“All the world is a stage” Shakespeare famously said. It can also be said that all of life is a game. At least it can be. Why do we like games? Playing a game brings excitement, creates unity – even between competitors – and provides a new field for learning, activity and skill development. Play unleashes the spirit. When you are in action, a whole new kind of thinking occurs, which leads to even more action, which undoubtedly leads to results. Results from our actions help us develop an accurate self-concept, and therefore effect our self-esteem.
For example, I did not realize how competitive a person I was until one New Year’s Day I sat around a table playing spoons with friends and family. There were mostly children – some as young as 6 years old – in the group and yet I gave nothing less than my absolute personal best at that game of spoons – because – well, because of my competitive nature! I didn’t hold back just because they were children! And, I thoroughly enjoyed the play.
Noticing this drive to play hard without holding back helped me see myself in a new light, and allowed me to mine a pool of personal ambition and desire. Creating games for myself, my family and my associates has, ever since this realization, become a primary focus of my life. Games are a way to frame desires, wishes, projects, by giving a specific timeline and a playful spirit to the activities.
When it comes to goals, I think people get the wrong idea. They think of things to do that they should do. However, inherent in the word game is the sense of playfulness, energy and fun. If you think in terms of games instead of goals, you are more likely to define your goals in terms of the activities you will engage in, and therefore your goals become tangible and actionable, rather than conceptual. More like a game.
To me the best part of having a game instead of goals is that playing a game lends itself to coaching, and is based on game theory. Now, I like non-zero sum games, or games where everyone wins…similar to John Nash’s equilibrium theory. This requires systems-thinking, strategy and optimism, and more importantly, playing these types of games cannot be done in a silo.
I love collaborating and strategizing with others in business projects, because then the relationship takes on a coaching quality. A coaching conversation is almost always more interesting than an ordinary conversation. High performance coaches nudge, invite or in some cases catapult you out of your concepts and into the actual world, through playful action. They discern what lights people up and design a game consisting of those activities, inspiring people to move, to play, to act. Coaches make high performance fun. Work is no longer a burden, and life becomes an interesting game. I can’t imagine living any other way!