the rules so you can change them at any time.  You can even stop playing if you want. (But why on earth would I want to?!)

And because I had no preconceived notions of how the game would go, I had no expectations for the results.  If I had established a specified outcome, a defined place to get to, I would have created a pressure for myself to achieve that goal, making the game feel more like a burden than a game.

This has me really wondering:  How much could life differ if we all lived it like a game?

It has only been three weeks. Imagine what I will discover over the next year or 5?  How will the rules change?  What new insights are in store?  Time will only tell.

Oh, you are probably wondering what passions I have discovered.  Only one thus far.  I am passionate about trying new things.  Come play!

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