On Magic and Habit-tracking
In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. (Abraham Maslow)
The small things are the big things.
Fragment from imaginary dialogues
“I love that quote by Abraham Maslow. Brian Johnson likes to think of it as +1 or -1, and has a beautiful metaphor for it: Destiny Math.
Every +1 and -1 is a micro-decision, which most often escapes notice. It is the compounded effect of all those little moments that determines our Destiny.
Which brings me to Magic the Gathering and habit-tracking.”
“What’s the connection?”
“As you know, I love Magic. I love playing it, and I love delving into the design aspect of it. I love it as an experience, and also because it connects me with and allows me to practice some important values/skills: Creativity, Focus, Adaptability, Patience, Persistence, Decision-Making, Strategic Thinking, dealing with uncertainty, among many others.
The problem is, for me, it has addictive qualities. It’s immensely engaging, and once I get going, I find it very hard to stop. My solution for the past few years was to stop playing altogether. Until now.
In an instance of Inversion [<link; medium read], I’ve taken it as a challenge to conquer my addiction.”
“You’ve tried this in the past. What’s different this time?”
“I now see it as a spiritual practice.
Thinking of it as a bet, the potential benefit of success is huge. If I can conquer my most powerful addiction, what else is possible?
Also, in the past, I was relying only on willpower. Not smart, since willpower is unreliable.
I now approach it strategically.
Every playing session is a meditation.
Every playing session is a deliberate practice. I start each session with a written plan of action, detailing what I’m focusing on during the session, and end it with a debriefing session, where I analyze what went well and what didn’t.”
“Can you give an example of a spiritual aspect of the practice?”
“I play an online version of the game called Magic the Gathering: Arena. I play against real people. The game has very few social features. The only way to communicate with the opponent during a game is through a small selection of preexisting emotes, like ‘Hello’, ‘Well Played’, or ‘Good Game’.
I’ve made it a habit to always say ‘Hello’ to my opponent. And when I do it, I take a moment to center myself, focusing on my Heart, and send them Love.
Which brings me to habit-tracking.
That’s another strategic tool. I added Magic to my habit-tracker app [<link]. Initially, I added it as a yes/no ‘having completed the habit’ kind of thing. But then I had an idea:
What if I used the +1/-1 system for this particular habit?
Whenever I do something well, I celebrate it and mark it as a +1.
Whenever I lose balance, I mark it as a -1.
The goal for the day is to end it on at least a certain specific positive tally, like at least +3.
I call it +1/-1 Tracking.”
“Do you use this system only with this habit?”
“I’m thinking of using it only with the most challenging habits, as it’s quite laborious.”