Real Games

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I grew up playing a lot of games, which was pretty good preparation for adult life. Games taught me the pleasure of focusing on a goal, on how to learn rules and function within their limitations, how to improve at something through practice, as well as the emotional balance necessary to handle winning and losing with equal grace. I also enjoyed the technical aspects of games, whether those games were played on a tabletop or a ball field. Against an evenly matched opponent, mastery of the small details often determined who won or lost.

All of this is true for adult life as well, I think, and why there are so many How To books and articles written. A person can learn any aspect of this game of adulthood – the focusing, the rules, the balance, and certainly the techniques. Whenever I see How To books I remember the time my track coach taught me the proper sprinting form, how until then I’d been running flat-footed and that I needed to be on my toes. That one change made me instantly faster.

There was one aspect of games that I never had to learn, however, and it was the most important part: wanting to play. If you don’t actually want to play the game, you will not get any better at it, and you will not care about focus or grace or technique. You will look at the game and think, “This is all made up. The points aren’t real, nothing real is won or lost, and the rules can be changed as quickly as we change our minds. It’s all pretend.”

That’s an existential crisis for a game player. If you want to keep playing you have to make peace with why it is you’re actually playing, that the game was an organized excuse to bring your full attention to something. To bring your full, uncluttered, unfettered attention to anything, whether it’s the game of knitting, or writing, or golfing, or running a Fortune 500 Company, is to be fully yourself. All the rest, the scarves and stories and scores and profits – all of it’s pretend. But not you. You’re as real as the sun, and you’re attention shines just as bright when you remember why you’re playing.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.