Did you ever play the Game of Life?
I can still hear the dial spinning as I held my breath, wondering what I’d land on in the Game of Life? Would I be a successful doctor or lawyer, with a perfect number of children and coast through the game and laugh at my friends and sister? Or would I struggle around the board, and they laughed at me? It was all the luck of the spin. Even at the time when I loved to play, I kind of knew that it was a horrible game.
Well, I have a better game. We’re going to play My Wonderful Life. It’s fun, and everyone who plays wins.
My Wonderful Life: A Game to Connect the Dots
How to connect our day-to-day with our big picture?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve struggled with connecting my big-picture goals and dreams to my daily activities. For years I’ve had a monthly practice of setting my intentions for the month and the year. Each month, I’d reflect on the previous month and set intentions for the next month. I would set dates on the calendar and tasks, and then . . . well, the days caught up with me, and I’d get to the end of the month without having done what I set out to do.
Checking in halfway through the year: what happened?
As the year progressed, things I said that I wanted to do at the beginning of the year could get a bit lost in the shuffle, even with a monthly review. Before I knew it, I sometimes found myself looking at my goals and wondering what happened.
Does this happen to you? It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
My Wonderful Life: a game that connects the dots
I think that I’ve stumbled upon something that can help. At least, it’s helping me. This post is for you if you’re looking to connect your everyday life with your bigger picture. I’ve called it My Wonderful Life, and it takes our big picture and connects it with our daily activities to help us create lives that fill us with wonder. Unlike that old board game, it doesn’t matter what other people spin. How we do at the game is up to us, and I think playing at all makes us winners.
Backstory—I’d created this little game
Way back when I started this blog, I posted about a game that I’d made up to help me remember to do the things that I love to do. When we get caught up in our daily lives, the things we love to do can recede into the background, and, before we know it, years can go by without us doing something that we truly love. I created that game so that I’d remember—and get a little reward in the process. It works, and I’ve played it for years now.
The rules of the original game
Basically, the game is incredibly simple. Here’s what you do:
- Take some business-card-sized card stock (I recommended bright colors), and write out activities that you love to do that meet the following criteria:
- things you can do without anyone else
- things that do not require a lot of resources
- things you can do in a 24-hour period
- At the end of the day or the next morning, go through your deck of cards. If you did the activity that day, remove it from the pile and place it on the table. If you didn’t do it, the card stays in the pile (it wasn’t expected that you’d every activity every day).
- Snap a photo of your cards and keep track of how you’re doing with doing the things you love to do.
An incredibly easy, yet highly effective, game
Pretty simple, eh? Fun, too, and it works. Not only did I get a little boost from getting a bunch of little rewards in the form of cards, I also gave myself a little reminder about what I love to do. Maybe there’s something on there that got lost in the shuffle but really makes me happy. Here was my reminder to do it.
Changing my life meant a new deck of daily activities
However, after I quit my job and started traveling, I realized that I needed to shake things up with my cards. I got some new card stock, and I wrote out new activities. I’d had a hard time finding colors I liked for the card stock, so oddly, I got a neutral kraft color.
My new deck of wonderful daily activities
My deck includes things that make me happy, reminders to Be a Better Boss to Myself as I learn how to navigate work outside of corporate life, as well as old standbys like remembering to Do Nothing for a few minutes each day and Do Something that Scares Me. I’ve added Snack Free Day to remind myself to eat better, and I’ve also recently created a card that says Evening Routine, because I’m working on having a better approach to bedtime.
This worked, but what about my big picture?
My new deck better suited my new life, but I realized that something was missing. I wasn’t connecting these daily activities to my bigger picture. Around the end of January, I realized that if I expanded the game a little bit, I could connect my goals and dreams with the way that I was spending my days better if I included my bigger picture in my daily game.
Introducing the Your Wonderful Life Game
I’ve now run this experiment for several months, and it’s working. I thought that I’d share it with you. It gets a little more involved. I’ve updated the free Wonderful Life planning template to help guide this exercise, yours for subscribing. There’s also a new I Love This List that you can use to help identify activities that you might add to your deck. These templates are free for subscribers, and you can subscribe below for access!
A more holistic approach to planning my Wonderful Life
I updated the My Wonderful Life template because I’ve updated the way that I think about my plans for my life to make it more holistic. As with creating recipes, I often experiment with things that I hear about and put my own twist on things. Combining things the way that I’ve done is my own thing, but many of the pieces came from different sources, and I’ve credited them in this post.
Do I execute perfectly on my plans now? No, I do not. I am still very much re-learning how to work and how to live. Even with a schedule I control, life can still get in the way. But this helps me to keep what’s important to me top of mind, and I think that it can help you, too.
A new way of envisioning my Wonderful Life
My new big picture has four components (sources linked):
- My Word of the Year*, which this year is Intentional. I want to do things on purpose this year.
- My Values.** These are our guiding lights. My values are Curiosity & Creativity, Wisdom & Growth, and Compassion & Kindness.
- My Goals*** in the areas of Health & Wellbeing, Relationships, Vocation, and Finances.
- Five Things I Want.**** These are things that I really want, and, in some cases, I have no idea how I’m going to get them. Just because I don’t know, though, doesn’t mean that I should put them on the back burner. These are the good stuff, and I want them front and center.
- My Daily Activities: What daily activities support my values, goals, and wants, and bring me joy and satisfaction?
Getting more intentional in my planning gave me an idea
Given that my word is Intentional, because I want to focus on taking action on purpose, I decided to connect my goals and steps I might take toward my wants with my values. I also tried to drill down into my why for these. And then I thought, what about my daily activities? What about those cards? How do I connect those with my goals, wants, and values?
Dear Reader, I made some more cards.
Making some new cards
I got out a marker and some more card stock and made some new cards. On one card, I wrote the word Intentional. On the back, I wrote, “Do things ‘on purpose;’ create a vision and stick to it’ know where I went and why I went there.”
Then I took three cards and wrote out my values.
Then I took four more cards, and wrote out my Health, Relationships, Vocation, and Finances. On the back, I wrote out my high-level goals for the year.
Then I wrote out five cards for my wants.
And then I took my neutral-colored deck of daily activities cards, and I started to play.
Let’s play My Wonderful Life!
The game remains very similar to the original one, but with one important twist. Before taking our daily activity cards and laying them out, we do the following:
- At the top of my table, I place my Word card
- Then, I lay out my Values cards. I vary the placement of them (this will make more sense as you begin to play), but they are always below the Word of the Year.
- Then I place my Goal cards below the values, wherever I think they best fit for a given day (Relationships, for example, could potentially go under any of my values. My work is usually connected to Curiosity & Creativity, but also to Wisdom & Growth). Again, this will make more sense as you try this.
- Next, I place the cards with my Wants underneath the Goal card (or cards) that make sense. It starts to look like a pyramid. This can get a bit messy sometimes, but I don’t worry too much about that. Life overlaps.
- Finally, I take my deck of Daily Activities cards, and, for the activities I did, I place them on the Word, Values, Goal, or Want card that makes the most sense (they do straddle sometimes, but I do my best).
- I then snap a photo.
It’s a little more involved than it used to be, but it still only takes a minute or two each day to play.
Checking in on what I didn’t do
Lately, I’ve taken the added step of looking at the cards I didn’t lay out. I think of why I didn’t do the activity. Sometimes it’s just because there wasn’t time, or that wasn’t the focus of my day—it would be a very strange day where I did ALL of the activities. However, sometimes it’s because I have a block, or I’m avoiding something. If something stays in the deck for a really long time, I ask myself if this truly is something that I love doing. We sometimes say that we love doing things to please others or because it’s something we think we should love doing.
Create new Daily Activities cards as needed
I also create new Daily Activities cards as things come up, for example the Evening Routine that I talked about above, as I started doing this after I started this version of the game. I’ve also just created a card that says SWIM!
Why play the My Wonderful Life game?
Annie Dillard would not approve of my using her writing this way, but the simple truth is that “how we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives” (emphasis mine), and I want to be more intentional about the way that I’m spending my days.
Playing this game helps me to remember my goals and dreams throughout the month and helps me to think about them, and sometimes question them. It reminds me to take small steps that can help me get where I want to go. In keeping with my word of the year, this game helps me to be more intentional about the way I live my life.
It’s a quick and fun way to check in with ourselves
The cool thing is that this game, including the little reflection, takes all of about five minutes. Most days, it’s a nice reminder of the things that I did that I’m proud of. And, on days that didn’t go so great, I know that there’s always tomorrow. It helps me to remember to schedule things that I might have forgotten (Take Care of Life), and it shows me how my day contributed to the life I envision.
Wanna play My Wonderful Life?
All it takes is some cardstock in colors you like, markets, and, your Big Picture, including a few things that you really really want. Once you’ve made your deck, playing a game that takes five minutes and could change your life.
Here’s everything you need, and I’d love to hear if you’re playing along!
My Wonderful Life: A Game to Connect the Dots
To assemble the deck
- 1 colored piece of cardstock for your Word or word of your season—think something that you really want to focus on for the next period of your life
- 3 colored pieces of cardstock for your Values
- 4 colored pieces of cardstock for your Goals
- 5 colored pieces of cardstock for your Wants
- A package of neutral business-card-sized cardstock for your Daily Activities
- Markers. I recommend a finer-tipped one for the Daily Activities and a larger one for the other cards.
To fill the deck
- Your big-picture goals, wants, and values. If you don’t have this, this template might help.
- A list of daily activities that you love to do that you can do by yourself, with the resources you have, within a 24-hour period. If you need help generating this list, this workbook might help.
To create the cards
- On the card for your Word of the Year or Season, use the larger marker to Write out the Word on one side. On the other side of the card, write out a couple of bullet points to define what you mean by that word
- Do the same for your Values, Goals, and Wants
- For the Daily Activities cards, use the finer-tipped marker to write out one activity per card. Create as many cards as you wish
To play the game
- Each day, either in the evening before bed or the next morning, set aside five minutes to play. Think a bit about your day before you begin, as your placement of the cards will vary from day to day
- On a table large enough to hold the cards, place your Word of the Year card at the top of what will become a pyramid (this might not be a perfect pyramid in the end, and that’s fine, but this card goes at the top)
- Below the Word of the Year, place your cards with your Values
- Below the Values, place your Goal cards where you think they make the most sense, connecting your Goals to your Values. This might not be a perfect pyramid shape, and that’s fine
- Below your Goals, place your wants, connecting these to your Values and Goals, as makes sense to you, given the day
- Take your stack of Daily Activities cards and flip through them. If you have done an activity that day, place it on one of the Word, Value, Goal, or Want cards (you can straddle, but it’s easier if you just pick the card that makes the most sense). If you didn’t do an activity, keep it in the deck
- When you are finished, take a photo for posterity
- Repeat the game daily
- If you do a monthly planning and reflection exercise, use this time to look through your photos for that month and think about the Daily Activities that you haven’t done and what that means. Incorporate this into your monthly exercise
Check out these resources
Here are posts and sources that you might find helpful.
Resources for my Wonderful Life exercise
* I started using a Word of the Year after participating in Elin Lööw’s Companions in Creativity membership. This is now a closed community, but you can find Elin on Substack.
**My focus on values comes from participating in Emily Clement’s Vibes & Values membership. If you are looking to live your life by design, Emily is your gal. Her membership also opens periodically throughout the year.
***This one is a blend. I started setting goals in these areas after my therapist talked about them. Emily discusses these as well, though she uses different terminology and focuses on our dreams for these areas.