Lessons in Life from Playing iPad’s FreeCell Solitaire

Freecell LogoAs I am spending more and more time caring for my elderly father, we have come upon a shared activity that we both really enjoy.  FreeCell Solitaire is a twist on the classic solitaire card game.  Most of the rules are the same, but there are a few twists.  Gone is the repetitive three card deal that exposes the next card looking for a home…instead you get to see all 52 cards randomly laid out in eight vertical rows.  On either side of these columns are places on which to build your common suites from the ace on up, plus a novel holding place for four cards, that can be used to facilitate your latest plan.  As our understanding of the game has evolved it became clear there were not only patterns for success emerging, but that what turned out to be a solid game strategy could also be applied as Life Lessons…wisdom that had a real world context.

So here are a few of my observations.  I’m sure this will be nothing new to many of you, but to me, these lessons offered great insight and example, in a unique way that constantly reminded me of their use in one’s daily life.  Here’s a few of them, in no particular order.

  • Even when you lose, you are more involved in the game when you are giving it your all, than when the wins come easily.  What’s the well known cousin to this idea?…”tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”  Immerse yourself in Life…even your struggles, and experience the richness of the moment.
  • Every once in awhile you can get a hint for your next move.  This game has a little “Hint” button, but Life constantly offers us hints too.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a hint, and keep your eyes open at all times, for you never know from where those clues will come from!
  • Coming back to an impossible game after a good night’s sleep can make all of the difference in the world.  Everyone needs to recharge their batteries.  Take the time to sharpen your saw before cutting the wood.
  • Early success at the beginning of the game does not insure victory.  Know that problems can surface at anytime in life, so remain vigilant.
  • When you get in a jam, try retracing your steps.  I love the FreeCell feature that allows you to start the identical hand over, or undo any number of previous steps, so you can try another strategy.  Develop more dimensions to your game.
  • Before starting over, look at the game’s sticking point see what mistakes you made, and what you might have done differently.  This is a variation of what was just said.  The opportunity to start over again is a wonderful thing, but make the most of it by trying to understand how you got stuck in the first place.  Learn from your mistakes.
  • You can know you will be successful before everyone else does.  FreeCell Solitaire will signal you when it recognizes that you will win the game, but more often than not (in fact every time with this game), I already know victory is at hand before the computer tells me.  The only guessing is to predict when FreeCell will finally acknowledge the inevitable.
  • Even if you can’t see any positive results from your actions, or see a clear strategy to follow, sometimes it’s better to just keep the cards moving and stay in the game.  With every step you take, your perspective will change.
  • You can often see whether or not a strategy will be effective or not if you think ahead.  Without moving any cards, you can still play the moves through in your head…saving time and energy in the process.  Conscious thought precedes conscious, effective action.
  • Sometimes it’s just better to concede defeat and just try a new deal.  There are impossible hands that you can be dealt.  We don’t want to make a habit out of quitting, but sometimes our time and energy can best be spent by moving on.
  • You can’t win every game.  You can’t win every game…no one does, but as you improve you can win more than your fair share of them.
  • If you’re playing the game with another person, it’s good to let them have a chance to contribute.  I’m quicker at the game than my Dad, but if I don’t let him into the game I’d be missing the opportunity for a fun, shared endeavor, which is the real reason we play the game.
  • It’s good to sometimes focus on one aspect of the game, but you have to be able to see it from all perspectives.  There’s been more than one time that I am planning my strategies, thinking many moves ahead, when my Dad sees a simple move that was under my nose all of the time…oftentimes leading to a victory.
  • When you come up short after your strategy fails, it’s better to try another solution rather than just imagine and complain about what could have been.  I’m sorry to admit that I’ve groaned a few times about what could have been…saying if there was one extra move how much better the game would go.  But all of the groaning in the world does not help the outcome. Use your energy to move towards your goal.
  • If you are told there is nothing more you can do to achieve your goal, that does not mean that it is true.  Sometimes when you ask Freecell for a hint, it responds by saying, “No useful moves detected.”  Sometimes that directive is true, and if that is the case, you probably already know that is the case.  But several times, some creative, outside of the box thinking proves that FreeCell does not offer the final word on your chances for success.  No one is in more control of your life than you are.
  • After a victory, the outer celebration is not as rewarding as the inner sense of accomplishment.  Celebrating is fine, but do we really play the game for the celebration, or for the joy of the game itself?…for the way it tests us and teaches us, and makes us better.
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This entry was posted in Miscellaneous, Observations on Our Human Nature and Self Improvement, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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