Persona-fy My Life
Setting and achieving goals through incremental, realistic steps
There’s always a satisfaction to levelling up and improving your character in video games. After all, who doesn’t feel motivated by attainable goals with noticeable improvements for what should feel like a fair level of investment. This isn’t always so easy to attain in real life and I think that’s part of what attracts so many of us to them. I’m sure that’s at least a part of why people give so much of their life to MMO’s and I can guarantee you that’s why I’ve played over 300 combined hours of Persona 5. 120 of those in the past few weeks with the release of Persona 5 Royal and it showed me a new way of looking at my life and my time.
Persona 5 is a game that splits you between the real and fairly normal world and one where you delve into people’s subconscious to steal their hearts and change them for the better. In these worlds, called Palaces, you do battle against various demons (Personas) that represent different kinds of personalities or inner beings. As a highly adaptable protagonist, you can also bond these to yourself partially by exploring relationships in the real world that represent these personas. It’s very much high anime bullshit and I enjoy it greatly.
However, the demon battles and fantastic mind palaces aren’t really what draws me in, it’s the real world.
Your days are segmented into chunks and so long as story content isn’t eating them all, you can choose what to do with them. There’s a large piece dedicated to school but after that you have the afternoon and the evening to delegate tasks to. You have friendships to build (to help with those Personas I mentioned before) and skills to enhance and limited time to do so. It makes you really think about where to get the best value out of your free time be it improving friendships, yourself or both. I realised, after ironically improving very little of my own life in the hundreds of hours of in-game time, that there are lessons in this.
I want to Persona-fy (that can’t be right) my life. I think there’s a lot of value to looking at activities or choices for how to spend my time and actually asking what I’ll get out of it. It’s important to provide the same level of kind logic that Persona does in game. For example, playing a game or watching a film isn’t necessarily a waste of time. In Persona 5 doing so can increase a variety of skills depending as there might be something to learn from — even if a slight leap in logic — and the same can be true in life. I’ve started to look at the options I have and ask myself “how will spending my time on this improve me?”. Perhaps even more importantly, I’ve looked at them in hindsight and asked “how have I improved?” and it shines a new light on every action.
Cleaning my house, for example, only ever seemed to serve the purpose of making my house cleaner but I’m starting to see it’s deeper than that. If I think about it, I can split it into Persona-like skills to see what I’ll gain. I mean, having a cleaner house will definitely make me more charming to anyone who sees it (probably not so much right now). I will probably gain some proficiency and skill at the task that’ll make it easier next time or can be applied to other things. Maybe I’ll find an item, or just improve my ability to do other activities in the area. Suddenly something that felt like a potential waste of time has layers of value and feels more worthwhile. This isn’t to say I previously lived in squalor but it helps me see how much I could be getting out of something so simple if I apply myself correctly.
With more obvious activities like exercise, I try to be mindful and actively know it’s improving me. It can be so easy to feel like there isn’t any development but sometimes it’s just that you’re not able to see it. In Persona you don’t see the incremental steps between levelling up your skills and I think the same is true in real life. Sometimes you just have to know that doing the thing will have pushed it forward, no matter how small. Acknowledging this means that even when I don’t feel like I’m improving myself I can have a little faith that there’s a larger goal I’m working towards and my time wasn’t wasted.
It also makes me look differently at things I can’t do — in that I am actively applying a “yet” to them. If a task seems too difficult or out of my league I wonder about the things I could work on to get myself there. It sounds obvious but it’s easy to write off something like fixing my washing machine as impossible. Now I look at it knowing I can’t do it, but maybe if I spend some time watching some videos, exploring our tools, perhaps needing to make a few purchases it could be attainable. I may also fail but I’ll probably learn something there too that I can apply to it next time or to something else entirely.
When thinking about hanging out with friends there’s now a place in the back of my mind that does extra math. The relationships in Persona 5 are a bit grey because you’re in part only doing them to improve your own abilities but they’re also often about helping these people with their struggles. It makes me more actively wonder what I can do that might improve their lives and how I can use their wonderful influence to help improve myself. It’s not as though in the past, if I spent my whole day helping a friend I’d have found it a waste of time. It’s that now I can see that as a bonus to improving their life and getting to spend time with them, I may also have improved myself. Kindness is such an important skill to be worked on and improved.
But it’s not just that I can help them or they me, it’s how much my friends benefit me just by existing. I find myself thinking far more often about the things I love in other people and how I wished I was more like them in that way and then I try to apply it. Talking to my friends isn’t just a great thing on its own but it’s a window into everything that makes them beautiful to me and could ultimately make me more so in turn.
However, in all of this we still have limited time. It makes me want to use every task to the fullest. Perhaps for example, when the apocalypse is over, I can do more worthwhile things with my friends. For me this isn’t changing anything huge, it’s just thinking differently. I’d have always wanted to go for walks, take classes together, watch movies, or explore something new for the fun of it but now it’s also to see what we might gain. I want to see how much we can improve together.
I look at my time slots after work and wonder what to fill them with. Sure, I still don’t really want to clean the house but the value I can see from it makes it feel worthwhile. I could also sit in front of the TV and that’s fine too because I can restore some energy and maybe learn a little something. There’s something forgiving yet constructive about this outlook that really appeals and motivates me. I can see all tasks as valuable but also be aware that some may be more so than others. I can deconstruct things into simple attributes to see what I’ll gain and what I need to work on. I can also forgive myself for doing things I’d have previously seen as potentially useless or a waste because now I know nothing really is or can be.