Recently my wife and I enjoyed playing some games of Yahtzee. We have done this quite a bit over the years and have also enjoyed playing it with the children when they were at home. The thing about Yahtzee is that, seemingly, it is all down to chance; that is how the dice role and fall. Of course there is no way to control this. Sure you can throw them harder, softer, from the side of your hand, or out of the front of your hand, but ultimately you cannot predict how the dice will fall. Sure you can hope, and if chance would have it, you may throw what you need/desire. In fact you have a one in six chance per dice. However, what you do have some control over is which dice you choose to keep and which you choose to roll again. So to that extent you do have some control over the game and its ultimate outcome, but not a lot. Many a time I have thought, ‘Oh no, I should have held onto the two sixes instead of the two fours, just after having thrown another two sixes’. But there you go, shit happens (as they say).
On this particular occasion (when playing our games) I observed an interesting thing about myself, relating to how my mood swung during the games. We played four games. My wife won the first (not unusual) and I thought ,‘ok fair enough, lets try again’. But I did feel somewhat miffed (though of course happy for her) :-), as I had started really well and had thought I was going to win. We started the second game and it did not go very well at all – right from the get-go. Interestingly, through this process I started to doubt myself and each decision I was making. My wife won this game by a county mile and got a Yahtzee to boot, just to rub it in (but of course I was very pleased for her again) :-). I started blaming myself and was losing sight of the fact that it was just a game and that I really had very little control over the outcome.
I reluctantly agreed to play a third game, definitely believing it was not my night. As fortune would have it, I did a lot better in this game and actually won. The world was suddenly right again, the sun was shining and the birds were singing. It was actually evening, the sun was down and the birds were fast asleep, but it felt like it anyway (though of course I felt disappointed for my wife) :-). “Shall we play one more?” I said, hoping secretly to even up the scorecard. Well, that did not go well at all, I had the worst game of the evening and my wife won convincingly, yet again, and she got another Yahtzee to boot, just to rub it in.
However, this time it was different. I did not feel miffed, or down, and I genuinely was pleased that my wife had one this one. Why the big difference? Well, I had experienced a win; one of four, but a win none-the-less. Sure, I would have liked to have won the last game, but it didn’t matter as I had got my head back in the right place.
This was just a game, but it made me see that, in some ways, it was not unlike life. I realised that there are people out there who have never experienced ‘a win’, not because of any fault of their own, but just because the dice have not fallen the right way for them yet. I realised that I needed to be more conscious of this; that just because I have experienced some wins in life and my mindset is OK, I cannot expect that others have the same outlook. If I felt down just because I lost the first two games of Yahtzee, how much more must some people feel down because they have not been able to get the job they want, or can’t earn enough to get a holiday with their family, or can’t hold a relationship together? Maybe all they need to have is ‘just one win’, so that when the dice don’t fall their way the next time they can at least have something to hold onto.
So what do I need to do about this? I could sympathise with them and say things like, “hang in there, I am sure a win is just around the corner”, or I could actually seek to input into their lives somehow, to help them get a win. For unlike a game of Yahtzee, where it is just down to the role of the dice, we do have a bit more control over what ‘we can do’ when responding to ‘their’ needs. At the very worst we can say to them, “I think you should hang onto the two sixes and not the two fours”, but at the very best we can walk a mile with them, helping them identify some opportunities and even help facilitate an outcome for them. This would not only bring me joy, but I’m sure would bring others joy also.