SuperBetter: What’s the Best Thing That Can Happen?
Sometimes when I’m reading SuperBetter I think to myself, Jane McGonigal clearly does not have a bleak outlook of the world. Then I think to myself, “Well, good for her.”
I am more Strindberg than Pollyanna. I have more of a Siberian vs Maui internal landscape.
Which is why I really struggled with the idea of asking myself, “What’s the best that could happen?” (p. 143).
I am very comfortable asking myself what is the worst that can happen. I am excellent at making mental lists of worst case scenarios and then coming up with possible solutions for those situations. I am less comfortable allowing my mind to go to the best possible place. Moreover, I’ve found that once I’m there — in that best that can happen mental place — there isn’t much more to do except to get on with the happily ever after. Worst case situations gives you plenty to mull over or ways to feel like you are proactively working towards something. Best case situations can make me feel complacent. Like I’ve reached an end point and there is nothing left to do.
But, as McGonigal also points out on page 145, “Playing a game is a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.” In other words, the whole point of games is to set up a difficult situation and ask the player to try to overcome it. She makes the case with golf. The point is to get a small ball into a hole, but instead of having people walk over to the hole and place the ball in said hole, the game is to use a stick to hit the ball a great distance and see if you can walk around a grassy space to find said ball again. Not very efficient. Probably a lot of fun. (I say “probably” because I don’t play golf, but I have to assume it’s fun or we wouldn’t have so much land tied up in golf courses.)
I’ve been approaching life with the belief that the worst-that-can-happen mindset is the setting up unnecessary obstacles. I mean, worrying certainly isn’t efficient. I rarely come up with a great solution before something terrible has happened, and how often has my worrying really staved off disaster?
But in McGonigal’s case, she’s saying that the challenge mindset — that best-that-can-happen mindset — is making life into a game. She states, “It can empower you to find the unnecessary obstacle within the uninvited challenge you face” (p. 145).
In other words, what is a small obstacle inside a much larger problem that you can tackle right now to stay in the game? Look at your biggest life challenge right now and think to yourself, “If I try to tackle this, what is the best that can happen?”
I’m writing about SuperBetter the app as well as SuperBetter the book because… well… I learned about them via a podcast and now I want to talk about everything I’m learning on them. If you want to talk about them, too, join along. If not, skip the posts marked SuperBetter.