How do you successfully play the game of life?
From my own observation, there are essentially four options to engaging the game of life:
1. Do nothing, be a welfare case or watch television all day – same thing. Very unsuccessful and a confirmed ticket to depression and a life of utter lack of fulfilment, if not an early grave.
2. Follow the conventional roads and roles offered to you.
3. Follow someone else’s dream.
4. Follow your own dream.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticizing the first category, welfare cases, as to their right to live a life of indigence. I just don’t think the rest of us should have to pay for them. People who have earned their way through life, paid their dues, or those who by unfortunate circumstance have been disabled, understandably – there must be a system to support them. But the lazy, drug popping or alcohol consuming category, who sit around performing no duty for society but at the same time expecting it to pay for them, these people need to get to work. But alas, this article is not about the indigent, it is about the people who DO have ambitions.
Where do I come from that I can make broad sweeping statements about how to succeed in the game of life? I have spent some 30 years working in the field of Human Resources, working with others, helping in their careers, managing and leading small and large groups – and in the course of that time, I saw the basic components of the game manifested in their lives and in mine too.
I propose to you the following. When you strike out in life, do so with a plan – that is what do YOU want to do? Skip what others think. To hell with what your peers consider is important for you, and graciously acknowledge your parents who deserve to have a vote in the matter, but who in the end simply have to step aside and let you live it the way you chose.
If you follow what YOU want to do, YOUR goal, your ambition, however small or large it is, and you don’t let anyone come along and kick it, minimize it, try to tell you it is unreal or won’t amount to anything, colour it, or as some “good” friends like to do, “advise you on how to live your life…” uggh…., then you have a good chance of making it.
But if you take on a road paved FOR you, one that you did not particularly want to walk, or one that was put in front of you and seemed acceptable, easy, profitable, et al, there is a good chance you will hit a brick wall?
Simple – it’s not yours! You did not author it. Many philosophers and spiritual leaders have said the same, happiness comes to those who stay true to themselves. Shakespeare had it right when he said, and I quote: “To thine own self be true. It must follow that you cannot then be false to any man.”
In more practical terms it translates this way – if you want to be in charge of your life then be accountable for it and be the author of it – don’t let others tell you how your life should be. We are all far too independent and capable of such great potential to be simply marginalized into nice manageable squares and cubes and sent down the assembly line of life. That is a beautiful world in George Orwell’s 1984, but it does not work in reality. Conventionalists will argue, tell you that there must be kings and pawns – and of course, in the structuralized fashion of our society, that is true, but in real practice, we must all still be our own kings and queens, in control of OUR lives, no matter what role we play in society.
If everyone followed their general goals and ambitions, society would continue to run – but even better, and with even greater accomplishments and a higher order of culture. There would be far less failure, far fewer broken lives and homes, dramatically less drug use, criminality and insanity. Why? Because people who devise their own lives, have a higher chance of staying in control of them. Those who abdicate the throne – it’s a throw of the dice.
If you want to make a sane man act insanely – just force him into a life where he has no choices left, where his responsibility, accountability and authorship has been taken away from him, where others are telling him how to live his life and you will soon have a very irresponsible, broken personality, one which will degenerate into a criminal – a burden to society instead of an asset.
Things move forward in our world because individuals have goals and ambitions and they strike out on those paths. We admire and love artists because they precisely embody this courage, this audacity to take a different path and to stick to it. Ask any artist, whether musician, actor, painter or writer, and they will confirm that their road was a road of independence, of self-driven conviction, of personal courage in the face of sometimes daunting disappointment, relentlessly sticking to their dream in spite of all the reasons not to do so and of the hard work it took.
I am not suggesting that all of us can be artists in the conventional sense, but I AM suggesting that ALL of us can follow our chosen paths in life and that in no less a fashion than the artist who sets their eye on success, we too, whether as engineers, pilots, teachers, plumbers or even mothers, can set our own goals and achieve them with the same glory and fame within our own circles.
If you want to feel trapped in life, follow a road not of your choosing; do things in life that you did not really want to do or had not decided for yourself; follow a path that was not your personal goal, like “making lots of money” – one of the most elusive and stupid goals ever dreamed up.
You say WHY? and my answer is simple – money is an end game – it is not the game. You climb a mountain to CLIMB that mount, you court the love of your life to spend a lifetime with your soul mate, you volunteer to help the homeless because you CARE about them, you trek the jungles of Africa because you DARE yourself to do so, you run a marathon to PROVE it oneself – all because you WANT to – not to make money.
Goals and ambitions are as close to our soul as you can get – that is, the REAL goals. Making money is a cheap forgery of our real essential purpose in life.
If you carefully look into your soul, or your mind, whatever you want to call it, and ask yourself, “What do I really want to do in life?”, “What will really make me happy or fulfilled” – you will get an answer and that answer will be from YOU. Now you have two choices – follow that goal, or clasp onto another one, not yours.
I understand, economically speaking, that we all have to make money to pay our bills, but can we please put that pallid and lamentable excuse to bed for just a while and look at the purity of this equation. You have seventy, possibly eighty or so years to live a life. It’s a fantastic opportunity to dream and to see those dreams come true. Whether it is to teach young kids, coach a baseball team, motorcycle across the country, or just raise a great family – the way to be happy and successful in the game of life is not just to throw yourself into the wind and see which way it blows you – it is to decide what you WANT out of life and then follow that dream. THEN you can cast yourself into the wind because no matter which way it blows you will still know where you are ultimately heading and you can enjoy the trip.
Excerpted material from the talk – Follow Your Dreams – Not Your Bank Account by Réal Laplaine www.reallaplaine-lectures.com