What Poker Can Teach Us About Living a Fulfilling Life

Where do you find meaning in life? According to Pew Research Center’s global survey on what makes life meaningful, people around the world and across all ages most often cite their home life, occupation, and material well-being to describe what makes life worth living. While these are great answers, another thing that can make life fulfilling is personal growth. It’s satisfying to watch ourselves overcome hurdles and improve as we grow older.

A surprising source of wisdom on growing and living a contented life is poker. As a game of incomplete information, poker players have to develop a lot of grit and emotional maturity to withstand the rollercoaster of each hand played. Here are three valuable insights we can gain from poker:

Develop emotional intelligence

In poker, emotional intelligence is a key skill to master. A good player tries to stay aware of their opponents’ emotional state to take a guess at how they’re playing. This allows players to make more informed decisions during the game. Usually, players look at physical ‘tells’ like eye contact, breathing patterns, or poker faces to see if the other players are bluffing. According to research on emotional intelligence, high emotional intelligence lets you get better at influencing others in interpersonal interactions, making good first impressions, and accurately perceiving others’ needs. Practice emotional intelligence today by focusing on others and noticing their emotions. This can increase your capacity to develop a human connection and help you take compassionate actions as needed.

Be honest with yourself

Tilt is a poker term that describes a player’s poor state of mind, which leads them to make costly mistakes out of frustration. In life, no one is immune to tilt — and there are days when we make terrible decisions, seemingly out of nowhere. A heaping dose of honesty and self-awareness can help you overcome a tilt so you can act logically. Advice on becoming a professional poker player reveals that many pros accept they’re playing a game of skill over the long-term, so they honestly assess their own game. They track their wins and losses over an extended period of time, and evaluate their play objectively. This level of self-assessment will not only help you become a better poker player, but also identify what provokes you to ‘tilt’ in real life. Take note of how you react to different situations, and try to pinpoint what bothers you the most. Eventually, you’ll have a better understanding and grasp over yourself so you avoid tilting at critical moments.

Practice cool-headed composure

Emotional control in every aspect of life is important. Taking a loss calmly is a very important life lesson. Likewise, the best poker players stay composed throughout the game; they don’t let the effects of one hand destroy them. In fact, the greatest pros won’t even show they were upset. They anticipate and acknowledge swings as they come, but refuse to let dissatisfaction ruin their strategy. It’s difficult to stay cool-headed all the time, but techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, and meditation can help. In our article on being the calm in the storm, we recommend a few tips on how to meditate with deep, grounding breaths and healing visualization. By constantly practicing calmness, you'll find that it will come naturally the next time you feel unnerved.

Life lessons can be found everywhere, and even if you don't play poker we hope the above tips help you live a fulfilling life.