As we kiss goodbye to another decade, many of us are reflecting and considering how to add more happiness and meaning to our lives. I was listening to The Gambler (the Kenny Rogers version) written by Don Schiltz, and I’ve decided he is right enough! Strange though it may seem, the mindset developed in gambling can help us focus on getting what we want in the new year.
My gambling game of choice is poker – for matchsticks; Matchmakers if I am feeling particularly wild – and here are some reflections on how playing the game well translates to life lessons:
The coming decade will see us dealt many hands in the game of life. Some of will strike lucky and get a royal flush, perhaps in the form of a good job, a fulfilling relationship or a stronger family bond. Others maybe just get the two pair and see friendships fade, be faced with redundancy, sickness, maybe even divorce. However, the hand we are dealt is just one part of the jigsaw of life.
It can be loser, but it can also be a winner depending on how it is played. Consideration and planning the next move are important lessons in life and in poker. Understanding that both good and bad times are temporary is an important life lesson, so when we are up, enjoy it, and when we are down, know that we will get through it. I’ve seen inspiring turnarounds from friends who hit rock bottom then bounce right back up again against all the odds.
As we get older, we start to understand that people are not always what they seem. They can bluff us, making us think they have it all when they have nothing. The opposite can happen – we can be taken in by the fake laments of others.
Learning to hone and trust your intuition to understand what lies behind those ‘poker faces’ can stand us in great stead. Our hunches are often right, so why not make 2020 the year where you really start to tune in and trust your gut instinct?
Poker makes you choose – you cannot get a new card unless you throw one away. The same goes for life – sometimes, hard though it is, something must be pruned to allow something new and more valuable to take its place.
Make 2020 the year you consider what is of value in your life, and let go of what no longer serves you. Perhaps those toxic friends will have to go to allow for better friends. Or maybe you’re going to start refusing to be a doormat for others to allow time for what makes our hearts sing? Perhaps the opposite is true – we can be guilty of just not realising the value of parts of our lives and throwing them away without first trying to fix them. Hold it or fold it – that decision is never easy.
The best poker players know when it is time to walk away from a game. Deciding where you need to cut your losses is a skill. Women, in particular, are often guilty of holding onto things that no longer serve them. It’s a painful lesson to learn – but we can’t win every time.
Take time to reflect on whether it is worth taking a risk to go further or if it is time to accept defeat and walk away with your heads held high. There will always be another game somewhere else or with someone else – but it’s hard to play it well if we are still involved with the previous game. Our time on this earth is limited so there’s no point in wasting it on the losing games.
All poker involves betting as an intrinsic part of the game. Sometimes it’s low stakes, sometimes you may play for higher ones. Until the game is done you can’t be totally sure just what you will walk away with. Expect the unexpected is good advice for the coming decade!
Life has a way of throwing a curved ball – plans can fall down, just as they are taking off. Discovering a partner has had an affair when you have a life of love and joy with that person mapped out. Losing that dream job when you thought you would be there until retirement. Just as life can often lift us up – it can also knock us down.
But there is one difference between life and poker. We do have some influence over the deck we are dealt. We can study to get extra qualifications and help us change jobs. We can choose who we have friendships and relationships with. We can join a dance class even if we are fat and fifty or stiff and seventy. We can belt out our songs in a choir or in the shower. We can take huge walks in the rain. And we get to decide which are the aces and which are the two pair – even if others may not agree.
We are more in control of our deck than we think, and that is an incredibly empowering thought to take with us into 2020.