I got the idea to write this post by reading a recent article on Steve Pavlina’s blog where he was writing about how life sometimes relate to video games. What I missed from that article was a practical explanation of what you can learn from video games to get outstanding results in real life, so I decide to write my own.
Because we are talking about personal development, I’ll use The Sims as an example for this article. If you didn’t already know it, The Sims is a life simulator where you manage human beings (named Sims) in all their areas o life from birth to death.
What’s powerful about this game is that their time runs faster than ours, so you’ll be able see the effects of doing a certain activity in a short period of time.
When you start a new game, you’re new Sim has a few core areas of development, including knowledge, romance, family and success. They are not all different from ours. What’s interesting though is their skills list that you can develop in their lifetime. This list includes things like cooking, mechanical/handiness, charisma, body/athletic, logic, creativity, cleaning, walking, talking, potting training, study, dancing, painting, meditation, pool playing, yoga, parenting, fire prevention, anger management, lifelong happiness, physiology, couple counseling, guitar, fishing, writing, gardening. There are also some secret skills like playing chess, diving, hacking, homework, mooch, video games, air guitar, foosball.
We could go longer with that list, and we certainly could if we just see at our current lifestyle but that’s not necessary to illustrate my point. What I find interesting about this game is that they actually have a list, thus they know what they have to do. When you play the game for example, you can choose to let your Sim study a cooking book for two hours so that he can cooks better. You also have a progress bar (a goal with a deadline) to see where you are in each area. As you progress through the game, you start to see that each skill reinforces a core area of development of your Sim. Do you start to see something?
I thought about this for a long time, why are we so able to achieve success in videogames but not in real life? I think I’ve come to a conclusion about this question, namely organization. When you play a game, you usually have a start and an end, and if you want to reach that end, you must complete some levels. Real life is similar, but you don’t have to complete some kind of levels to go through an end, and that’s the main difference, and also why you don’t push yourself.
When we want to achieve something in real life, we usually set up a goal. A goal is simply an expression of our intentions and it helps as a reminder to us. Goals per se are a powerful tool, but what they miss is the big picture. If you recall the previous list of skills, you can see that each element is a part of a bigger picture, and that’s what we should also do in our lives.
Another interesting aspect of videogames is that when you play, you don’t loose time procrastinating, simply because you don’t have the time to do it. When you are managing your Sim for example, you have to make it eat, sleep and go to work. It also spends a lot of time in the bathroom, so that’s not all different from our real life, except than when you have some free time, you want it to improve on something rather than snacking while watching TV.
Returning to our real life, there are many things we can learn from video games. The first is to have some goals, it is ok to have some 20 or 30 things you’d like to do or to improve, as long as they are clear and written. The second thing that you can learn is to take action and to actively work on your todo list rather than procrastinating all your free time in unimportant tasks. The third and probably most important thing you can learn is that it is your responsibility to succeed and to take action; this is straightforward to notice when you play, but it is also true in real life if you think about it for a second.
I want to conclude this article with a suggestion for you to start thinking about your whole life as if it was a video game. Try to find out how you could tweak it to make it work like you want, then make a plan, and start doing it today!