Book Review: What Game Are You Playing?

Work is a game and in order to achieve your end goal, one must know the secret: don’t follow the rules, create your own.  “From the moment we’re born, others’ expectations shape our behaviors, choices, and definitions of success,” says Robin Moriarty Ph.D., a personal development expertglobal business executive, and professor. “Conditioning is a part of every society, and it’s not necessarily bad. It just means that someone else is defining your bigger game of life for you. When you play your own game, you write the rules, you decide what winning looks like, you control the choices, you make the moves, and you can design the game to be what you want it to be. So, no matter what game others are playing, you’re playing your own game, and you’re winning.”


Moriarty has designed her life and career in a way that has allowed her to live on four continents and travel to over 60 countries. Her gutsy approach has allowed her to move past cultural conditioning of The American Dream and formulate a winning strategy to accomplish what matters most in her life. She shares her anthropological insight and international adventures in her forthcoming book, What Game Are You Playing?: A Framework for Redefining Success and Achieving What Matters Most 


What Game Are You Playing? Review

I found that this book resonated with me more than any other self-improvement book that I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot!). Like the author, I have an unconventional job, I’m childfree and love to travel. This makes many people uncomfortable and I spent my twenties trying to fit into society’s idea of what success should look like. This lead to a quarter life crisis and a few nervous breakdowns. What Game Are You Playing? inspired me to continue to pursue things that make me happy and fulfilled, rather than trying to keep up with others around me.

Moriarty points out that this is all a game and you must make sure that it’s one you want to play with your own definition of success. You were conditioned from an early age to play a game created by other people so you must work hard to overcome this conditioning and discover what you really want out of life. If your definition of success differs from the norm, it will be harder because society rewards standard definitions of success. Tax incentives are offered for home ownership, marriage, having children and retirement savings. The wedding industry is huge, profiting off of society’s idea of what a romantic relationship should look like.

Many people are living a life that looks perfect from the outside, but are exhausted and resentful on the inside because they’re playing someone else’s game. Re-defining your definition of success may be scary and uncomfortable for yourself and others because we’ve been conditioned to play it safe.

Moriarty highlights the importance of getting the right kind of support. People may encourage you to follow a certain path because it’s easier or it worked for them. They may also discourage you from pursuing goals that seem risky or difficult. Therefore, you must surround yourself with individuals that encourage you to find out what makes you truly happy. That may mean big changes, discomfort and uncertainty. It may also mean distancing yourself from people that discourage you. But it’s better than living a life pursuing goals that don’t excite you.

How are you playing the game today? In order to create your own game, you must first analyze your current game. What is the objective, how do you play, what are the obstacles and how do you keep score? For many people, the objective is to have more money and they play by working a standard 8-5 job, using their bank account to keep score. Obstacles are usually bills, rising housing costs, bad bosses, and stress at home.

So how do you create a new game, one in which you make the rules? First, find your objective. You’ll need to separate what has been programmed into you by others and what you really desire. Then, how do you play your game? This means determining how you’ll spend your resources to achieve your objective. What obstacles are in your way? Common obstacles are fear of failure, people holding you back, lack of skills and need for supporters. Finally, how do you keep score? Maybe it’s the number of trips you take or new clients for your small business.

How do you get started? Start small. Making small changes helps not only yourself but others get used to change. Just make sure you keep progressing towards your goal. There are many games you can play and it’s your choice which one you want to play. And remember, you can always change your game!

Final Thoughts

I wish I had read this book 15 years ago. I spent too much of my life playing other peoples’ games. My success was defined by conventional things – good grades, a traditional job, buying a home, etc. But I was miserable. These things were not bringing me true happiness. Don’t waste another minute of your life playing someone else’s game. Start working on your own game today!



2 thoughts on “Book Review: What Game Are You Playing?”

  1. When facing a plateau in our personal and professional lives, many of us know “what to do” to break through the inhibiting ceilings, we just don’t know “how to do it.” Out of the depths of this author’s international experiences come lessons found in analogies many of us have not yet perceived, and these corrected perceptions provide the confidence and courage to achieve what matters most to YOU! After two readings, I am continuing to process the fundamentals as well as the finer elements of Dr. Moriarty’s concepts and suggestions to effect positive, life-correcting strategies and tactics. I am learning that I can actually do this! This book is so compelling that children, grandchildren, high school and college graduates need this book (possibly as a gift) to learn–soon enough–HOW play their own game and define for themselves what success looks like for them. This book is a MUST READ for all of us, no matter our age. I see parts of the book as a guide to help parents become aware of the conditioning they are imparting to their children…conditioning that may or may not help their children become who they who they (the children) want to become and achieve.

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