Think about it…we have all played games all of our life. We have played Monopoly, Life, Baseball, Football and a host of other games and sports. All of these activities have invented rules to create drama and fun and competition. However, it is all made up just for the purpose of the game. Incredibly, we get into it and have played our child-like “hearts out” trying to win. Life is a game. By this, of course, I do not mean to make light of any of our struggles, pain and troubles. Yet, how we approach the game or the rules we accept in order to play it can make a difference in whether we enjoy ourselves or not.
For example, play the game of “Make A Contribution” in regards to your life situation. Instead of going at your circumstance from a “do or die” mentality or perhaps a “whatever” mentality…go at it from the view of wholeheartedly putting yourself in the “game” as a valuable contributor. In other words, it the success of the endeavor does not all depend on you but you play knowing you bring worth and value to the game. So, you bring it. Then, put yourself passionately into the game as one who makes a difference.
Here’s an exercise to help develop this muscle. First, create an agreement with yourself that says something like, “I will play the ‘make a contribution game’ today and every day.” Second, survey this past week and take 10-15 minutes to write down every way you see that you made a contribution. This may be a game changing, innovative idea at work or it may be that you picked up dinner on the way home one day or put dishes in the dishwasher. It doesn’t matter. Just write down every way that you contributed. Third, think about the rest of today. Be intentional about how you will bring value to your world before the day is out. Write down what you will do. OK, this doesn’t mean that should not be spontaneous in playing this game. Feel free to be all the spontaneous you want to be. Point 3 just means that you are bringing a deliberate choice in how you will make a contribution to the remainder of your day. Have fun.
I have a coffee mug that I received years ago from a group called Hope Worldwide. On the navy blue mug was a picture of a starfish with the inscription, "Make A Difference". The story of the starfish as I recall goes a little somethin' like this. There was a jogger running down a beach early one morning. In the distance he saw someone curiously stooping over and then as if making throwing motion would heave something into the sea. The jogger was intrigued and as he approached was trying to figure out in his mind exactly what was going on. The person in this unfolding drama continued repetitively to stoop and throw, Finally,the man saw what was happening and stopped the morning jaunt to talk to the lead actor in this movie he had been watching. The mystery was solved. The person he had been observing was standing amidst hundreds and hundreds of starfish that had washed ashore the night before and was throwing them back into the ocean. The jogger said, "You know. There is no way you are going to get all of these starfish off the beach and into the water before they die. You are just not going to make much of a difference." The savior of starfish replied as he threw another one into the sea, "Made a difference to that one" and he continued.
I was pushed from a very early age to excel, to be the best I could be (which Mom, of course, believed meant I would be the best at whatever) and to lead. Frankly, this was a huge stress and pain producer for me for many years. It is a lot of pressure for someone to feel like they must be a Top 10% producer at everything, all the time in any circumstance. There are other ways to relate to the world versus this pressure packed strategy. For example, you can lead from "second fiddle", you can be satisfied providing labor for a cause in which others provide the leadership and you can be internally satisfied just making a meaningful contribution. Over time and many years ago, I realized that I wasn't going to be the leader at everything anyway as there are so many talented and incredibly gifted people on the planet. I learned to lead where I was needed to provide governance or inspiration and work for others wholeheartedly on other tasks or projects. I felt a deep sense of pressure release when I "got it". This can be a real anxiety fighting tactic for lots of people. Today, you don't have to be in charge though it's OK if you are. Regardless, it’s OK to just make a contribution.