I play word games on my phone. Some of you may know my addiction to Words with Friends and Hanging with Friends. Now Zynga, the company that launched these games, has gotten me hooked on a new one, Scramble (with Friends, of course).
There is a difference between Scramble and the others. They allow you to pick perfect letters to form the most partner-stumping words at your own sweet pace. But Scramble is a race against time! As in the traditional word scramble games, you must find as many words as possible running in multiple directions on a letter grid. Meanwhile, the clock (normally 2 minutes) is running.
I avoided this game for years. Then recently, I had this little chat with myself:
Why don’t you play this game ?
Because I don’t like working under the gun for time.
Because I can’t think that fast and it is overwhelming and frustrating, and I shut down.
Well, can’t you learn to work that way?
Hmm, maybe…ok, let’s play.
Well, when I started, I was a deer in the headlights. I would freeze and couldn’t see a single word. I lost my first 45 or 50 games. Pretty demoralizing. Then, slowly, I calmed down and started to to see words. More and more of them. I even started to win a few games! Now it is a beautiful challenge to get in that “focus zone” and fly through the grid.
Why am I talking about this in a health and fitness blog?
Because three unexpected results have changed the way my brain works with amazing implications for daily life.
The first is the ability to work under time constraints. We all have deadlines, many of which seem daunting and may make us want to avoid the task as long as possible. When you challenge yourself to work against the clock, you can beat your expectations by thinking and tasking faster than you imagined possible! This makes all chores seem easier, because no longer are they insurmountable, time-consuming sentences. Now I fly through many tasks with the greatest of ease, sometimes trying to beat the clock to turn them into a game.
The second result is the ability to see patterns from different angles. Finding words running right to left, diagonally and wrapped around other letters gives you a new perspective. The world just got bigger, as you notice things you used to miss. I am making new connections between Yoga, core training and even horseback riding. What a benefit to my clients!
Thirdly, the game teaches perseverance. It’s hard to come back time after time when you keep getting beaten and you can only find 18 words to your opponent’s 42 words. But hanging in makes all the difference. The reward is that much sweeter for having struggled first. I know that if I just keep at it, my skills will improve.
I like exercising my brain this way, but you might find a different game or sport to challenge yourself. The main idea is that it should be fun. You just might surprise yourself!