Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What’s Your Path? – a Gamer’s Perspective on Personal Development

In Dungeons and Dragons, you build a character to represent you in the game world; think of a character in your favorite book, and now imagine that you make the decisions for him in an interactive story. Normally, these characters can attain up to level 20 – the ultimate in the character’s development. And there are online sites devoted to building these ‘people’ to be the best they can, over a range of 20 levels. You see, if you choose wrongly at lower levels, it can impede or block later decisions, and limit your character’s potential. So you start at 20, and ‘reverse engineer’ your character.

Which got me thinking… Why don’t I do this personally? If I looked at myself ‘fully developed’, what would I like to look like, and how would I have gotten there? It was amazing to think about, and I’d recommend everyone try it. Start thinking like this:
• Describe your ideal self. Rich? In shape? Family? Job? No job? Where do you live?
• What skills would you need to have to get there?
• What experiences?
• What situations would you have had to get that experience?
• What things do you have? How did you get them?

When you’re done, you should have a pretty full sheet. I’d suggest separate paths for job/money, skills/job, situations/experiences, and people encountered or things. Work out a rough timeline of either cause and effect, or ‘by the time I’m 30 I will have…’ Put it in chronological order, and reverse engineer your path. Look at the timeframe – is it realistic? What do you have to achieve first? What do you have to do next? What do you have to be doing RIGHT NOW?

For example, once you’ve decided you want to own your own restaurant (for example), what do you have to do? You’ll need lots of experience as a manager, money to buy in, and a great location & menu. If you see your two children helping in the restaurant, it’s time to start thinking about that too. So get a job in management, or as a host, waiter, or even busboy to get started. Build up your experience and responsibility, and save all you can. Learn systems, and play out in your head when and how you will start your restaurant. Will you buy it from your boss? Start your own from scratch? Will a partner bring the opportunity to you?

The more you decide ahead of time, the more likely it will all come true. Once you know what you need, you’ll see every event in terms of your needs, and respond with your needs and plans in mind. If you envision living in a tropical climate, you’ll start looking for jobs there, talking to people who go there, and paying attention to possibilities to get there. Your friends and acquaintances will have heard what you want, and every time that place comes up, they’ll think of you.

You might not end up exactly where you want, but you’ll be a lot closer than if you don’t know. As Yogi Berra famously said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up somewhere else.”

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