Last year I wandered into a jungle of multi-colored bubbles to rescue baby pandas kidnapped by an evil baboon. I’ve managed to free enough pandas to make it through the Spooky Forest, around the Great Statue and past the Zen Garden to the doorstep of the Panda Kings. For all this adventure, I’ve only had to pick up my phone to play the game, Panda Pop.
My daughters laugh at me when they catch me playing it, as if I’m too old for such folly (and I probably am). My husband just shakes his head. I don’t mind, though. I’ve found the game to be challenging enough to keep my attention, but not so much that I have wanted to quit. In fact, one day as I was winding my way past a few tough levels in a row, I thought of the valuable life lessons I was scoring along the way.
You have to stay in the game to win the game
I’ve been known to start something and not finish it. There’s the cross stitch picture I thought would be so cute hanging somewhere in my house 10 years ago that instead sits undone on a closet shelf. There are the numerous article ideas I’ve outlined but haven’t fleshed out. And, of course, the weight loss attempts too numerous to count that have been foiled quickly in the light of a tempting dessert or savory bag of chips.
Feelings of frustration or hopelessness or simply allowing myself to be distracted by other things have lead me to give up, sometimes temporarily, but other times for good.
Not so with Panda Pop. I will play a level over and over again until I win it. I might hate the process, complain and question my sanity for spending precious time rescuing gaming characters, but I stay with it until I save every last one.
Admittedly, Panda Pop has an addictive component to it, so to say it’s reminded me that you have to persevere to succeed at real-life goals is a bit of a stretch. But the lesson played itself out this past summer when I was working on refinishing old bookcases.
Despite my efforts at prepping the wood properly, the paint would not stick to the surface. I stripped and repainted those bookshelves three times! I wanted to quit after every failed attempt, but I thought about how perseverance had served me well in the world of Panda Pop, and I was encouraged to press on. And now those bookcases look quite lovely in the family room and I have a good sense of satisfaction about finishing what I started.
Regardless of the venture, stuff happens on the journey to getting things done that can get you off track. You have to keep your eyes on the prize, especially when the obstacles seem impossible to surmount. American abolitionist and author Harriet Beecher Stowe had it right when she said, “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you … never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
You have to lose some to win big
Every once in a while I conquer a level in Panda Pop on the first try, but more often than not, it takes me a few tries – sometimes dozens – to figure out the best strategy for freeing the baby pandas. I just keep plugging away at it, learning from my mistakes and eventually I’m feeling the rewards of staying in the game.
This silly game reminds me that failure at one step on the road to achieving my goals doesn’t mean I’ll never succeed. Failed attempts call for an honest assessment of what went wrong, a review of my options, and a rethinking of how I can get to where I’m going. It’s try, try again and again. I like what baseball legend Babe Ruth said about missing the ball: “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” Losses can be the ticket to winning big in pursuit of my goals.
Determination is the fuel that keeps you in the game
In his goal setting course, Five Days to Your Best Year Ever, Michael Hyatt points to excitement as one of the seven criteria for effective goal setting. “Your goals have to be compelling,” says Hyatt. “They have to be something that gets you through the messy middle so that when you’re tempted to quit, like you will be inevitably, you can press on.”
Sometimes I’m so determined to succeed at a level of Panda Pop, I will play it over and over again. I refuse to purchase more bubbles to make it easier to win, I won’t admit defeat. My desire and determination to win is greater than the agony of another failed attempt at winning.
This may be the element missing from goals I’ve set in the past and never met. The emotional connection to the goal just wasn’t there, leaving me vulnerable to defeat. This year, I am determined to reach a number of difficult goals, and when I’m struggling to keep moving toward them, I will think of bubbles and pandas and the satisfaction of winning new levels.
Sometimes you have to walk away from the game
When I was working on those bookcases last summer, I became so frustrated at times I would shout at them. Being Italian and all, I would shake my fist in disbelief at the bad results I was getting. But I noticed something different about my behavior after those outbursts. Rather than throw in the towel and give up, I would tell myself to take a break. I would stand back and let it go until I had the emotional energy to start all over again. I walked away from those bookshelves for three weeks or more before I came back to finish them. I gave my determination meter time to fill back up, and when it did, I had what I needed within myself to reach my goal.
I do the same thing when I play Panda Pop. When I have exhausted all my options and start to feel a level of anxiety over the stupid game, I turn it off. I walk away from my phone. I do something that actually has value, like have a conversation with my daughters or read a good book or tinker in my garden.
And the most important lesson I’ve learned from playing Panda Pop?
Don’t waste too much time on silly pastimes
I don’t have a clue if making it to level 165 is some sort of achievement in the world of Panda Pop, but I get a whole lot of satisfaction out of shooting bubbles and dodging obstacles. And yes, I’ve been reminded of some valuable truths about reaching my goals. But, at the end of the day, I know very well that all the while I’m fighting the great baboon, I’m not making progress in the areas of my life that really matter.
Panda Pop can be a fun diversion from life’s pressures, but remember the better adventure is finding success and satisfaction in the real world.
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