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Senior Correspondent

Our family loves to play board games, and we have several favorites. Games give us a fun way to engage with friends and family apart from our professional roles and responsibilities. Half the fun of playing board games is that they challenge us to continuously adapt to emerging circumstances. We have to be good at dealing with continuous change within the framework of the particular game. 

We find that we get into a favorite game for weeks or months at a time, and forget that there are any other games to play. Recently, Mom brought out several games and pointed out that we could choose a different game from the one we had been playing all winter and spring. We looked at our choices, and agreed upon a new game. This innocent decision caused us to adapt to change on a whole new level. Along with the new game came new rules, new challenges new strategies, new things to remember and new things to keep track of. OEY! Maybe we should just stick to the old game and not stress ourselves. Tempting though it may have been to remain in our comfort zone, we opted for adventure and threw ourselves into the new game wholeheartedly, and chaotically.

One of the many things I appreciate about game night is what I notice about myself when playing. Invariably, how I approach the board game is how I am approaching the rest of my life at that particular time. For example, am I being optimistic? Am I being greedy? Am I out to win at all costs? Can I be happy when someone else wins a hand, or the whole game? Do I get upset with myself for making a mistake? Am I resisting change?

In life, as in board games, we are programmed to play win/lose. Games have clear winners and losers. Life, we are taught, also has clear winners and losers. But does it really have to be that way? Benjamin Zander thinks not.

In his leadership book, "The Art of Possibility," Zander challenges us to change the game. He suggests that we can play a new game. We can stop playing win/lose and start playing another game called "I am a contribution."

How does one go from playing Win/Lose to "I am a contribution?" Zander suggests that it is a simple choice that we make and recommit to on a daily basis.

"Choose to make a difference as your focus, rather than worrying about winning and losing. Then, be a contribution as you see needs and opportunities. Throw yourself into life as someone who chooses to makes a positive difference, accepting that you may not understand how, but trusting that it will come to you. The scorekeeping will take care of itself. "

Strolling along the edge of the sea, a man catches sight of a young woman who appears to be engaged in a strange dance. She stoops down, then straightens to her full height, casting her arm out in an arc. Drawing closer, he sees that the beach around her is littered with starfish, and she is throwing them one by one into the sea. He lightly mocks her: "There are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see. What difference can saving a few of them possibly make?" Smiling, she bends down and once more tosses a starfish out over the water, saying serenely, "It certainly makes a difference to this one."  Benjamin Zander, "The Art of Possibility"

Benjamin Zander is Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, The Youth Philharmonic, and teacher at The New England Conservatory. In addition to being a conductor and teacher, he co-authored "The Art of Possibility."

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