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You know, with the arrival of Dark Souls 3 on the horizon, I thought this would be the perfect time to talk about difficulty, both in games, and in life. (Incidentally, yes I will be getting the game and doing a Let’s Play of it.) Now, the Souls games are pretty well known for being difficult, and unforgiving. However, rarely are they thought of as unfair. The enemies can be absurdly threatening, sometimes cheap, and always a challenge, but there are patterns and methods to recognize and learn, to beat every single one of them?
You know what I hate? I hate the phrase “life isn’t fair.” Not because life is fair, but because whenever someone says it, they’re implying that life is inherently unfair. Life is neither fair, nor unfair, life just is. But like the Souls games, you can remove some of the difficulty of life by recognizing patterns, learning behaviors, and predicting outcomes because of it.
For one, let’s start with the most obvious pattern in your life: You.
In analyzing the patterns in your life, first realize that the most common denominator is you, always. If you’re being affected by something, you can always either affect that something back, or you can choose how you react to the effects of that something. This is why when you’re trying to “win” at life, 99 percent of the time the best, most valuable investment that you can make is in yourself.
Whenever I play games, I like to play them on at least the first step above normal, if not harder. Mostly because I really enjoy challenging myself. The nice thing is, doing that in games is a great way of training my own Self Discipline, basically risk-free, since it’s a way of mentally pushing myself without serious consequences if I fail repeatedly. Similarly, if I’ve got an “easy” or “hard” way of doing something recreational, I’ll typically pick the more difficult way.
The reason isn’t masochism, or macho bravado. It’s because I constantly want to push myself to become stronger, faster, smarter and more capable than I was yesterday because I am the only true constant in my life. For as long as I am alive, I will always have myself to count on, and I don’t want to let myself down, physically or mentally.
Now, of course, I don’t go to the point of serious danger with this mindset. Injuring myself is obviously counter-productive, and placing extreme or constant stress on myself is just as bad. However, manageable periods of time outside of your mental or physical comfort zone help you grow as a person. In fact, they’re usually the only way you grow as a person. Working out is pushing your muscles past their physical capabilities, causing minor injury, from which they grow back stronger. Exerting willpower to establish new habits temporarily depletes you mentally, but builds your self control in the long term (as we discussed last week.)
Small, manageable, self-induced failures and shortcomings can help you prevent larger, more devastating ones, or at least help you ride them out when they occur. The general idea is to artificially increase your “difficulty setting” in life when you have the time and resources to handle it, so that when something else kicks your situation into “ultra hard” you’ll be better prepared to handle it.
This doesn’t apply to stereotypical tests of fortitude, either. How about this: When was the last time you honestly talked about your feelings with someone? Your hopes and fears, your painful secrets, the things you aren’t proud of? Because guess what, if you’re not able to do that when you’re at a relatively quiet point in your life, and something big hits you internalizing all of that can do serious, serious damage. Having someone (or multiple someones) that you’re comfortable opening up to, and being practiced at doing so, can really help you out when you’re in a bad way.
What about stress relief? How good are you at dumping your own internal stressors, and letting them go for a while? If you’re not practiced and able to dump the little things that aggravate you, how can you expect to manage the big things that inevitably are coming down the track? Maybe start practicing meditation, or take up a hobby that lets you get some of that internal weight off of your shoulders for a while.
In trying to become a real life video game character, you have to factor “life” in as your stage, your tutorial, your stage hazards and your boss fight, because it is all of these things. Life isn’t fair, and it isn’t unfair. If there’s anything constant about life, it’s that it’s never standing still. Life never stops moving. The world moves around you, and you are the main character in your little world, set in this much, much bigger one. Try turning it up to hard mode for a little bit, and expand your capabilities, so when ultra mode comes bumping down the path, you’ll be a little better equipped to handle it.
Live boldly, change the world, and continue to be awesome.
Dan “DaRatmastah” Wallace