Let’s say you head off one weekend to watch a game of football with a close friend (for those of you who are from where I’m from, this game is known as soccer, and is played by normal sized humans, not refrigerators with legs and acres of ballistic padding). But this game is a bit different than the one that you remember. In this game, there are no goals, no lines on the pitch, and there is no defined end point.
Still, you really love the game, so you stick around. The ref blows the whistle, the game starts, and off they go: 22 guys chasing each other around the pitch like little children, everybody on the ball. It’s a bit hard to see them at times, because the lack of lines on the pitch means they can get pretty far away, and – as light falls – finally they become quite invisible, chasing each other around in the dark. As players begin to fall over from exhaustion, the game is finally called off when the referee is found to have departed for dinner in despair after losing the players in the next county.
Unfamiliar with this version of the game, you turn to your friend and enquire, ‘So, who won?’
‘No idea,’ they say, ‘but man oh man did they work hard – they went at it until they were totally exhausted. Amazing game.’
Crazy? Absolutely. Sound a bit like the world of work? Sometimes, for sure.
And how much fun was that? Not so much really, for either spectators or players.
What was missing? Well, it was not possible to win the game, because the way the game was constructed did not make it clear how to do that.
It is this simplicity with regards to winning and losing that – in part – explains the enduring popularity of sports: there are very well defined rules on how to score, the end is the end, and at the end there is a clear winner.
Life’s not like that, normally, but there are things we can do to help it be more like a winnable game, and less like an endless series of interminable endurance tests.
Define the game you are trying to win – get yourself a clear outcome in your system, so you know when you have won.
Define the goals you are trying to score – at least the next one, your next action on the way to your outcome.
Then, spend the day scoring goals. Which is fun. Occasionally, if you score enough goals you get to win a game. More fun.
Or you can keep chasing around in the dark until you drop. Your call, it’s kick off time.