Our world view predisposes our behavior and reaction. I have lately been thinking about how people use the metaphor of sports and games to describe their behavior in personal and business life – ‘I won’, ‘She lost’, ‘Not fair’, ‘Wrong call’, etc.
However, we do have one big fundamental choice. And some of exercise it consciously while others grew up and settled on a particular choice without fully realizing it – and its implications on their lives. And that choice is: What game are you playing?
The reason this is so important is because how you behave in the game of life will depend a large part on the game you perceive it to be. Is it a game where winner takes all? Is it a game where there can be multiple winners? Is it a game where you can/should cheat?
I have come up with a basic ontology of games of life.
Snakes and Ladders: Its us against the (unknown) forces of nature and the world at large. If you are a Snakes and Ladders person – there are good events (ladders) that lead to sudden upward moves and bad events (snakes) that lead to severe setbacks. You are a bit paranoid (in your world, snakes exist and bite) and may not feel like you control your own destiny. Examples would include- Britney Spears.
Chess: Its you vs. someone – always. Life is deterministic and if you could make just the right move you can beat the other side. If you visualize life as a chess game, you believe that you can manage your destiny. You may also tend to focus on finding one (or a few) person or entities that you are up against. Examples would include Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.
Scrabble: Everyone can do better and win. Even though you keep score and are competitive, you enjoy the game for what everyone brings to the table. Its okay to challenge your opponent by doing better – not necessarily hoping the other does worse. The beauty of this game is that you are not just competing to be better than others but are trying to outscore your own previous high scores – the objective is to do the best you can. Examples would include most successful venture capitalists – the nature of the business requires you to invest in other people and help them improve and grow.
What game are you playing?
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you feel like that others must loose for you to win?
- Can you identify 3 other people whose success will bring you greater reward/success?
- Do you play for something – a team, mission? Or do you better when you are up against an enemy?
- When you have a great day, are there people at work who you can walk over to and share your success with? Would a great day for you mean – they achieved something? Or would it mean – they lost?
Next, figure out if this is the optimal game for you to be playing. Perhaps even try a new game for a week?