The Lure of Fantasy: The Sims and Other Dubious Pleasures

When I was younger, I would play Sim City.  You got to build entire cities, with roads, fire stations, waterfront houses.  Sometimes an earthquake would destroy it all.

In my twenties, my brother gave me The Sims for a birthday.  It was thrilling for nostalgia’s sake, plus it added a new dimension.  I developed my virtual people’s job skills, relationships, and home decor.

I played it ardently.  For a short period of time, I recall, I could easily spend most of the weekend tending to my Sims.  I sent them to work, I brought friends to their houses for parties, I clicked a single button to make them read about cooking and presto, they could whip up a 4-course meal.

Would that life’s returns were that immediate.

The game is alluring because at a click of the mouse, my Sims are off and running, accomplishing great feats.  If I want to learn how to cook, improve job skills or build new friendships, it takes time and consistent effort.  The feedback loop isn’t as immediate.  Rewards take time to reap.  I need to take satisfaction in more gradual changes.

Last weekend, my little sister from Big Brothers Big Sisters told me that you can get The Sims on your iphone.  I told her about my experiences with video games, where they can be fun but it’s hard to turn it off after, say, a half-hour.  Yet armed with this knowledge, when I got home that night I downloaded it on my phone.

The allure of fantasy is strong, the “rewards” immediate–but fleeting.  Once I had my Sims garden to earn money and buy a new stereo, what then?  I was given new “challenges,” but how challenging were they?

Playing The Sims is addictive, but the second I stop, I feel empty, not filled up like when I swim or write a blog post.  It’s like crack cocaine.  I need another fix.

Video games are fun–they’re so fun, in fact, that we can’t handle them.  Much like eating Chewy Chips Ahoy, gambling, and other risky behaviors, human beings aren’t cut out to do them in moderation.  We’ve primed for the quick fix, the sugar high.  This is why I very rarely keep Chips Ahoy in the kitchen.  I’d rather have a nice dessert at a restaurant, anyway.

What’s different when I listen to what my body and mind need?  I feel deeper rewards.  Not the high of the sugar rush or adrenaline rush, but a more sustainable “I’m on the path.  I made this happen.”  Whether it’s getting out of the house early in the morning to go for a swim, or accomplishing a difficult project, the payoff is far more satisfying than the addict’s quick fix.

I recently wrote this blog post about Flannery O’Connor and the power of habit.  O’Connor wrote every morning from 9:00 to noon.  We are the habits we develop.  At a certain point, they become not so much a matter of willpower, as second nature.  Our commitments and persistence make this happen.

How can I solidify this knowledge, make it concrete?  There are a few phrases that come to mind:

1. Smart feet:  put myself where I need to be, and the rest will follow. Convincing myself to get started is always the hardest part!  Once I’m there (whether at the pool or on my website), I know what to do.

2. Focus on what’s in front of me:  I can’t solve something that’s three steps down the road.  I can only take the next right action, and see what its consequences are.

3. Keep my word to myself:  I do this by putting my commitments to myself in Google Calendar.  To keep the same examples, even if it’s swimming and blogging, if I don’t do them I make myself delete them from the calendar, and I hate doing that.  I’d rather show myself that I’m trustworthy by keeping my word, just as I keep it to others.

I’m not quite ready to delete the game from my phone, but maybe I can mention it to my coach.  She would probably ask, “What if you just deleted it?”  In the meantime, I’m cooking a veggie frittata, blogging, and can’t wait to go swim.

How will you keep your word to yourself today?  What are you committed to?  How wil you honor those commitments?

I’d love to hear what you think.  Please leave a comment or send me an email!

Warmly,

Mary

Work with a Coach to Create Your Ideal Balance

Work-life balance is a term that gets thrown around a lot.  What does it mean?  Not working 60 or 80-hour weeks?  Having time with your spouse or kids every night?  Spending weekends on your hobbies, not glued to your computer or smartphone?

“Balance” would seem to imply that all things are in equal measure, all of the time.  In fact, this isn’t many people’s goal.  Some work hard and save up so they can have more free time a few years down the road (hoping they have time for other interests before retirement).

Some may want to spend 40+ hours on their career because it’s a passion; for them, balance means having a few hours here and there to explore other sides of themselves.  Others feel stifled by such a demanding schedule and thrive with more flexibility, perhaps working for themselves or freelancing.

What is your idea of balance?  What are you balancing?  When the pieces of your life are in ideal balance, how are you dividing your time?

Personally, I balance work, family, exercise, personal growth, fun and recreation, and other types of self-care such as sleep.  I need to do most of these everyday.  That can mean spending 45 minutes talking with my husband over breakfast, doing a few hours of work, going for a swim, making a healthy lunch, writing a blog post or answering emails from clients in the backyard, talking with my own coach, and watching “House Hunters” on YouTube.

I take time to pray or engage in meditative activities (including sitting by my bedroom window, watching sparrows dance on the grapevines) whenever I need to recenter, which could be 5 times a day.  While work and family occupy the bulk of my time, the other activities, though less in quantity, are just as important to my well-being.

Other tasks, such as monitoring savings or cleaning the house, fall under general upkeep and weekly to-do’s.  I fit them in when I feel the least resistance to them (usually mid-morning).

One coaching tool that explores these parts of our lives is the Wheel of Life.  It’s a circle with eight wedges:  Career, Family & Friends, Significant Other/Romance, Fun & Recreation, Health, Money, Personal Growth, and Physical Environment.  The sections can be tweaked; some people separate Friends & Family, or add a category of Spirituality.

Assign a number from 0-10 to represent your satisfaction with each area.  Your observations about your wheel of life can be illuminating.  Are you equally satisfied with each area, or are they wildly divergent?  Is your romantic life a 10 but your finances are a 2?  Is your career a 9 but your health a 4?

If spending long hours at work or a dislike of the gym are blocking your health from being a 10, consider an early-morning jog in a park close to home.  Do you want to be a  more available partner or parent?  The remedy is to clearly see where you are today, envision what you want, and take the first step to bring you closer to where you want to be.  Where we put our focus has the power to unearth possibilities.

Sound simple?  It’s deceptively simple, so much so that many of us are surprised when we wake up one day realizing we’ve jumped ship, abandoning our own dreams and desires.

What would an 11 look like?  It’s said that coaching begins when each piece is at a 10.  Through coaching, we get to stretch the limits of what we believe to be possible in our lives.  I’ve experienced this myself through being coached.  What mirage will be dispelled next?

Working with a coach ensures the support and accountability that are needed to make any lasting change.  August is a great time to start coaching!  Email me today at marywcrow@gmail.com to see how coaching can work for you.