The Lesson I Learned from Doodle Jump

So I was going through my touch flipping through applications the other day, when I came across it.  Doodle Jump.  For those of you who don’t know what Doodle Jump is, it’s an insanely addictive game where you move a little Doodler as he jumps from platform to platform, evading obstacles and monsters, to try and climb to a new highest score.

The game always ends with you reaching the inevitable frustration of watching your little Doodler plunge to his doom as you let out a, “Noooooo”…and then play again.

The thing is, I haven’t played this game in months.  At one time something that was so addictive and exciting has lost its allure.

I sat there wondering why my mind wasn’t interested in jumping through Doodle Land anymore.  I knew the appeal was gone as I sat there playing a game, just waiting for it to be over. (Well, actually I have to admit I still break this out from time to time.) But it was no where near as exciting as it once was.

And it dawned on me that the game just got to be monotonous.  What were once exciting challenges turned into redundant expectations.  The flow of the game had been lost because there were no new difficulties.

What I learned from Doodle Jump is that life without challenge becomes boring.  Entertaining new challenges and ideas would mean your considering doing something you did not think possible. Otherwise we get caught up in the rut of reaffirming what we already know we can do instead of trying out new ways of being.

Think about it.  We may enjoy when things become easy.  But overtime that enjoyment will transform into boredom.  A skier will get bored riding down the same green circle slope. They have acquired new skills and what once tested their abilities and gave them excitement now only gives a fraction of the happiness it used to.

A tennis player, will not enjoy hitting with someone who is well below their skill level as they would with someone who slightly surpasses it.  An avid reader will not get the same enjoyment from those 3rd grade picture books (Well, there are always exceptions!) But you get the picture.  (Pardon the pun)

New challenges are not something that should be avoided, but embraced as an opportunity for learning and improving skills. In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s (Try pronouncing that one) Flow, he found that when challenges and skills were both high, people felt more cheerful, active, creative, and satisfied.

I have reached many points in my life where I have felt dissatisfied in something that once was a great source of joy.   Exercise seems to be the most redundant one.  I would try to just push through the resistance, but it was only making matters worse.  It was like forcing myself to play Doodle Jump for an hour each day.

It wasn’t until I started thinking about exercise in new ways, breaking free of my routines, and doing different genre’s of activities that I really got back into the enjoyment of an active lifestyle.  Swimming, hiking, sprinting, rock climbing, dancing, have all been new challenges and new levels of excitement.

I started hitting a wall with my blogging as well.  I was really starting to dread it.  I tried to be so methodical and precise in my posts that they lost their enjoyment. Now I try and take personal stories and examples and just talk them out.  Much more exciting because I don’t search for the ideas, I just live out my life, sit on my porch play some Doodle Jump, and then write a post on that!

I challenge you to challenge yourself.  It might just break the barrier of boredom you’ve been chronically hitting against.

The Need for Challenge

There was an Indian tribe residing in the Shuswap region of British Colombia.  This specific region was considered by the Indian people to be a rich place.  There was plenty of salmon and game, vast amounts of below-ground resources, and plenty of fertile land.  They built village sites and had elaborate technologies to effectively cultivate the resources.  The Indians looked at their lives to be rich and good.

Yet, over time the elders began to find predictability throughout their days.  With everything so readily available, challenge began to go out of life.  Without challenge, life had no meaning.

So the elders gathered and discussed what they should do.  Through discourse and in their wisdom they decided the village should move.  Every 25 to 30 years, the entire population would move to a different part of the Shuswap land, and there, they found challenge.   There were lands to fertilize, new game trails to learn, new areas to navigate.  Life would regain its meaning and everyone would feel rejuvenated and happy. Incidentally, it also allowed resources in one area to recover after years of harvesting.

The need for challenge.  It is an essential part of our lives.  We all have days when we wish we could just have things handed to us.  Money, jobs, knowledge, health, people.  The list goes on, but if we were to magically acquire our, desires would we really be happy?  Or as the Shuswap elders predicted, would life loose its meaning.

This tribe had it all.  They were the Rockefellers of the Indian world.  But even surrounded by all these riches, the people were still unfulfilled.

We think if, if only I had ‘this’ then I would have the means to do ‘that’.  But by not being handed what you want, it allows you to focus in, face the challenge, and achieve what you need.

A psychology study manipulated the initiation of being part of the experimenter.  Little did the participants know, the initiation was actually the study.  The first group completed quite simple and basic tasks and then went on to partake in an arbitrary study. The second group had to go through much more difficult initiation.  The tasks were harder.  Some of them were embarrassing and required significantly more involvement from the participants. When the study was over, who do you think valued the study more?  The latter group.  It was a relatively meaningless study, but because it was more challenging and greater amounts of effort went into the process, the second group found significantly more meaning in the study.

We thrive for challenge.  If you were given everything you wanted in this world, would you become complacent? Probably not.  We are constantly seeking stimulation. No one wants to sit around and do the same word search over and over again.  We know how it works out, we know the answers, we want something new, something unfamiliar – something unknown.

Having it all does not give you a life of fulfillment.  Next time your tested by something, challenged by its complexity, tired from its rigors, ask yourself would you have it any other way?

Have an Unreasonable Look on Life

We interact with life through a set of contexts, a scale of possibilities.  The bar gets set and everything under it becomes achievable.

We become familiar with the scales of our lives telling us what we can or cannot do.  Everything within it, achievable.  Everything beyond it, unknown.

If a 3 mile run is part of a person’s daily workout, they generally accomplish it with little doubt.  They have a resume of successes from all their past runs.  It acts as evidence for their ability – known, definite, and achievable.

Now say this person is asked to go on a 10 mile run.  “Woah, hold on a sec now. That’s far.”

It is far if you’ve been used to 3 mile runs, but if you’re a person training for a marathon, 10 miles is a breeze.

It’s all about the context of the situation and the scales you have built in your life. They tell you what you can do just as much as they tell you what you cannot.

Think about all the scales in your life.  Money, friends, enjoyment, exercise, success, creativity, knowledge, all set to a scale, our scale.  I make x amount of money, I have y number of friends, I exercise that much, I’m this creativite.  We fulfill these expectations for ourselves, but we have trouble surpassing them.

Change your scale, shift your context.  Be unrealistic, be unreasonable.  If you expect to run 10 miles everyday, even if you only get 5 or 6, it still makes that 3 miles a breeze.

Soon you set a new scale for yourself.  You start gathering new evidence, accomplishing new things.

Everything you have done has currently gotten you to where you are.  The context of your life shows all your current known abilities.  Raise that bar.

Everything done this far is known, because it is past.  The goals you set for the future can fall in line with your current context or they can be completely unrealistic in comparison.

Some would say it’s not good to be unreasonable or unrealistic.  But when you’re reasonable you use the same strategies that worked before, the same scales that you know you will find success in.

If you set the bar high for yourself, if you embrace different strategies, set different goals, look at things with a new perspective you will breakthrough to new areas of your life.

Don’t live life to scale, that just isn’t realistic.