As I watched my two daughters play the traditional Indian game of “Snakes and Ladders“, I was realizing, at every step, that there was a striking similarity this game has with our life’s journey. There are so many lessons that this game can teach us, including how to go about executing the biggest game in our hands i.e. “our own life”.
Let me give you some background about the game just for those unfortunate souls who did not have the pleasure of playing this classic game during their childhood years, and then I will share how I look at this game from life’s perspective and what do I learn from it.
About the Game
Snakes and Ladders is a traditional Indian board game played in almost every household. Today, it is regarded as a worldwide classic. The historic version of this game was designed to teach moral lessons to the players and to show the game’s similarity to life and its teachings. A player’s progression up the board from 1 to 100 represented the journey of a life while the snakes and ladders represented the vices and virtues along the journey.
Here is my take on the learning from this game. Some of these learning were historically intended the way it is documented here, while most of them are based on my own personal experience in life’s journey thus far.
(1) Virtues and Vices
The game has been interpreted and used as a tool for teaching the effects of good deeds versus bad. The ladders represent virtues such as generosity, faith, and humility, while the snakes represented vices such as lust, anger, murder, and theft. As in life, the game shows that the number of ladders will always be less than the number of snakes as a reminder that a path of good is much more difficult to tread than a path of sins. In spite of this, stick to this,
(2) Life is Dual
One of the biggest implicit in the game is unchanging two-ness of things, the duality of up & down, good & evil, Alpha & Omega, Day & night, etc. Life is not meant to be a one sided affair. You will face both the good and bad times. You will face ups and downs. Just like ladders(ups) and snakes(downs), you will meet good and evil around you and you will also do both the right and the wrong things as you go through the beautiful journey of life. Life is dual. Accept it that way and you will be able to live much more happily. If today, things have not gone your way (you may have encountered more snakes), that is a part of the game. You must keep focus and move forward. You are likely to get hold of a ladder soon. Keep moving.
(3) Identify your Goal
The goal in the game is pre identified for you. It is very clear that to win, you need to reach 100. Those who have played the game might have realized that how focused we stay in the game to reach 100, in spite of getting any ladder or getting stung by any snake. Irrespective of what is happening to our competitor in the game, we continue to stay extremely focused to reach 100 defying all odds and not getting bogged down by any snake bites.
That is exactly how the bigger game (life) is supposed to be lived. First, you ought to define the goal of your life before you set out of your house to do anything else. This is the toughest thing for many people to do and most of us struggle till the end of our lives to find the goal of our life. I always recommend my readers to stop doing everything else before they have found the purpose of their lives. Living a life without a definite purpose is like playing the Snakes and Ladders game without knowing that your mission is to reach 100. All that you are doing in your life today is useless unless you have defined the purpose of your life.
If you are running hard in a vicious circle and are a part of the so called rat-race, and you are not sure that how would you find time to identify or pursue your true goals of life, you can adapt a process that I adapted a few years ago. First strive to get financially free doing what you are doing today. Post your financial freedom, you would have bought the time in your favor and then you can truly work towards your life goals. Make Financial Freedom as one of your biggest ladder in this game of life to reach your ultimate goals or pursue your passions of life.
(4) Keep your focus on the goal
Having once defined the purpose, align all your daily actions with the purpose of your life. You got to keep your focus on that end goal and that will drive your daily actions to make sure that they are aligned with the purpose. If you encounter things that you do everyday that are not aligned with the purpose of your life, start thinking and finding ways to eliminate them from your life slowly.
(5) Be humble but never give up.
Don’t look down on people who are less fortunate than you. Everything that you have with you today is temporary and can be destroyed within a fraction of a second. Be grateful with what you have. Likewise, when you fall down, don’t give up. Try again. Isn’t that exactly what you do when you fall in the game. You just look forward once again with renewed energy and fight back to the top. This is exactly how the life is supposed to be lived. Never Never never give up in life.
(6) Accept the outcome
Whatever the result (win or lose), accept it with grace. Do not be too elated in success and on the other hand, do not be demotivated in your failure. Everything is temporary and life is supposed to have a mix of both. That’s also the spirit of sportsmanship. Make losing a motivation, not an excuse not to play again. Convert your negative outcome into a positive energy to fight back again and reach the top.
(7) Have Patience
Patience is another virtue we can learn from this game. You may be down and out. You may be the last in the lot but if you keep patience and continue to do what is the right thing to do, you might soon be surprised at how quickly life can give back to you, exactly the way how it happens in this game. So, be patient, keep doing the right thing, do not get distracted, annoyed or demotivated. Life will take a turn… yet again. Give it a chance and continue to follow the right path.
(8) Keep Moving
At the end of the day, it’s not the number of ladders or snakes that you face in your life that will determine your fate. Has anyone won this game just because he or she got more number of ladders? No. Your future in the game of life is determined by one thing, and one thing only – “movement”. Just keep moving ever forward. Don’t stop at the foot of a snake and throw away the dice. Just keep moving. Get up again, and keep moving. You might like to pause for a moment to recharge the batteries, or even have a little cry, but then keep moving again. On the way learn from your mistakes or misfortunes – until you reach the finishing line as a seasoned victor.
(9) Enjoy Life
This is the biggest lesson of them all, according to me. Never be in too much of a hurry to reach the end of the game. Enjoy the lucky breaks, but realize that the steady patches and the snakes prevent us from getting to the end too quickly and add spice to our game. Enjoy your journey of this game, the twists and turns, the snakes and ladders equally. In the end, everyone will reach the end goal – sooner or later. Be a good player, making the most of all the journey brings. Enjoy and cherish every moment of life.