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How to Win at Life via Chutes and Ladders

by Alison on July 8, 2014

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Do you remember the childhood game “Chutes and Ladders”? The board consists of a grid of numbers that go from 1 to 100. When you play the game you start at one, and with each roll of the dice you gradually move up the board toward 100. When you hit a ladder you skip ahead to a better number. When you hit a chute you fall back down to a lower number.

This simple game is actually a decent metaphor for life for two reasons.

Reason #1- The path to our goals is rarely a straight, plodding line of progress. We think that we’ll be able to put forth consistent, effective efforts every single day. Or we hang on to the hopeful belief that it’s possible to jump from 1 to 100 immediately. But success often lies at the end of an extremely winding road full of ups and downs and many small wins.

Reason #2- Chutes and Ladders also illustrates the difference between short and long term goals. In the short term you’re trying to avoid the upcoming chute or get to that next ladder. In the long term you’re trying to get to the finish at 100.

So what do these lessons mean for you?

1) Be compassionate with yourself.

When you stall out or regress or get stuck on a side issue, remember that it’s just part of the game. It happens to everyone, and it’s totally possible to recover. To get back on track try asking for help or talking through what’s been going on with someone. Generally try to be kind and encouraging to yourself.

2) Take a short term/ long term approach.

Know that handling a short term goal does not mean you’re giving up on the bigger picture of what you’re wanting. Oftentimes in my work with clients there is a glaring immediate need that we need to tackle, like getting out of a toxic work situation, increasing financial security, or providing a chance to heal and recover from overwork, burnout, or injury. Handling these items may not result in immediate progress towards bigger career dreams, but they need to be dealt with all the same. By breaking your goals into short term and long term components you can clarify exactly where to put your focus.

I hope these ideas will help you in whatever goal you’re working towards!

Have you ever had high expectations for how easy or quick it would be to complete a goal and struggled when reality turned out a bit differently? Have you ever used the short/ long term approach in your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily July 10, 2014 at 4:40 am

Thank you for this post, Alison! I love the short term/long term perspective. I’ve been like a bull going after my long term goals of building my career and paying down debt that I’ve worn myself down in the pursuit, all the while trying to deny the fact that my current job is no longer a good fit. I see that I’ve been trying so hard to get to the future that I’ve missed the present signals to slow down and change course. Yikes. But yay for seeing it. And now for a little self-compassion.


Alison July 10, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Excellent insight Emily! I loved reading about how you integrated the short/ term long term idea from the post into your own life. Nicely done. :)


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