Life lessons from playing Solitaire

Like many people, I suppose, I like to play an idle game of Solitaire on the computer, particularly as a way to while away time when I’m procrastinating. I silently promise myself that I’m going to play just one game, then just play until I win a game, which can take an inordinate amount of time, if I allow it.

On my netbook I have Windows 7, which has a nice newly-formatted deluxe-looking version of Solitaire. I’ve started allowing the game to keep score and count my winning percentage, which is, more often than not, discouraging; I think it’s 16% at last count. So lately, when coming to what seems a dead end in the game, I’ve been pressing “H” to give me a hint, but the hint usually takes me back to the stack of cards to be turned over, which can be frustrating when the “hint” is not readily apparent.

But the hint doesn’t always mean the card I think I need is available. It sometimes means if I move a card, or even two, off the row of aces and back into the working rows, then a card in the stack will be the right one. Sometimes this helps me win a game, sometimes not. But I get further along in the game by thinking critically about this “hint” than I would have otherwise.

It occurred to me that this hint system contains a good life lesson. When what we think we need in life isn’t readily apparent, and a situation seems hopeless, we’re usually all too ready to just give up and scrap the whole idea or situation. But if we stop and think and look carefully at possible solutions, even ones we may not have considered in the past, we can often find a way around or through the difficulty. We may not achieve the desired outcome, but we’ll get further along toward the desired goal than we would have otherwise. Quitting should be the last option, when all others have been exhausted. At that point we cut our losses and move on; it’s never too late to start over and over again in life.

This isn’t earthshakingly insightful, of course. But it bears remembering, because I know my tendency when the going gets difficult is to give up before I’ve given myself a chance to work out a satisfactory solution or chart a new course toward my desired goal. When I’ve gone against this natural tendency and taken the lesson to heart and seen a situation through, the results have often been more satisfactory than I thought possible.

Philosophy lessons today from a game of Solitaire…

4 thoughts on “Life lessons from playing Solitaire

  1. Depending on how you learned to play, different moves are not allowed or are seen as cheating. The way I learned is that once you put a card on the Ace stack, it can’t be moved back into play. I can’t recall the particular move, but I know I used to make one down in the rows of descending cards that someone told me was cheating because it was different from how they learned to play.

    The point I’m trying to make is that we come from different backgrounds and sometimes we constrict our solutions to our problems to rigid guidelines that were instilled in us at a young age. It can be difficult for people to think outside those rigid guidelines.

    As a “for instance”, I’ve known people that think that drawing unemployment is shameful and “welfare”. They would rather go without necessities than “lower” themselves to being on welfare. They refuse to consider the fact that their work has enabled employers to pay into this fund for their possible future benefit.

    Regardless, anyone who knows what you’ve done in the last couple of years already knows that you’ve learned how to think WAY outside the box and choose new avenues of thought. You’re a good inspiration whether you came up with that from playing Solitaire or by any other means.

  2. At first I didn’t want to remove cards from atop the aces, as I had learned that would be cheating, too. But I couldn’t understand what the hints were trying to tell me without moving the cards down from the aces. So I guess in some circles that’s a legitimate move.

    Yes, regarding thinking outside the guidelines; we cut ourselves off from so many beneficial experiences if we don’t. And regarding quitting, I was raised in a rather overprotective atmosphere, where I was allowed to easily quit if I found things too difficult. My family meant well, but it did me no favors. This was a particular drawback when I found it hard to find funding for college right out of high school. I should have been more persistent and thought outside the box for solutions instead of giving up so quickly. It was from that bitter experience that I realized taking the easy way out would seldom take me in the direction I wanted to go.

    And thank you for your kind words. 🙂

  3. I like this. It reminds me of Earl Nightingale’s story “Three feet from gold” where he tells of a man that invests all that he has in gold mining equipment and a share to search in. He gives up, sells all he has invested in at a tremendous loss and the guy that buys it from him strikes gold just three feet from where he had been digging. When I first read that years ago, I kind of argued with Earl. You know, come on Earl, most gold mining adventures don’t pan out, whether your talking literal or metaphorical. However, in the years since then, I’m seeing that most people, where ever they stand, are about 2 steps away from changing there life from “so-so” to reaching their dreams and goals. That was Earl’s point, and he first saw it in the midst of the Great Depression. I’m thankful for the thinkers and the doers in my life that keep me focused and motivated because the adverse is also true. Growing up in TX, we were outdoors a lot and we often gravitated toward water. So learning to swim and learning to deal with snakes were important lessons in my life. When I took swimming lessons I was told that most people who drown do so in less than three feet of water and less than three feet from the edge/shore. In other words, they believe their fears more than the reality around them. That stunned me. Then I learned that more people (at least at that time) died every year in America from non-poisonous snake bites than from poisonous ones. I, being an ignorant child, thought the bite went septic. Nope, people panic and believe that the snake bite would kill them, and so it does. In America, most poisonous snake bites are not lethal, so it really racked my brain that people were willing to live with that kind of ignorance, and hold onto to it to the point of death. That is my backstop for “There is nothing to fear, but fear itself” and it adds to my motivation to take those couple of steps in the other direction. Thanks Earl, Thanks Patricia, and Troy-great point about our self limiting beliefs!

  4. Oh yes, I remember that Earl Nightingale story; yes, many people come to the brink of having what they’ve worked for but stop just short, and it’s a shame.

    That’s interesting about the snakes; having lived in Florida for so long I ran across several snakes over the years–even unknowingly stepped on one once, and thought it was a garden hose!–but thankfully I was never bitten. I used to think that if I was I’d do my best to remain calm, but that’s a tall order.

    Thanks for your comments!

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