It may take you a few attempts to get the hang of it but then it will transform your life.
We are buffeted every day as we go about our life.
Our desires are not fulfilled, our expectations are not met, our best-laid plans unravel, and we feel as if we are wading through molasses.
We are stuck. Or we feel stuck.
Shanna rubbed her eyes blearily.
She had already hit the snooze button twice. Now she had to get out of bed.
Shanna was an associate with a top, white-shoe law firm. Her reviews were great. She was on track to make partner in three years.
She should have felt on top of the world. Few of her law school classmates were doing as well as her and two of her best friends had both been laid off. One had accepted a position at a tiny, three attorney, we-handle-any-legal-problem firm and the other was still looking.
But she felt awful. The partner she was working with, who was crucial to her rise, was making insistent passes. She had just broken up with her boyfriend. In her head, she had already married him and they were planning children. Her father was in the early stages of dementia and it was progressing much more rapidly than she expected.
And her car, her brand new BMW convertible, was constantly breaking down. Every warning light on the dashboard would light up and a peremptory voice would tell her to take it to the dealer right away. She had already been to the dealer twice.
In my programs, I stress that the mental models we use and the mental chatter we entertain are responsible for all of the feelings of overwhelm and anxiety we feel. If we make appropriate changes in our mental models, the problems simply vanish.
This is true.
But most of us need a lot of help to identify the errant mental models and the changes we need to make.
Here is a general-purpose solution to feeling stuck.
Think of it as a can of WD-40. You can use it to fix a wide range of problems from a squeaky sliding door to the stuck water valve.
Convert whatever situation you are facing, the one that you resent and is causing you stress, into a game.
You get to decide the rules.
The fun part of a game is playing it. Winning is nice, but not mandatory. The playing is what makes it enjoyable and enables you to grow.
This does require you to step outside yourself and view your life as a movie in which you are starring. And the script is constantly changing and you are writing it.
So, Shanna can watch her interaction with the partner dispassionately. Should she go to Human Resources? Send a stronger signal that she did not appreciate his advances? Should she let him know that she had mentioned some of his trespasses to others in the firm and was he a shrewd enough lawyer to recognize that they could someday be deposed to provide contemporary corroboration of charges of inappropriate conduct and sexual harassment?
Many avenues open up to Shanna once she adopts this line of thinking and being. She cannot reverse or slow her father’s dementia, but she can let him know how much he means to her and she can use the limited time they have together to have deeper conversations. She can bid him goodbye – in her head – and come to terms with the knowledge that his physical body will one day transition.
I get push back when I advocate this.
This is not a game, I am told. This is real life.
You cannot be casual about what is happening and what you do. There are consequences.
I hear you, but you are dead wrong. Life can be a game. In fact, it is only when you play it as a game that you can truly enjoy it.
And whether life is a game or not is a decision you make. It happens between your ears.
Games have consequences too. You accept them.
Ditto in life. If you let the doom and gloom envelope you because this is real, then you live in quiet desperation.
But if you are playing a game skillfully, and you accept the outcome of this game whose rules you have written, then life becomes a blast.
Think about what I have just proposed.
Don’t reject it. Try it out in your life.
The changes, and they will be for the better, will be profound.