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Pokemon GO was an instant success when it launched last year. However, although the majority of people have since stopped playing, I continue my quest to catch ’em all. That’s because the journey has taken me further than a few kilometres.

I was in a grocery store last week when a cashier noticed I was playing Pokemon GO. She scoffed as she asked if people still played the game and I awkwardly replied that I did. Interestingly, her question is quite relevant to current standing of Pokemon GO.

Released on July 6, 2016, Pokemon GO took seven days to attract over 28.5 million daily players in America by July 13. Yet, the game’s popularity steadily declined with only 5 million people actively playing by the end of the year.

Despite being a dedicated player of the Pokemon series on Nintendo, I had little interest in Pokemon GO when it first launched. In fact, it debuted while I was detaching from the web, and I saw it as another passing fad.

Eventually, my curiousity drew me in and I started playing heavily by late August 2016. What has surprised me most about Pokemon GO are the various lessons I learned while searching for my favourite monsters. Truly, it’s more than just a game to me; it’s a tool that has helped me connect to the world and myself.

This is what I’ve learned from my Pokemon Go journey.

1. Stay grounded in the present moment

My transition back to Trinidad and Tobago triggered several personal issues, including reverse culture shock. As I completed errands that were once routine, and navigated the differences between island life and the fast pace of New York City, I felt overwhelmed.

Surprisingly, Pokemon GO has kept me grounded. When my mind wanders into the past or races toward possible negative futures, the alert that a Bulbasaur is nearby snaps me into the present moment. Moreover, Pokemon GO helps me focus on all the good happening around me instead of dwelling on mishaps I encounter.

Present moment awareness keeps you grounded in the here and now. Rather than holding onto past stress or anxiety for the future, find ways to connect to where you are now.

2. Move at your own pace

The objective of Pokemon GO is to get players out into the world as they work to complete their collections and challenge gyms. Still, those are tall tasks for people who lead busy lives and prefer not to feel pressured to play a mobile game.

My international friends who continued to play Pokemon Go into the new year were all higher levels than me. So, I joined a local Facebook group to find people closer to my level. Unfortunately, at level 20 in January, I was still far behind.

Regardless, I realised that enjoying this game meant playing it on my time and at my pace. Yes, driving around at night to take down gyms and locate rare spawns are exciting thoughts but I prefer to sleep and explore during the day as part of my usual routine.

3. Go beyond your comfort zone

Trinidad is an island comprising mostly rural areas. Furthermore, most of the spawns in my area of the island are of the bug, grass, poison and water variety. As such, advancing in Pokemon GO and completing the Pokédex involves travel.

Growth in life requires movement. As author and transformational speaker Lisa Nichols says, your conviction and convenience do not live on the same block. Thus, if you want to advance, stretch yourself.

I do exactly that with Pokemon GO when I travel to the city of Port of Spain to play. By doing this, I go beyond the comfort zone of my neighbourood and rediscover the wonders of my country during my journey.

4. Trust your intuition

Playing Pokemon GO has also taught me to trust my instincts. Without a detailed tracker to point me toward the exact location of spawns, I hunt for monsters by making my best guess. This is an unpredictable yet exciting element of the game but it can be dangerous in my country because of our crime rates.

A completely rational-thinking person makes decisions based solely on the available information. Ambiguity disrupts that approach, though, and encourages us to trust our best judgement.

The unpredictability of my environment is thrilling. Of course, I won’t skip down my block at 2am because I see a Snorlax on the Pokemon GO finder but I venture from the beaten path when I feel so moved.

5. Value your journey 

I recently reached level 25 in Pokemon GO and I did so without cheating. The race to reach new peaks in the game can be intense as players want access to stronger monsters to compete in gyms. However, that competition also takes away from the fun because it emphasises that success is based on numbers.

Material objects are great but they don’t define who we are as people. Real joy comes from our experiences and how we view them. For instance, in the case of Pokemon GO, I feel happy when I find a rare spawn or one of my favourites from the series. Honestly, I just caught my first Onix and I am elated!

Pokemon go
4Kids Entertainment: Pokemon
6. Celebrate small victories

Although reaching new levels doesn’t define my Pokemon GO experience, I do take the time to celebrate my wins. In fact, I share my accomplishments with my friends as we congratulate each other for advancing in the game or finding uncommon monsters.

This practice isn’t as silly as it sounds. Rather, it gives us the space to express delight in each other’s success and say the simple yet powerful phrase “I’m proud of you.” Those uplifting words have deep meaning among peers and this game teaches us how to say them without shame.

7. Relax and have fun

What’s the endgame of Pokemon GO? Does the journey end when we complete the Pokédex or reach level 40? That depends on your intention for the game but when you’re focused on the journey instead of the final result, the fun never truly ends.

Life isn’t about moving from achievement to achievement. Indeed, when we slow down and enjoy each moment by learning to relax, we open ourselves to experiencing peace and joy.

Note: This isn’t a sponsored article. I really do enjoy Pokemon GO that much!

“The longest and most exciting journey is the journey inward.” – Stanis Lavsky