By Dr. Ron Cruickshank, Golf Mind Coach & GGA Director, Canada

Technique: Play the Essence Game

In a recent blog I wrote about the Essence Game and defined true simplicity as the process of crunching complexity to the point that we can take action without losing elegance or functionality. True simplicity allows us to capture the essence of a subject while giving us increased understanding.

It turned out this idea resonated with people and I’ve had several requests to write more about this self-revealing game. The game is designed to stimulate your thinking about what is MOST important about any subject, mostly yourself, and to be a vehicle for sharing or discussing this insight with others.

Why Is Insight Important? The presupposition inherent in playing this game is that self-knowledge or insight is a valuable tool in managing ourselves, especially our emotional selves, and optimizing our performance when it counts.  “But I already know myself”, you say. Well, maybe yes and maybe no.

Behavioral science research over the last decade has demonstrated that as individuals we are absolutely terrible at predicting our own reaction to a variety of life’s experience. In fact, it turns out that our friends and even casual acquaintances are much better at predicting our behavior than we are ourselves.  It appears there is a significant gap between our self-image and the behaviors we will actually exhibit.

For example, we might like to think of ourselves as brave and ready to confront a dangerous situation with bravado. Yet, when the situation actually presents itself, we don’t act in accordance with our image.  Unless the situation is dramatic or meaningful, we often, after the fact, ignore the behavioral choices we made and continue with our illusion that we truly know how we will act in a given situation. So, if you want to find out about yourself and others, try playing the following game around the dinner table or driving in the car.

How to Play The Essence Game

  • Tell your friends you want to play a little game to learn more about them. It is called the Essence Game.  I find most people like being asked about their selves.
  • Ask each person – What is the ONE word that most clearly defines who you are? Alternately, you might ask what is the ONE word that best represents your world-view? If possible, ask them to write it down on a slip of paper so they won’t be swayed by anyone else’s comments.
  • Lead by example and tell the group your own word. The first time I did this exercise I came up with the word synthesizerto describe myself. I still use it.
  • Then, explain yourEssence word. In my case, I shared that I see myself as a gatherer and teacher of knowledge, and that I believed my talent was in synthesizing information and making links with other subjects in an innovative way. I also told them I thought this came out in my teaching and asked for their feedback. Was this true?
  • Poll the group one person at a time and have them share their word, and then ask them probing questions as to why they came up with this word to represent themselves. Watch the awareness develop.

The benefits of the game will quickly become apparent, as you will find that in the process of coming up with the ONE word you will crunch the complexity of whom you are down into the ESSENCE of who you are.  Of course, this process causes you to generalize; but if you do this exercise thoughtfully you will find that the ONE word will be representative of a prevalent theme and value set in your life. This knowledge is valuable.

Next, ponder your word and ask the following questions:

  • How does this self-view impact my behavior?
  • If this is my strength, do I give myself the chance to use it as often as possible?
  • Does this cause me any problems in life that might require me to have more behavioral flexibility?
  • Does this self-view support my happiness? If not, why not?

Powerful and consistent performance is invariably linked to effective self-management. Whether you are managing your body (knowledge & technique into feeling), your mind (emotional maturity and self-management) or spirit (your relationship to the universe) you can benefit by understanding what makes you tick. Give this game a chance and pay attention!