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Life is Like a Game of Tetris

Life is Like a Game of TetrisI always loved the game of Tetris as a kid. I don’t allow myself the time to play it so much anymore, but maybe it would be a useful practice now and then. Tetris, while a game of speed and strategy, also teaches us acceptance, flexibility, and gratitude if we are open to learning.

There was nothing more satisfying than clearing four lines at a time. It was enough to bring jumping and shrieks of joy. It was even better when playing against someone else.

These moments might be fleeting, however. I could easily forget the thrill as soon as the next piece came down. Sometimes the blocks just kept stacking. The higher they stacked, the higher my anxiety and frustration.

I could use that as determination. I wanted to solve the puzzle and beat my last score. I could also be resistant to the pieces. “No, no, no, no, no! I don’t want that piece.” The more focused I was on the fact that it wasn’t the piece I wanted, the more anxious and frustrated I became.

I could feel angry if I lost the game. Angry at the game for the pieces it gave me? Sure. Angry with my brother for being so distracting? Most definitely. Most of the time, however, it was really just about me. I expected to win, and I should have done better.

Sometimes in life, no matter how much skill and speed we have, whatever pieces are going to fall will fall. It isn’t personal. Whatever piece falls and wherever it lands, a new one is always on its way.

As a child, I doubt I truly grasped the significance of this. Things can come together and fall apart. You can have all of the speed and strategy in the world, but sometimes you still don’t win the game. And that’s okay.

As an adult, I still want things to be orderly. I want to clear four lines in less time. To some degree, we all want the pieces in life to line up.

We can approach life as if it is an exercise in speed and strategy. Solve this puzzle, answer this question, and find certainty. Sometimes life works out exactly this way. Other times, it is just a stack of blocks that we don’t know how to use.

Some pieces in life fit within what we have planned, but often they don’t. The trick is to approach them with acceptance, flexibility, and gratitude rather than resistance, anxiety, and frustration. When we cross our arms and say, “No, I don’t want this,” we aren’t stopping whatever “this” is any more than we are stopping the pieces from falling in the game. Resistance doesn’t change what it is. It only makes a painful situation worse, and the pieces are still falling.

Acceptance and flexibility, on the other hand, allow us to bend and change with whatever comes to us. They remind us that even if we don’t like this piece, we can accept it and know that a new one is on its way. This doesn’t mean that we are always pleased with whatever life has thrown at us, but it might mean that we are willing to give it a go. When we approach difficulties with acceptance and flexibility, we see challenges as they arise and meet them with curiosity and trust in ourselves.

Viewing the pieces in our life with gratitude allows us to take pleasure both in life’s ordinary moments and its victories. Some of us may resist enjoying life’s smaller moments. We don’t want to feel too happy just yet and instead worry about what is coming next. We may be waiting for something bigger and better.

Even if we do feel happy, it can be all but forgotten with the next piece that gets in the way. Gratitude allows us to appreciate what we have when we have it. We can accept the impermanence of these moments and draw on them for strength during our more trying times.

With acceptance, flexibility, and gratitude, we can build resilience, find creative solutions, and learn to take healthy risks. We might also be that much kinder toward ourselves and others when we don’t come out victorious. There is less at stake when we are flexible with what we are given and grateful for what we’ve had. Victory isn’t so important when we learn to look beyond the outcome and appreciate the process.

Life is Like a Game of Tetris

Leslie Ralph, PhD

Leslie Ralph, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in a university counseling center where she specializes in anxiety management, values exploration, self-compassion, and mindfulness. Outside of the office, she is a wife and mother, cat lover, music enthusiast, weekend runner, and master at living room yoga. See more about how to connect to the good within by visiting her website

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APA Reference
Ralph, L. (2018). Life is Like a Game of Tetris. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 22 Aug 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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