End Game: Tough Choices

An example of early-style Staunton Chess Set

Those of you who are Facebook fans know I enjoy playing chess. When I was a kid my dad schooled me in two games: chess and poker. I believe his goal was teaching me to choose wisely – to plan ahead and weigh the consequences of my actions regardless how small or insignificant they may seem in the present moment.
Chess – like Life – gets tougher as you progress and in a sneaky fashion; that rogue pawn seems harmless until you realize it blocks your only escape route.
In the beginning there are many choices that appear fairly simple; yes/no scenarios such as whether or not to eat, brush teeth, tie shoes, etc. As we grow older we begin to see consequences: weight, cavities, tripping 😛 We also make room for bigger decisions: “College? Grad school? Marriage?” We size-up our options and plan our future. We have slightly fewer choices – less pieces on the board – and begin to feel the weight of our opponent’s offense. The impending doom of each mistep can be stifling and so we begin to customize a support system of family and friends, but what happens in the End when we have less to lean on?
Ever since I was a boy, I always struggled with my End Game. I used to find this odd because there are [usually] significantly less chess pieces on the board at the End. Closing the deal is supposed to be the easy part, right? Wrong.
The key to a strong End Game is perspective. It isn’t about the fewer number of pieces onboard, but the greater number of possibilities. Being able to see the space … working dozens of moves ahead to find the safest outcome, avoiding the most hazards …
The more space we have in our lives, the more freedom we have to control our own destiny, the more responsibility each choice carries. When we enter the grown-up world of mortages and marriage, do we invest all our dollars in stocks and bonds, or spend some on entertainment and wardrobe? Don’t have coupons? Suddenly the brands of foods and drinks you cherished as a kid no longer appeal, especially if they’re not on sale. But financial planning is only the tip of the iceberg. The End Game layout is set up during earlier stages of play, which are somewhat unpredictable due to the humanity of our opponent. In fact, we may not even know we’re playing the End Game until they cry “checkmate!”
Such is Life! Nobody can predict the future or plan for the curve balls. So do we play defensively and go for a safe bet? Or do we raise the stakes and follow our dreams? Maybe a little of both? What if Life decides to re-raise, trade queens, and employ a secret weapon? When, if ever, do we recourse and initiate the proverbial “backup plan?” The more “tied down” we become in our responsible adult lives, the less uncertainty we feel but it’s only an illusion. Every choice we make plays a role in our End Game. Winning in Life may involve giving up some seemingly important pieces, but if you’re willing to take that risk, the payoff can be really sweet.

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