Ever had a project or life experience so large, so daunting that it felt like you were fighting an epic battle, and would never succeed?
How is one supposed to keep an optimistic attitude when you feel like Sisyphus, the king from Greek mythology condemned to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill then watching it roll back down again?
Two steps forward, one step back. It is hard to focus on the two steps forward when that rock keeps falling back downhill. Sorry to mix my metaphors…
Folks in long term job search or stuck in a dead end job feel that way every day. They have to keep performing tasks every day that require energy and enthusiasm when they feel like the weight of the world is upon them. It is even worse on the older end of the spectrum when every day as you walk into that awful job or sit at the kitchen table to network your way to a new job you are reminded that this is not how you planned to live your life.
The other day after spending time with a desperate job seeker I heard a fascinating TED Talk by Jane McGonigal, “The Game that can give you 10 extra years of life” about playing games as a prescription for improving our real lives.
Jane McGonigal is a game designer who does research into the impact of gaming on our lives. A few years ago Jane took to her bed with debilitating aftereffects of a serious concussion. She felt she had nothing to live for. She had thoughts of suicide. She was desperate.
Since she is a gamer she decided to invent a game to keep focused and give herself a reason to live. It was called “Jane the Concussion Slayer”. She adopted a secret identity, recruited allies and activated power-ups to battle the bad guys. Every day she tackled small goals and fought small battles that moved her closer to her goal of defeating the concussion.
Within a few days of playing she says the “fog of depression and anxiety went away” – just vanished. The symptoms took longer to go away but she says she stopped suffering and could feel positive again.
She wrote a few blog posts and put up a few videos and the idea started to catch on. She renamed the game “SuperBetter”, a game to help you achieve your health goals by increasing your personal resilience. This game is available today. The concept is just as applicable to job seekers and those bored with their careers as they are to people dealing with serious illness.
By making your challenge into a game you break the challenge down into manageable chunks you increase the likelihood you can achieve the little chunks that build into bigger achievements.
These small wins increase your resilience. Everyone could use a bit more resilience to take on the day, work with those allies to slay those dragons.
Resilience requires mental focus, discipline, determination and willpower. Willpower works like a muscle. You have to exercise it.
As job seekers or folks dealing with a difficult work situation, we need a deep capacity for resilience in order to keep coming back to our challenge with a smile.
Here are a few suggestions from Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk that might help build your resilience:
- Take a walk and get some physical exercise. Activity builds physical resilience so get out of your chair right now and get active.
- Count backwards from 100 by 7s. This is harder than it looks. Scientific research shows that this kind of brain work builds mental resilience.
- Look up a kitten or puppy video on YouTube or picture on Google images. The ability to provoke powerful, positive emotions like that “aw…” you feel when you look at baby animals builds emotional resilience. It seems that experiencing positive emotions dramatically improves your ability to tackle problems.
- Shake someone’s hand or send someone a quick thank you by social media. This builds social resilience. Shaking someone’s hand for six seconds actually increases the level of oxytocin in your bloodstream – the trust hormone.
How do you feel? Feel like you can take on the world after completing these exercises? You should. Now you have to practice these daily to build your resilience in the face of the big challenges we face in the world today.