Friday, March 13, 2009

The art of setting the right goals

So finally he got his proto-drake, Josh of Eye for an Eye. I read about his Glory of the Raider achievement the other day and I rejoiced at his success. Really well done! I was especially happy to see this since I remember his frustration and pain last autumn when he had to give up raiding due to RL commitments. He was all about to give up on blogging as well and I remember how I tried to convince him to stay around as a blogger. And now, this! Title, mount, you’ve got everything you wished for.

At the same time I must admit that I can’t help feeling a little pang of envy. As the Patch with a big P is approaching I’m realizing that I’ll probably never be able to get that one. I tend to miss the 10-man raids, since they’re on off nights and usually too early to me, at a time when my children expect me to join them watching a movie or some other family activity. At the point when I’m able to log in, people are already tied up in instance groups, knocking of 5-man instance achievements or running normal raids on 8 people. So I often find myself pugging, and assembling a PUG with the ambition and capacity to do achievements isn’t exactly easy. If you get a group at all, you could as well end up with someone’s ungeared, unplayed alt, not the best setting for an achievement run. Reading about Josh achievement I get reminded of the fact that it’s beyond my reach and for some reason this hurts a little.

It’s not an emotion I’m proud of, on contrary. It’s completely pointless, illogical, and childish, not to say spoiled. I’m better off than many other bloggers, in fact I belong to a small privileged part of the WoW population that has been lucky enough to get into a guild where I can enjoy quality raiding two times a week. I’ve cleared all 25 man content except Sarth+3d and I’m geared enough to be ready for Ulduar. Compare this to poor Gnomeaggedon, who hasn’t yet reached 80, or Part Time Druid, who only has been into Naxx 10 a couple of times and recently gquit since he couldn't find a group. “Larísa”, I tell myself with my most severe voice, “it’s really about time that you grow up and you’ve really got nothing to complain about!”

Goals in real life
For some reason it appears to me that setting the right goals for ourselves, goals that challenge us, but don’t leave us completely frustrated, is much harder in WoW than it is in real life.

I came to think about my first dream job: at the age of four I wanted to become the Queen of Sweden. As time passed I must somehow have realized that this job wasn’t announced publicly and not available to anyone, so I switched plans accordingly. Now I wanted to become an astronaut, travelling to the End of the Universe, exploring the stars and whatever was beyond. Gradually this dream too faded away for several reasons (my physical appearance being the most obvious limiting factor) and another one was born: I wanted to become a journalist. This idea actually made me take action and became reality. It was obviously the right goal for me. It was difficult enough to motivate me to go for the needed top grades and to keep me hungry, motivated, alert, to make me feel challenged and through this sort of alive, if you get what I mean. At the same time it was realistic enough to not make me just bang my head into a wall and then drop dead on the floor, disillusioned, bitter and frustrated.

At one point in my struggles I became a bit annoyed. This was when I for tactical reasons had chosen an “easy” course at school, just to get the grades I wanted. It was completely unchallenging and I turned up so bored due to lack of stimuli that I finally left for a harder course that gave me more to work for. I ended up much happier. But apart from this incident, goal setting never was a big deal for me. I’ve found goals to strive for in my life and career, goals that have been challenging enough to be fun, but realistic enough to prevent me from being unhappy.

At the age of 41 I know that I’ll never become Queen of Sweden. I’ll never travel to the stars either, unless something really amazing will happen in the space tourism in the next 30 years. I’ll never become a world famous pop star or a bestselling author.

And do you know what? I’m fine with this. It doesn’t bother me the slightest. I’m not envious of neither our current Queen of Sweden or the next one to follow, our Royal Princess. I don’t envy the first and only Swedish astronaut, Christer Fuglesang. I can even cope with the fact that I’m not J.K. Rowling.

Goals in the game
For some reason it works differently in WoW. I can’t as easily accept the fact that I lead a different life to those who get the Glory of the Raider achievement done. So what to do about it? Well, I certainly won’t start to complain about the achievement requirements as such. The whole idea about some of the achievements is that they SHOULD be very hard to get and thus appear rarely on the realms. If they were to be handed out easily to anyone, much of the point of them as motivators and driving forces in the game would be gone.

No, the way to go is not to whine, but to reconsider my own goals in the game and make sure that I set them at the right level. Guildwise my current goal is very clear: to down Sartharion+3d before the patch and then conquer Ulduar. On a personal level I’d still like to knock off a few more achievements, even though I won’t get a mount. But there are other, better goals. For instance I’ve got alts to level, something I can do no matter if I play at odd hours. It would be really cool to feel that I master the basic skills of my rogue, well enough to be able to run a normal instance without making a fool out of myself. And recently I initiated another little side project: I’ve done the unthinkable and rolled myself an un-gnomish character, a druid, currently merrily roaming around in the woods of Teldrassil, which actually is a brand new area to me. In some distant future I plan that she will give me a little bit of personal experience of the art of healing. I’ve always thought that the druid rains is one of the most beautiful spells in the game.

Setting the right goals is really an art. Don't misunderstand me, it's not about giving up on ambitions, settling for only the things you easily can get. Being a little frustrated doesn't hurt, on the contrary. The day I'm not hungry for more I figure I'm done with the game. But you should also be able to see that you're making some kind of progress towards your goal, that it could be possible to reach if you really put your heart into it.
To Larísa, levelling a couple of alts is a perfect goal to strive for. Glory of the Raider is not. I know this logically. Now, if I only could make my heart accept it too.


Anonymous said...

Poor Gnomeaggedon!?
He's doing OK... At times he does get frustrated with not being 80 and doing a little more... but usually about 30 seconds after that, he starts looking for ways to slow down the leveling process... just to get the most out of it.

I have already threatened to my mates, that as soon as I get to 80, I will be focused... on the new end game? Nope... I want to go back and see both the old endgame, and the bits before it.

Achievements will probably be earned along the way, but that wont be the focus... the focus will be on wringing every last drop out of the soloable content. Most likely by the time I have done that, I will be able to solo the current end game ;-)

Rich said...

alts are always good to have on hand for boredom. I remember when I was burnt by endgame vanilla, and was in the beta for Burning Crusade. It occurred to me that there was no point raiding, and that end game raiding was pointless (that was also the first article I wrote, back when I was just "isobelle").

the thing to do was level my rogue and start a new druid, because having alts on hand with the numbers 6 and 0 attached to their nameplates was the most important thing, not just farm the same old crap.

now isn't *exactly* the same, but it's as good a time as any to make more productive use of your WoW time rather than sloppily wiping on trash that no one cares about, and if you roll a healer or tank, you can help the guild out in a pinch.

Having multiple classes at your disposal gives you unique insight to how fight mechanics work, and make you a better player to boot ;)

Rich said...

eh? maybe links don't work in comments? the story, if curious.

Anonymous said...

Gnome: it's great to hear that you don't suffer! You have obviously managed to pick goals that are realistic and right for you. I must say that I'm impressed how you can get so much enjoyment from solo-playing the game. I used to get that when I started it two years ago, but nowadays it's not enough to keep me hooked. But perhaps you can get the social side of it too by hanging on vent, even though your mates are doing other stuff?

@Ixobelle: that was a great post you linked to and you're quite right. I used to see the achievements as pointless, but I've been poisoned by them and can't help wanting to do the supposedly "hard", group ones.
But yeah, spending my time levelling another char is more productive and useful. I think the problem probably is the lack of challenge and the lack of group play. Soloing hundreds of kill-ten-rat-quests, be it on a rogue or a druid instead of a mage, isn't really a goal to strive for... it's more of a grind. The challenge there is more like the one when you're fishing: to keep doing it and stay on track, not giving up because it sometimes is so unstimulating.

Anyway. with my druid it will probably help out a lot that I've quested so little at Kalimdor with my mage, meaning a lot of getting-to-know-the-area experience. And the same thing with my mage: I've just started to quest in Grizzly hills, which I never did at all on Larísa, meaning I have many quests I'm doing for the first time.
Still... There is something missing. Some edge. I don't know what it is. I must find a way to challenge myself even when I have to play on my own.

Anonymous said...

The only reason you won't get Glory of the Raider is because, quite rightly, it is not as high a priority as the rest of your life is.
I'm sure if you really really wanted that achievement, you could get it, because WoW achievements are mostly dependent on Time Played more than anything else.

M said...

My dear, you've hit upon the very crux of life: It's not fair. I think we often times expect life in a virtual world to fix this, but it doesn't. It is good that you have come to terms with RL not being fair (after all, wouldn't we all love to be a Queen or King of our own realm of choosing), some people never quite do that. It is quite another feat to come to terms with the fact that the game we love is also unfair, especially since the devs try so hard to make it fair (another word for fair is "balanced"). I think you're rebelling against the percieved unfairness of the acheivement system, which is quite a valid complaint. It bothers me a bit some times too. Hence why we all QQ and rant from time to time :-). It's healthy to get that out of your system as well.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember who it was exactly, but I think it was you (or at least someone from your blogroll :) ), who spoke about achievemnts awhile ago, when they just came out. I remember that post touching on a subject of seeing people with all those points, all those titles, getting to 80 so early, getting all those accomplishments on their character and feeling just a little bit jealous and a little bit discouraged for not being at the same point. feeling that those peole might be better at WoW. and then realizing that all it means that you have different priorities.

like you - I'll most likely never see black or plagued protodrake. oh, I participate in achievement runs when I can because they can be a fun challenge of coordination, teamwork, honing your skills if you will, squeezing every last drop from your character. but I have too many other things I want to do to. I'm an altoholic. my goal is to flesh out my army of alts to the point where I can fill any role as needed or wanted, crafted most anything I can possibly want, be selfsufficient in a game that I keep playing for the social interraction. I know - its a paradox :P

sometimes I look at someone with their 5-6 thousand achievemnt points and hard won titles or their expensive bikes and I feel that small pang. then I look at my own little alt army (3 80, another on its way - all with epic flying, and a few more alts to cover the gaps and playstyles, raiding with people I like on a schedule and pace that is a good fit) and I realize that they might be sucessful in their own way, but I'm pretty darn sucessful in mine :)

I think your are far too positive of a person for your heart to be far behind accepting just how sucessful you are in your own right - in game or out of it.

Rohan said...

I think it comes down to how you handle failure. I think we stigmatize failure too much in modern society, and so we are unable to handle it properly.

When you set "realistic" goals, are you only setting goals that you know can achieve? Is it really so bad if you set a high bar, but are not able to meet that bar?

Klepsacovic said...

You came close to what I wanted to say a couple weeks ago. I was in a bad mood I suppose, and trying to figure out what I wanted from WoW. I thought maybe this isn't the right game for me because I care too much about successes, but I don't have the time for them. Yea sure, I've read it a million times on the forums "I raid three hours a month and I've done Sarth 3D." That's not normal. Not everyone can ride on the backs of others who die for hours every night learning the fights and exactly what to do, nor can everyone be the ones spending that time. Perhaps I'd be happier doing something else. Though really the ideal would just be not caring. This is why I sometimes fall in love with alts: there's really nothing to say "you're doing it wrong, you're such a noob, learn2play." There's no one mocking gear or doing armory checks for regular instances. There are no schedules or 10 minute boss fights which can wipe in the last 10 seconds. It's just... what's the word? All I can find is softer.

Sadly, I eventually hit the level cap, look around, and say "oh crap, this again."

@Rohan Modern society tends to create a lot of zero-sum competition and losing is total. It makes aversion to loss a matter of survival and that learning stays with us even in other places where survival is not at all an issue.

Anonymous said...

@Vlad: oh yes, it's all about choices and priorities. I'm just a little bit puzzled at my own reactions. How come that I've got bigger problems getting to terms with it in WoW than in RL? Maturity in RL doesn't seem to always correspond with maturity in game.

@Fulguralis: oh yes, this kind of rants really are about to "get it out of my system". My blogging is probably mostly about therapy - it helps me to handle my frustrations and shortcomings.

@Leah: it sounds exactly like me! You know, personal development is much like dancing jenka, if you've heard of that line dance. You jump one step forward, then two step backwards, and finally three steps forward. You go forward, but it's quite slow in spite of all the jumping. I'm constantly arguing with myself. I know you're right and I just have to find a way to see altplaying more challenging, exciting and worthy as goals than I have until now.

@Rohan: oh I agree so much about this failure thing. It's so destructive how society looks upon it. At least where I live a person who starts an enterprise which ends up closing down since it didn't work out, is really frowned upon. Which is a disaster for economy, where will all the new enterpreneurs come with this attitude? No one will dare to do anything, better play safe and stay mediocre... (My impression is that it's diffrent in the US, that failure isn't as bad there, as long as you've tried your best. Something to learn from.)

About setting the bar: no, I wouldn't want to play it too safe. It will bore me. On the other hand - if I fixate on things that I'll never reach no matter what I'll do, it's quite likely that I'll waste energy and effort on futile things and grow bitter and disillutionated. I think the bar should be put somewhere in between. The goal can be slightly out of reach... As the carrot at the turtle boat! :)

@Klepsacovic: but I'm kind of addicted to those 10 minutes boss fights where you wonder if you'll wipe the last second or not. We did a few bosses in Naxx on 20 man a few days ago and got Thaddius down with like 0,5 seconds to go before complete wipe. When I compare levelling an alt to that kind of gameplay it feels as a substitute. But I hear your message and I think you're right. I really should put on some other glasses, turn my back to some achievements and see the joy in softly playing my little druid.

Kromus said...

Haha- excellent post; i love peoples view on envy, its one of the 7 deadly sins for a reasons, its blinding and foolish- but it has its positives- it shows your human!

Right now Larisa, i can fully relate to you, as in terms of goals i have recieved, and been disapointed with my first AS level results- now im resetting my goals and past the self demoralizing streak and i am now making he appropriate sacrifices.

Goal setting is defonatly an Art, i agree. Set too low and your under-used, set to high and you know the feeling..

Great post!

Carra said...

A non gnome? Heresy!

If only gnomes could heal...

Anonymous said...

Very thought provoking and insighful post, Larisa. I appreciate the honesty and transparency with which you write. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

@Kromus and Aleathea: thanks!

@Carra: I know! Isn't it weired? I've must have been strucken by some diseased. I'm mind controlled. Although I do try to resist it. Currently I'm mostly on my rogue, to bring her to 77. After that my druid will get more attention.