The Zen of Candy Crush: Five Life Lessons

It’s my dirty little secret.

My children are mortified.

My friends roll their eyes and shrug.

Yes, I play Candy Crush.

There are a wealth of lessons to be learned in this seemingly simple, time-wasting-brain-cell-destroying app.  So before you judge too harshly, consider:

Lesson #1: The strategy behind eliminating jellies
Do I move the red candy to the left and eliminate three other solid red candies?  Or… do I move the green candy to the right and eliminate two of those dastardly jellies? Which move will line up five yellow candies so I can get the jimmie-covered chocolate bonbon?  Candy Crush is all about thinking ahead… I have a limited number of moves and must maximize each decision to eliminate jellies or bring down the fruit.  I have to think about my choices, the implications two or three moves ahead and avoid getting blocked off by those chocolate squares.

How often do we use that much careful consideration in our day to day decisions or at the office?

Lesson #2: Let your friends share in the sweetness
There comes a point where you need to get to the next level.  You have two options:

  • You can stay at your current level and repeat the lessons over and over again until finally the game takes pity (you ‘crush’ it five more times) and you are allowed to pass from Cupcake Circus to Caramel cove. Depending on the difficulty and your determination, you could be banging your head against this level for weeks.
  • You can reach out to your Candy Crushing friends and ask them to help you.  By sending you a ‘ticket’, your friends can unlock the next level. Your friends can get you to the next adventure in minutes or hours, and you don’t have to repeat the lessons already learned in the previous level.

We often forget that other people have information, skills and ideas that can help us.  And as human beings, we have an amazing willingness to help our brethren.  We are so wrapped in our own story and often so focused on “I can do it” that we forget that “I” don’t have to.  So share the sugary sweetness… and bask in the rainbow glow of your pals’ cheerful assistance.

Lesson #3: Discover each tool’s best, highest use
Much like our friends, we often forget that there are tools available to us to make our lives and our jobs a little easier.  The boosters in Candy Crush let me eliminate more candies and jellies to reach my goal efficiently. I have to carefully consider which tool it makes sense to use and when to use it.  Choosing the wrong booster or tool is a wasted opportunity and can cost me lives.

Are you using the tools available to you?  And are you using the right ones at the right time? I never understood my husband’s irritation when I’d use a screwdriver to open a paint can until I caught him using one of my nifty Togodashi kitchen knives to open a box of pancake mix. The right tools for the right job makes all the difference.  I won’t ruin the tips of his screwdrivers and he won’t dull my blades. We both win.

Lesson #4: Play it loud, play it proud
My children often berate me for playing Candy Crush.  How do they know I’m playing?  They know because the game sends updates through Facebook when I’ve crushed another level.  Woohoo!  Well, woohoo for me but my offspring are embarrassed by the public pronouncements. They’ve asked me to turn the notifications off, but truthfully, I don’t know how. Even if I did, though, I don’t care to.

In life and work, I think we just don’t celebrate enough.  Every advancement to the next level is an accomplishment.  Even if it only took one or two attempts, even if it was ridiculously easy, it signifies forward motion.  I got through a full day without scarfing on Oreos… yea, me!  I finished that presentation two days before the deadline… rock on!  Remember, every forward motion is one step closer to your goal.  No matter what that goal is.  I am moving ahead. I am achieving the goals I set out to do. So, yes… level 167 in Candy Crush? Woohoo!

How often do you celebrate?

Lesson #5: Be a good competitor
What makes a good competitor?

Someone who wins?  Sure.

Someone who trains well and is prepared?  Of course.

But the mark of a true competitor?  Someone who gets up and tries again when faced with failure. Time and again, as you face stubborn jellies, licorice locks and multiplying chocolate pieces you suffer defeat… then get back in there for another round. Learn from last round’s errors, test new strategies, pick effective tools… and persevere until you achieve success.  In what part of your life does this lesson not apply?  Whether training for my next half marathon or trying to perfect a healthy-but-still-yummy Sunday morning pancake recipe, repeated attempts are mandatory, part of the training.  Do I need a winning pancake recipe?  Of course.  But the journey of finding one is more than half the fun, too.  Enjoy the competition itself, not just the rewards.

Candy Crush is a Zen game.  With every level, you learn to pause.  Breathe.  Take it in, consider your options, breathe out. When I rush through a game, I inevitably make a decision – move the blue candy up! – and as soon as I swipe, the realization flashes before me that if I had paused another half second and moved the green candy left instead, I could have eliminated more jellies and set myself up for a bonus striped or wrappered candy.

I appreciate those Zen moments: slow down, think through your next steps, and then let go.  Every game is a clean slate.  Every level is a new opportunity. We do not cling to baggage from prior levels, but we do take our tools and boosters with us.  And our friends.

So scoff if you must. Join my middle child in his disdainful groan of superiority. Support my oldest and  youngest in their impassioned argument that Candy Crush is ruining the gaming industry.  Yes, there are better things I could be doing with my time. No, I am not changing the world or bettering mankind in the time I spend swiping rainbow colored candies and meandering through the Pudding Pagoda.  But I am relaxing, recharging and for a short time, playing in the Minty Meadow and crossing Bubblegum Bridge.

But do not forget… we can find lessons in everything.  Now, how do I get past those candy bombs so I can make it to level 168?

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