Have you heard the term leveling up?
If you’ve ever played a video game, especially back in the seventies and eighties, you understand the significance of moving up to the next level.
I don’t know how many hours of my childhood were spent trying to get to the next level of Space Invaders and Donkey Kong and Mario Kart and Centipede and PacMan and Joust and Frogger and Combat and Asteroids.
But it was a lot.
There were no cheat codes back then.
You just had to totally kick ass at one level, and then you could move up to the next one.
Now leveling up isn’t just associated with video games.
You can apply this concept to any area of your life.
Anything you want to improve, to increase your performance in, to do better — that’s leveling up.
If you’ve run a couple 5K’s and are ready to kick it up a notch, you might level up to a 10K.
If you’ve started decluttering your house, you might be ready to level up to the Marie Kondo method.
If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while, you might be ready to level up from restorative yoga to hot yoga.
There also aren’t any cheat codes when you wanna level up in real life.
The only way to get to the next level is to kick ass on your current level.
It can take a long time to level up.
Hours and days and weeks of Space Invaders taught me this.
But so often in life when we decide we want to make a change, we want to skip a buttload of levels and try to start somewhere around level 25.
And then we fail.
This is why we are so often unsuccessful when making New Year’s resolutions and when we try to change our eating habits or our exercise habits or our cleaning habits or anything else.
We try to level up before we’ve got the hang of the level we are actually on.
We don’t meet ourselves where we are.
If you want to keep your kitchen sparkling clean but every surface of it is covered in food, dirty dishes, and trash, then you have to be realistic.
You aren’t going to go from shithole to spotless overnight.
You need to meet yourself where you are.
Maybe you begin with the goal to keep one section of your countertops clean.
And you only focus on that one section.
When that becomes automatic you can level up to the next thing.
Now you can keep another section of your counter clean. Once you’ve mastered that space, you can move on to the sink. Or making sure the dishwasher is empty every night. Or whatever.
And you keep leveling up until you are ready to keep the whole kitchen sparkling clean.
If you are struggling and feeling like a failure with a certain aspect of your life, especially one you’ve wanted to change for a long time but have experienced failure after failure after failure, take a good hard look at what level you are on.
Rather than trying to jump ten levels, think about what the next level of the video game of your life would look like.
Your first running race isn’t going to be an ultramarathon.
Your first running race would be a 5K.
And you might walk some of it.
Or all of it.
Meet yourself where you are. Find your current level. Figure out what the next level would look like.
Play the crap out of that level until you can easily kick its ass.
And then you can move up to the next level.
Be patient with yourself.
Remember how long it took you to get to the next level in Donkey Kong.
And then multiply that by like a hundred.
This is your life. Life takes longer than video games.
But bit by bit, you’ll make it to the next level as long as you keep meeting yourself where you are and staying in the game.