I went through a phase several years ago where I was almost hooked on self-help, positive thinking, and motivational books. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I sought them out so much because as my default mood, I have for the majority of my life been quite the opposite of all that. It was very helpful and I honestly learnt a lot because, as I said, I am not someone who is instinctively looking for the positives in things. But of late, my life has been – gratefully– very stable, and with it also my mood. I hadn’t thought about the “positive thinking” concepts I learnt about in a long time. I didn't need to. Then a few weeks ago I played a video game that reminded me of some important things I was forgetting.
You may have heard of Mortal Kombat, a fighting game known for its over-the-top cartoon-style violence and gore. This is one of my favourite games. The violence in these games is so cartoonish, I can’t help but find it comedic. These video games also suit other aspects of my personality, like my short attention span and direct-goal focus. You press some buttons, it has an immediate effect, you see immediate results. I don’t have the attention span for games that require you to do missions and tasks to achieve one main objective of the game’s storyline hours or days or weeks after you started the game. Anyhow, so let me tell you now about two instances where Mortal Kombat, of all things, reminded me of the important effect that perspective and determination/focus has on success.
In the first scenario, I was fighting against an opponent and the particular challenge of this match was to try to defeat him without being able to see my progress. You see, neither players’ health bars were visible. So, essentially, you have to try to defeat the opponent without knowing how well or how badly you’re fairing. The opponent was very very skilled and had powerful attacks. He defeated me twice and so easily. I thought to myself, ‘This is impossible. He's too good and I can’t even tell whether I’m winning or losing’. Then I remembered at this moment one of those positive thinking concepts: it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether I’m winning or “losing”, as long as I am giving it my best. If I do my best and I succeed, then that’s good. My current progress doesn’t matter; as long as I’m aiming to win, then I have a chance to actually do it. Because as long as I am aiming to win, then I am winning. I’ve said it many times before, no soldier in war dies a loser; everyone of them is a hero even if they die.
In the second instance I was fighting an even more powerful opponent. One little attack from this opponent and a big part of my character’s health bar got drained. And yet I could bash him with a series of attacks and it would barely touch his health. After he defeated me several times, I got very frustrated. And I got whingey too, and I did the thing we all do but that has absolutely no consequence on anything: I started to make excuses. ‘This is not fair! The opponent is too big and too powerful for any character to oppose him.’ I was so frustrated that I nearly quit the game. But I felt it wasn’t right for me to quit so close to defeating this series of competitors. So I gave myself a little self-talk that was more useful than the previous one I was giving myself. I said “He’s not beating you because he’s bigger or more powerful than you. He’s beating you because you’re focused on his strength and size, and not on your own skill.”
And that, friends, is how I play video games. And that is also why it was never a waste of time to learn about how changing our mental perspective can change our outcome in so so many areas of our lives, no matter how trivial (like playing video games) or real (it helped me one day overcome those depths of depression).