When you play a game, there are normally rules for how somebody is judged to have “won.” In my favourite genre of city-builder games , this is typically some combination of achieve a certain population and treasury, produce so many of some particular resources, rule some number of of other cities, and build certain monuments. Some games let you create your own “scenarios” where you set your own victory conditions, which you can make as hard or as easy as you like. When I download scenarios from the web, they’re usually aimed at the most experienced players, who want the most possible challenge. But it’s also perfectly OK to want less difficulty: to combine some degree of accomplishment with a level of concentration and stress that’s suited to your temperament rather than the high-end of your abilities.
That principle applies to a lot of other kinds of goals in normal life, too.
Consider this A-Z challenge: write one blog post each day in April except Sundays, with titles for each letter of the alphabet, in order. At the highest level of difficulty, I lost as soon as I missed a day, which since I didn’t remember about the challenge until I saw another friend’s post about it, meant I started off with the game already lost. So I adopted my own lesser goal: blog more than the only other time I tried, back in 2013 But in the back of my mind I couldn’t help thinking “I really have to write 26 blog entries.” That attitude added some stress to what should have been a fun hobby task. Now that I’m on the second-last day with this entry and four more to go, I seriously doubt I’m going to make that goal.
Is that a failure? I think there’s another lesson to be learned, this time from how Kickstarter works. Someone wants to raise money for some creative endeavour; they post a goal, people pledge, and if that amount of money gets pledged by some deadline, the project gets funded. It doesn’t if the total doesn’t equal or exceed the goal. So there’s a minimal winning condition: get the project funded. But most projects have “stretch goals:” if we raise this much extra money, we’ll add the following additional thing to the project. Often there are several stretch goals; I think I’ve seen projects with 5 or 6 of them.
So a healthy attitude is to adopt some goal that seems achievable with the effort and stress you feel warranted (whether that’s easy for you or a significant challenge), then set some stretch goals: if I have time and energy left after the main goal, I’ll add this one.
I’m declaring V for Victory on this month’s challenge. Last time I got five posts; this time 22, so it’s a substantial improvement. Each additional letter beyond V is a stretch goal; if I think of a W in the next couple of hours, I might manage that one today too.
The idea can carry over into life goals as well. I’ve posted about how I haven’t achieved what young me thought I would, but I’ve done plenty of worthwhile things and am considering retirement goals such as improving my fiction writing. The point is to set your own goals, not the ones other people expect of you.