When I was a tween, I remember playing the Game of Life board game. We’d cruise around the board in a convertible car, get married, have kids (sometimes twins) that would be represented by little pink and blue pegs in our cars. The goal was to retire with the most money. As I’m closer to retirement years than not, I just don’t subscribe to the same world view as the board game on what a win is.
So many moments in our lives have been prescribed by society, and when we’re not happy we feel like it’s because we haven’t hit those targets. I do a keynote speech about positive self-talk and it always starts the same way. “Who is going to be happy when they have completed their degree? Raise your hand. Who is going to be happy when they have a good paying job? Who is going to be happy when they own a house or buy that new boat? Who is going to be happy when they are married? Who is going to be happy when they have children?”
Then, I burst their bubble. “Unfortunately, while all of these milestones will bring us some joy, they will not make us and keep us happy. For sustainable happiness, we need to choose to be happy, no matter what happens in our lives. Luckily, you can start changing your thoughts right away, and can even leave here a happier person today.”
My talk goes on to explain that over 70 percent of people’s self-talk is negative, and is a major factor in causing depression and anxiety. We can train ourselves to shift the balance towards more positive self-talk, mainly by realizing that we would never talk to someone we loved that way, so why not start by loving ourselves?
To be happy, we need to know that we are enough, we need to appreciate what we have, and be aware that no matter what happens in life, we have the power to choose how we react to it. These ways to win the Game of Life have nothing to do with our bank accounts.
Nurturing meaningful connections with people, pets, and places/nature has to be at the top of my winning strategies list. I want to leave the planet and people around me better than how I found them. (No, I am not suggesting “fixing people” as that is a losing strategy… I mean helping lift people up).
Stephen Covey, in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote that we should begin with the end in mind. What do we want people to say about us at our funerals? Then live a life to make those words a reality.
I’d like to be remembered for living and loving passionately, for taking chances and being vulnerable, for putting in the effort and striving for excellence in all facets of my life, for being there when people needed me, for chasing my dreams and helping others chase theirs, for inspiring, educating, entertaining, for giving without strings, for speaking up for others, and never leaving anything important unsaid, and for making a difference. My bank balance is not something I care to be remembered for, perhaps other than the fact that I was good with my money, such that I travelled the world and pursued my passions, and still had a little left over to share with others.
In the Game of Life, the pink and a blue peg added to the back seat of my convertible are very important to me. Granted, having a peg beside me in the front seat would make the ride even more amazing. But retiring with piles of money has never factored into my game strategy, and I still feel like I’m winning.