Many of us have given up on ourselves. We’ve given up on our ability to manage who we want to be and how we want to live. Modern life comes with a plethora of distractions. Abandoning the potential of our own lives has become the new normal.
I’d like to offer another way: viewing life as a poker game, with mindfulness as your poker face. One of the goals of mindfulness is to redirect us into the game of our own lives. Mindfulness can also help us be a little more playful when we’ve been dealt what we perceive to be a bad hand.
Life is like a constant game of poker; the game never stops. You can stop playing; you can give up; but the game keeps going. And life generously tries to keep us in the game by offering us different cards every day.
Life can get messy when we don’t play because the ruleson giving up on ourselves aren’t clear. And our society is getting filled with more people trying to make up their own rules.
We are trying to make new rules of escape from playing the game to our full potential. Some of these include medication, drugs, alcohol, addiction (work, sex, food, technology, television), excuses, and labels. Not all these are inherently harmful, but they are if we cling to them as a way to escape any real depth, meaning, and purpose in our lives. We’ve become good at seeking anything to keep from noticing that we stepped away from the table of our potential.
Why are we so reluctant to stay at the table? Because we will have to look at the cards we’ve been dealt (face truth), have to think, and open ourselves to change or the risk of losing the current hand.
Interestingly, there is no other option. If we choose to not play, we are guaranteed to lose. The only way we won’t lose is if we are authentically ignorant, and most of us aren’t. We aren’t ignorant to what we are capable of doing and becoming. We are smart enough to know that we have given up on ourselves, and with that knowledge, we will always lose. A guaranteed win is the minute we jump back in the game.
Here are five mindful ways to win the game of life:
- Acceptance Play what’s in your hand. Trying to mentally play what you imagine your hand should be is wasted time and energy. This seems ridiculous to do with cards, but we do it with our lives. It doesn’t work. You are guaranteed to lose. Nor do we try to play someone else’s hand at the card table, but we try to live someone else’s life. We try forcing ourselves in someone else’s body, and we are always looking over our neighbor’s fence to see what they have. If you play cards (your life) this way, you will lose. Accept your life as it is, and play what’s in your hand. Stay on your side of the fence, stay in your body. Then and only then can you choose, and move forward with the potential in front of you.
- Patience Play your best card for the best possible outcome. That’s how we play cards, and that’s the best way to play life. In poker, we are allowed time to assess our best strategy (patience). We don’t always like what’s in our hand, and we can grunt and fuss, but we stay in the game. Every day, life only asks us to play our best, not someone else’s best.
- Observe Once you’ve played your best card, watch and observe what other players are going to play. Learning to observe how people respond, what worked and didn’t, is part of the game. Ignoring what is happening around us makes us a poor sport, unskillful, and increases our chances of losing. In a very real way, we are all playing off each other every day.
- Stay After all the cards are on the table, you find out if you win or lose. Either way, you don’t walk away. You stay. You stay because you still have cards in your hand. And you get the chance to pick another card. Life is just like this. Every day, every minute, you get the chance to play a new card. It’s an amazing game!
- Repeat. Accept. Be patient. Observe. Stay. You will always struggle outside the game because there is no playbook on how not to play the game of your own potential.