Play Your Cards Right

An MA Applied Imagination project answering the question:

How can playing with personality fuel proactive self-awareness, -direction and -development?


Take a pack of cards.

Answer one of 20 different questions on each of them.

Play a card game.

See what you think.

Edit and repeat as necessary.

Thanks to @TomCavill’s article below, I can now summarise my project in 9 words alone

Play Your Cards Right

— a way to ‘hack’ a pack of cards and allow you to review who you are today and help plan who you want to be tomorrow.

Using a series of simple quick-fire questions to provoke answers that highlight what’s important to you, this method gives you the information you need to help make more informed decisions about who you want to be, how you want to behave and what you want to achieve.


It’s hard to find the time to dig deep and think about the bigger things that motivate you or inspire you to do what you do.

This method is designed to be a quick and easy way to take stock of where you are in life and to put it onto paper where you can physically experiment with that information through normal card games, testing different combinations of the cards in your pack.

Completing this exercise once should be worthwhile, however, it’s true value lies in repeating it at intervals to generate further insight as to how you’re progressing over time. Personalising a fresh pack each year around your birthday for example would be an interesting way to record your priorities, ambitions and influences at that time in your life — a travel-sized time capsule.


The Pack

…is split into four suits:

❤ Hearts = Inspirations

<> Diamonds = Aspirations

# Clubs = Phases

∞ Spades = Behaviours

The four suits were chosen to span past, present and future as well as a mixture of concrete experiences and abstract influences that shape who you are on a daily basis.

…in each suit there are various themes too:

K/Q/J = The public you

10/9/8 = The professional you

7/6/5 = The adrenaline-seeking you

4/3/2 = You when no-ones watching

A = The lesser-known you

These three themes were chosen because there are three kinds of recognised comfort zone: personal, professional and adrenaline. This exercise aims to help you identify where the boundaries to your comfort zone(s) lie so you can devise way to go beyond them.

The public theme was added in to reflect how we present ourselves and/or think we are seen by others — something increasingly relevant as social media allows us to edit and consciously craft a public persona as we choose.

The ace is meant to be a surprise and thus looks to uncover the lesser known facts or quirks about you and see how it contrasts with the rest of your pack.

At a glance

N.B. Going left-to-right and top-to-bottom on the table above, you’ll notice the focus shifts from the public domain to the personal — designed so that the first cards you fill in (Hearts — King to Ace) are hopefully fairly straighforward to think of, people who inspire you, versus the more personal themes about your behaviours for example.

To get started, either print the ‘pack I made earlier’ pdf below or pick up a pack of cards if you have one handy…

Either way, start by answering the questions by writing what you picked on the left-hand side of the cards.

What did you pick, why did you pick it and what are you going to do with it?

It’s up to you whether you fill in why before, after or during you play a card game.

If you’d rather not share your cards with anyone right away than have a go at Solitaire/Patience on your own to get a feel for how your pack fits together.

Once you’ve played several rounds, by yourself or with others, go through your pack and add in the so what for each cardwhich should, in essence, be what you’ve learnt from putting it in your pack.

N.B. not every one of these cards will be a revelation — in fact, probably very few of them will. What’s important is that when a card does touch upon something important, you’re able to identify why that is and whether/what you should do with that knowledge.

Are you going to act upon what you’ve written down?

How well does that card sit with the others in your pack?

Would you swap it for something else if you could?

What’s the ace up your sleeve?

If you do have a go — which I hope you will — drop by afterwards and let me know how you found it.

Once you’ve tried it once, don’t hesitate to give it another go — you may be surprised how quickly some of your answers might change.

All and any feedback is warmly welcomed and essential to make this better.

Thank you for reading!


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