Life is a Game — Here’s How to Play

The following is adapted from The Standout Experience.

When I say life is a game, I don’t mean the board game Life (though that is a fun game). I mean your actual, real life.

Just like a board game, in life, there are rules and objectives and different ways to “win.” The game board is your environment, and the playing piece is you. 

Also like a game, winning at life is not about a single roll of the die or draw of the card. It’s a cumulative process, with ups and downs.

The better you learn how to play this game of life, the happier, more fulfilled, and better off you and everyone around you will become. One outstanding moment can lead to another, and each of them can bring new hope. 

To play this game of life well enough to experience those victories, you’ll need to understand the objectives, how to play, and of course…how to win!

Objectives of the Game of Life

You can’t play any game well unless you know what you’re trying to accomplish. Playing without clear objectives is like dribbling a soccer ball around an endless, boundaryless field with no goals. It might be fun for a few minutes, but you’ll lose interest quickly.

The first objective is to enjoy playing. Games are supposed to be fun, and life is the same. You can’t have long-term success if you aren’t happy in what you are doing. 

The next objective is to play strategically. You can’t approach the game of life randomly or without purpose. Think deeply about your strategy and plan carefully how you’ll reach your goals. Give yourself the flexibility to alter your strategy and change course as needed but keep your focus on how you’ll win.

The third objective is to always set the bar higher. Unlike other games, the game of life doesn’t end until you die. In order to keep the game interesting and moving forward, you must constantly set new goals and create a new future for the way the game is played.

The final objective, of course, is to win. Winning is determined by one thing only…you. You need to determine what success and happiness is for you. Play the game your way, and make sure that your success is your success, not someone else’s definition of success. 

How to Play

To succeed in a game, you must understand how the gameplay works. The game of life is especially tricky in this regard, because there are many different rules and strategies for how to play. However, there are a few fundamental, universal strategies to use.

Work Hard 

Hard work is a basic requirement of this game. It gets you a seat at the game table and gives you a chance to compete, but much more will be required, such as a positive attitude, a winning strategy, and a clear vision of what success will look like for you.

Always Be Moving Forward 

You can’t win the game of life by standing still. Nothing in this game comes to you. You must go to it. If you stay still, opportunities will pass you by. 

Continue making strategic actions that propel you forward. And if you get knocked down seven times, make sure you get up eight. 

Choose Your Direction

Don’t move just for the sake of moving. Be intentional with the direction of each step.

Sometimes, though, your movement will be based not on a proactive choice but on a reactive decision you’ve been forced into. This is part of the game. We can’t control everything in our lives. However, be careful to not let those reactive decisions dictate your overall direction. 

If you feel like you’re heading down the wrong path, it’s never too late to pivot to a different one but keep moving forward. The more steps you take in the right direction, the better you’ll play the game.

Expect and Embrace Challenges

In this game, you will occasionally experience pain, losses, and setbacks. It’s an unavoidable aspect of our humanity. To the best of your ability, embrace these difficulties.

If you spend your energy trying to avoid challenges, you won’t have the energy, time, or focus needed to actually play the game well. In that case, you’ll be playing a game that minimizes the bad instead of enjoying the good. 

Do your best to minimize pain when it happens and appropriately bounce back. Then, use that setback to get better and add fuel to your drive to win.

Always Be Competing

Competition is everywhere in this game. We all have desires, wants, and needs, and we must compete fiercely to get them. Compete every day, not just with others but also with yourself. 

Everything that happens in your life is ultimately your responsibility. The successes are yours to celebrate and the failures are yours to learn from. If you don’t get the results you hoped for, accept responsibility for it and try to do better next time. 

Even better than competing? Try dominating!

Winning the Game

So how do you win the game?

Let’s start by defining losing. At the end of your lifetime, loss equates to the gap between what you accomplished and what you really wanted, which creates regret. But loss is never how you didn’t measure up to someone else’s success or someone else’s expectations.

To win, you must accomplish what you really want out of life. Keep in mind that winning in the game of life is a holistic concept. There won’t be one goal you can check off (e.g., “become a millionaire”) and “win” the game. That’s winning a battle but not necessarily the war.

Think about everything you need in life to feel happy, successful, and fulfilled. That is winning.

By clearly defining what winning means to you, and understanding the objectives and rules, you can become a master at the game of life. 

For more advice on living your most successful life, you can find The Standout Experience on Amazon.

John Walsh is an inspirational and successful executive, entrepreneur, author, husband and dad with a passion for impacting the lives of others. John faced many challenges, uncertainty and failures early in his life but he created a purposeful and happy life with a lot of hard work and help from others. Over time, he created a playbook that allowed him to make the journey from homeless in high school to a senior executive with Disney and Madison Square Garden. He is also the founder and CEO of a company whose mission is to inspire and help millions of young adults stand out in their own lives and careers.