Here's an article I wrote from the "Archives."
Lessons About Life in an Unexpected Place
by Elizabeth Alraune
Did you ever receive a gift in an unexpected place?
I did, when I went to McDonald’s recently. My order was mistakenly placed as a Child’s Happy Meal. For some reason, I decided it was worth keeping, and in it was a gift in the form of a Sega game for kids.
After ignoring the game initially, and then haphazardly trying to play, I decided to figure it out. A couple of days passed, and it occurred to me that there were lessons about life in this little hand held game.
In a nutshell, the character of the game is to move up and down on lines, otherwise known as elevators, in its attempt to get diamonds distributed on various landings/floors. One side of the elevators is up, and the other is down. Stay on either too long, and the character gets smushed. If the character misses the elevator, or doesn’t collect the diamonds in time, or stays on the elevator too long, it loses a play. Lose 5 plays on a level, and the game is over. Be successful with the collection of 1 diamond 5 times, then move to the next level for 2, and then 3, 4, and 5. In order to win the game, the player must successfully get to level 5, and be able to successfully complete the diamond collection 5 times.
What lessons could someone take away from this little toy?
For starters, I realized my haphazard approach wasn't getting me anywhere. I realized that I needed to know how to play, needed to be focused, and in the moment. If not, there is a good chance that I will fall into any of the pitfalls. If I get distracted, I can lose a play, and potentially the game.
• Just how many times in your life have you been THAT focused and conscious and intentional about what you have done? Have you taken the time to really engross yourself in what you're doing? What kind of results are you getting? Have you truly been playing “your game”?
Next, while there is some predictability to the game, the starting location varies, and the diamonds are planted in different places each time. As I have played, it has occurred to me that there are different ways to accomplish what needs to be done.
• How often do you miss opportunities because you think the situation is predictable, or (you think) there is only one way to go?
While realizing that there are different ways to get things done, I also realized a second delay in pressing a button might mean that I would lose a play because the character would miss the elevator that seemed to be there.
• How often do you think you’re standing on a firm foundation, only to have a misstep? The great thing about the game is that there is always another chance. Even if the options run out on the level I am on, I can always start over. Just how often are you willing to just pick yourself up and begin again in your “real” life?
Occasionally, while playing, I will think that the character is going to one space, but the game is just a second faster, and the character winds up in a different place than I thought it would be. I then need to reconsider what I am doing, oftentimes working with something better than expected.
• How many times do you think you know where you’re going, only to find yourself somewhere else? Are you flexible enough to adapt to the changes?
Sometimes, I need to use the up elevator to maneuver myself into a place, so that I could go down…and sometimes I need to use the down elevator to maneuver myself to a place, so I can go up.
• How often do you realize that the direction you are headed in is taking you the direction you need to go?
Once one level is completed 5 times, I am bumped into the next level. In the game, it’s the next place to go.
• Once you have mastered something, does it seem that there is always something else? Once growth has been achieved, does a new challenge present itself? At times growth can seem like a lot of work, but it would also seem that each thing that happens comes because it’s time for it to.
As I have continued to play, I realize that I have gotten better at it. What seemed challenging at first, now almost seems too easy.
• How many times have things gotten easier for you, the more you’ve allowed yourself to practice them? How often has a challenge ceased to be one with practice, awareness, and frequency?
Lastly, it’s “just” a game, right? I can’t take it seriously – can I? Well, I could, actually, but because it’s a game, I am willing to give myself space to breathe, and have kept at it.
• Do you take your life seriously sometimes? What if you treated it more like this game? What if you were willing to keep trying because you always knew you had another chance? What if you could see your failures as stepping stones to your ultimate successes?
By the way, I win the game now every time I play it with focus and intention. Sometimes I get distracted, and I need to do something else, at which time I just put it away and start over again another time. Sometimes I’m so close to finishing, too. While it may at times be disappointing to stop, I know I can always to back to it, and build myself up again to hear the sounds that tell me I’ve gotten as far as I can, and that I have succeeded in what I set out to do.
Too bad life doesn’t have the “winning sounds” that this game plays…so that we’d know without a doubt when we’ve won. However, the sounds are still there, they may just come in the form of cheers, clapping, or a friendly, supportive voice. We succeed at something all the time, but are we too busy listening to the sounds of failure to hear our successes?
What truly is success? Is it my ability to win the game? Perhaps. However, I have come to realize that the minute that I did the best I could do in that moment, I was already successful. What perspective this unexpected treasure offered me, a big gift that came in the form of something that fits in the palm of my hand – something that reminds me, too, that whatever I need is well within my grasp.
The next time you are tempted to disregard something that has come your way, consider that it may be a gift that has yet to be unwrapped.