Humans are Excuse Factories

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Hey everybody!  We’ve got an AWESOME post today from Ches over at Live Like You Game!  LLYG is kind of like the more cerebral, less fitness-focused version of BaGC so go and check it out!  Really awesome stuff!  Don’t believe me?  Read on and see what kind of content he’s got going on over there, THEN go check it out!
-Dan
(Also, I’ve got a guest post over there, as well, so if you didn’t have enough reasons to head over there yet, that should be the final straw =P)

Humans are Excuse Factories. We are predisposed to find reasons to do too much, too little, or anything other than what we ought to do.

This isn’t entirely a bad thing. After all, it’s nice to have an excuse factory ready for shutting down really bad ideas.

But too often, we let excuses get in the way. There have been times that I spent so much time on filling out my Con list that the opportunity for any Pro was lost.

How do we beat the Excuse Factory within us? The simple answer is to be realistic: don’t overblow your excuses and do what needs to be done.

I advocate that approach, but I know that many of us in the critical moment lose all confidence. We then feel defeated as we give in to exactly what we told ourselves we wouldn’t.

So let’s take a step back, ignoring the present circumstances, and even reality for a moment. When was a time that you had great excuses, but you accomplished your goal anyway?

Maybe you have some concrete moments from your life – sports, school, relationships – that you can point to.

Unfortunately, Reader, I don’t have the pleasure to know your accomplishments. All I know is that you are or have been a gamer. So let’s talk about gaming accomplishments.

Already, you may be confused. You may not understand what gaming has to do with overcoming excuses. Gaming is entertainment – it’s fun. You think to yourself, “I don’t have to deal with excuses when I game.”

And that is exactly why gaming is a great example! Gaming shows off what you can do without excuses – or, more precisely, what you can do when you overcome your excuses.

 

“When we’re in game worlds I believe that many of us become the best version of ourselves, the most likely to help at a moment’s notice, the most likely to stick with a problem as long at it takes, to get up after failure and try again. And in real life, when we face failure, when we confront obstacles, we often don’t feel that way. We feel overcome, we feel overwhelmed, we feel anxious, maybe depressed, frustrated or cynical. We never have those feelings when we’re playing games, they just don’t exist in games.”

Jane McGonigal, TED Talk

 

You see, if you were to look at gaming like you did your real life – you would find excuses to not play under every digital rock and behind every virtual door.

Think about it. From the moment you pick up the controller for a new game, you have reasons for your inevitable failure. You don’t even know what the buttons do! You might shoot someone by accident!

When you start your campaign, you have setbacks galore to point to. It almost seems like game designers enjoy giving you the worst possible circumstances: you start with terrible equipment, you’ve been shipwrecked, you are lost, the laws of physics are different, and your character has amnesia for no apparent reason.

Any one of these reasons is cause for the Excuse Factory to call the game unfair and vigorously drop the controller.

Most of the time you spend gaming, you literally cannot complete your main objective even if it was right in front of you.

Batman simply doesn’t have the gadgets. Link doesn’t have enough hearts. Your Night Elf doesn’t have the gear. The Dragonborn doesn’t have the words of power.

For hours upon hours, you can say that your task is impossible and you would be 100% correct.

The excuses are there and ready to derail us, but they don’t. The fact that you have been in this scenario and continued to victory is amazing.

Games show us what we are capable of doing when we don’t let excuses get in the way. We can do the impossible by sticking to a problem until we change ourselves such that our limits shift.

Now that we have some experience to point to as proof of our potential, we have the foundation for defeating the Excuse Factory.

The first step is to look at your accomplishments – in game or not – where you overcame or overlooked excuses. Recognize that you are capable of a lot more than you give yourself credit for – with the proper application of hard work, of course.

 

But not only can we look to games for assurance, we can look to them for guidance! After all, your mental fortitude didn’t just appear by magic. There are things in the game and in you that brought that side out.

Let’s take a look and see if any of these things can be used in our real lives.

3 Ways that Gamers Conquer Excuses

  1. Identify on what you have to gain
  2. Focus on the difference you can make
  3. Reward yourself along the way
  4. Trust that you can get what you need
  5. Act to empower yourself

 

 

  1. Identify on what you have to gain

You play games for yourself. There is a stigma about talking about the benefits you get from being productive – whether it’s talking about getting a better salary or getting more fit and attractive. Be honest with yourself – you probably have these selfish reasons and that is totally okay. Video games present you with all sorts of treasures that are silly in the grand scheme of things. But if you defeated the Dark Lord, no one cares if you did it for the green tiger mount. You are no more selfish than you were when you started, but you are more successful.

 

  1. Focus on the difference you can make

Haven’t you noticed how most games have you in the pivotal role in the universe? It’s because we love the idea of being a big deal. It keeps the silly little tasks we do in perspective. Mining materials from rocks or practicing our combos is not interesting in and of itself, but it means something when it contributes to a greater good.

“The bigger the obstacle, the better the story.”

Jesse Schell, The Art of Game Design

 

In life, you probably won’t be changing the fate of the galaxy, but you do have opportunities to contribute to meaningful goals. Some big, like political movements and disaster relief. Some small, like helping an old lady cross the street (aka an escort mission).

When you realize the impact that you can make, your excuses get a different perspective. Sometimes they seem small, sometimes they are no longer in view.

 

  1. Reward yourself along the way

Small rewards are key to staying on task. Without rewards, your Excuse Factory just gets stronger and stronger. It operates on feelings, so it reacts to the sensation of success and cares little for actual success. That’s why games give you little rewards for the smallest, meaningless victories and then give you a fireworks production to make sure that you know you got it.

It seems silly that we can make big changes to our lives with strategically placed insignificant rewards. But it works. Many businesses have begun to use this method to subtly strengthen their employee productivity and brand loyalty.

 

“The list is practically endless. Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Deloitte, Sun Microsystems, IBM, L’Oreal, Canon, Lexus, FedEx, UPS, Wells Fargo and countless others have embraced games to make workers more satisfied, better-trained and focused on their jobs, as well as to improve products and services.”

Adam Penenburg, Forbes interview

 

These corporations have seen the results from gamifying their business. We can harness those benefits for ourselves by rewarding ourselves like games do.

 

  1. Trust that you can get what you need

When we start up a game, we know that it is a designed experience, so we have confidence that there is a path forward. We just have to work to find it and invest in it.

Life doesn’t have such assurances. You don’t know for sure that you can start your own business or run a 4 minute mile. However, obsessing about the difficulty and uncertainty crowds out real opportunities. Sure, those things are difficult and far off and scary, but you have access to loads of information from people who have done it before. You have the ability to learn, to make connections, to build yourself up.

 

  1. Act to empower yourself

Taking a step into the dark is risky. Acting without complete information feels like recklessness. But games remind us that a lack of information is a reality that we have to deal with sometimes. Rather than lament not having a perfect path forward, take the one that is before you. In the process, you will get much of the information that you wish that you had in the first place.

 

“Action always leads to evidence. You act, therefore something changes, and in observing that reaction, you gain knowledge.”

Charles Kiefer and Leonard A. Schlesinger, Just Start

 

You won’t know what’s in the cave unless you venture into it. When you leave the cave, you will be stronger than you could possibly be while standing indecisive.

In short, you don’t have to be a victim of your own excuses. Your video game experiences prove that you can be free to progress, improve, and enjoy the journey.

 

Thanks for reading,

Ches

You can check out more perspective on life and video games at LiveLikeYouGame.com.

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