There is a harmful pandemic affecting the entire world, and I guess it is not what you are thinking of. It is called NPC syndrome, and it has been around much longer than the more infamous COVID-19.
If you don't know what NPC stands for, don't worry, that may be a good thing, and we will get to the definition later. But, for now, let's start by taking the specific test and defining the main symptoms so that we can, hopefully, diagnose you at an early stage. You can instantly self-detect it and move to the treatment following our directions.
The most common NPC syndrome symptoms are:
negative thoughts about life
sense of frustration and anxiety
lack of confidence
fear of change
a feeling of losing control in life
failure to reach important goals
other miscellaneous negative mental limitations and fears
Now, please answer the following questions truthfully. You can reply with YES, NO, or SOMETIMES.
I feel like I’m spinning on a hamster wheel. I am busy but not productive and I’m going nowhere.
I am trapped in (what feels like) a meaningless personal and professional routine and don't know how to get unstuck.
I am stepping back in life, waiting for someone else to fix my issues and give me the solution to all the problems.
I don’t feel in control of life and its outcomes.
I feel unmotivated; I postpone tasks, and I can't get things done.
If you answered "YES" or "SOMETIMES" to even just one of these questions, you may currently or in the past be affected by the NPC syndrome. But, don't worry and do not panic; there is a cure available, and if it makes it easier on you, you are in good company.
I will go first.
Let me start with my self-analysis, and then we can move on to diagnose your condition so you don't feel alone in this journey.
"Hi, my name is AP, and I have NPC." (other NPCs: "Hi AP!")
Done: Now that I feel better, let's go back to the origin of the NPC acronym. It comes from video games, and literally, it means non-player characters. NPCs are part of the game but don't do much. They are there; every game has plenty of them, but they don't actively play with or against you. Instead, they do what the script (the code) tells them to do or not to do. Some NPCs just walk on the scene; some are on the stands of sports venues, and so on. NPC also has a more political meaning that is not part of our analysis. Back to me: I have non-player character syndrome occasionally, and to be honest, I believe we all have it, some more than others, some more often than others. In normal circumstances, when I am not sick with the syndrome, I feel happy and excited about things, in control of life, with a strong sense of accomplishment and gratitude. I feel like I am playing the game of life and not just watching life go by. In contrast I feel sad, powerless, tired, and deflated when I have this disorder. I see things and people through a negative lens. I feel more like a spectator than a player, or more precisely, a non-player character in this game. So, now that we have established that (almost) everyone is at risk of being infected by this dangerous and harmful condition, let's dive deeper into the causes and remedies.
The true pandemic is in real life more than in video games.
There are hundreds, millions, perhaps billions of NPCs wandering around or just filling the space in video games worldwide, and as we said, tons of people are "infected" outside the video games in real life.
So technically, an NPC is a non-player character—a character in a game that a player does not control. Through this lens, in real life, an NPC is anyone who doesn't live their life fully and purposefully; an NPC is more like a robot, a passive party, a viewer more than a doer: a follower more than a leader. The topic of living life to the fullest is one of my favorite in personal development, and the non-player character analogy is perfect to describe it. Learning to live life to the fullest is a significant step in the path that will guide us to our greatest sense of happiness and accomplishment. The goal is to discover what makes life feel meaningful and go after it. You should always live life at its best. Live life as if you own it—because you do. Live as if it was the last day of your life because you never know what will happen tomorrow. You may get sick for real. Live life like Laura Croft in Tomb Raider or Ryu in Street Fighter. Live life like the main character in the game of your life, an enthusiastic player instead of another replaceable, unwell NPC.
Cure and remedies
So what now? you may ask. What if you are sick with NPC syndrome?
Once you have been diagnosed, how do you recover from it and avoid catching it again in the future?
Good news: Science and personal development have got your back.
The cure is immediately available, and it works. Even better, the full treatment is free of charge, and it is already "coded" inside you, in your DNA. No mRNA vaccine is needed here. You don't even need to go to the doctor or the pharmacy for this remedy. The cure requires you to do some work, though; it involves WILL and ACTION. YOU have to decide to get better, to "inject yourself" with a shot of positive thinking and get yourself in motion. Think about it: This is the opposite of resting and relaxation recommended for most diseases. You need a mix of self-motivation, time management, and personal growth as many times a day you can; this is the cure. After all, it is your life, and you have to take control. Again, it is YOU vs. YOU dynamics that come into play.
Take control of that gamepad and start playing as a real character.
In this worldwide pandemic, you can play the game of life instead of watching others playing it. You must take control of your life, live, learn, make mistakes, improve, succeed. The bitter truth is that if you don't take control of that gamepad of your life, someone will; this is the moral of the story. Life is exactly like a video game, with NPCs and superheroes. It's up to you which role you want to play, and the best part is that you are not only the gamer but also the game designer. So if you don't like the character or even the game, you can change it. It could not get better than that.
Did you know that you are a healthy "Yottabyte" (MPC) player?
You are one of a kind. You are special and unique. You are not fungible, replaceable like an NPC that requires minimum or no coding. On the contrary, you are what I call an "MPC," which stands in this case for main player character: the game is purposeless without at least one MPC, and obviously, there is no game just with NPCs in it. You are the most important, valuable MPC, and there is enormous computing power and much more than a yottabyte (1 septillion bytes) of memory in your character. Seeing yourself in this unique MPC position in the world elevates and empowers you, motivates you, and makes you a remarkable player in the hands of the greatest gamer of all time, the designer of this universal game of life (God, source, the Universe), whoever or whatever that is for you. We can always decide to be an NPC or an MPC, and this is our FREE WILL.
Live life like an MPC - Main Player character
We always have a choice on how to respond to life and play the game or let others play and watch them. We can choose to live and learn, lead our lives, or simply complain, live to survive, and wander around like an NPC. Life doesn't come with instructions or tutorials, and I think this is one of the most exciting parts; while NPCs hate this fact, MPCs love it. We have to figure out how life works, and it is a trial and error process that takes a lot of time and energy. To get good at any game, you need practice. Benjamin Franklin once said, "Practice makes perfect." To be good at life, you need to play; you need a lot of practice; you cannot just watch others rehearsing. You have to live. We all make mistakes, and hopefully, we live and learn from these mistakes. Ideally, the goal is not to repeat the same mistakes twice—not always as easy a task as it sounds. Admittedly, an NPC doesn't make mistakes, but an NPC doesn't play and win either. An MPC engages, plays, wins, loses, learns, and moves on with the game. I am sure you get the point by now.
Action equals change.
As we said, the main cure is represented by taking action. Start "playing," and simply taking action. This triggers tremendous change. In life, you must play your game, not someone else’s game, not the most popular game, simply your game—and get to the level you want to be. "Playing the game" triggers a big ripple effect that starts small and becomes huge because ACTION=CHANGE.
FROM NPC to MPC
Don't be afraid if you get infected with NPC syndrome. Just play, and if you lose the game, start again. Someone—I believe Mr. Bugs Bunny or perhaps Elbert Hubbard—once said: "Don't take life too seriously or you will never get out of it alive."
Until the final "game over," there is always another round to play and almost unlimited outcomes in this game. It is like an arcade where you don't need coins to play. How awesome is that? If things inside or around you change, you can always revise the game at your disposal. See how this MPC perspective is empowering and compelling compared to the NPC's role?
My SIX RULES to stop being a non-player character (NPC) in your own life and to become an MPC (main playable character)
The six rules to be an MPC in the video game of your life are:
Discover and focus on your WHY, WHAT, talents, and passions. You are unique, and so is your purpose in life.
Live your own beautiful life. Don't pursue things just because others do it or it is trendy. Trust your gut feeling, and stay true to yourself.
When you feel like an NPC, remind yourself that you only have one life but limitless games to play; make the most of it and start again if you lose one round. In the long term, you will win your game. Believe that.
Learn how to step up the game. Constantly improve yourself and work on your weaknesses. Leverage your uniqueness and strengths. Nobody is perfect, but practice makes it "almost" perfect.
Surround yourself with other successful people that "play the game of life" and non-NPCs. Practice what Les Brown calls the OQP Principle: only quality people. Thus, if you run around with NPCs, you'll become an NPC.
Try new games; build meaningful connections and help others around you to play an active role in their lives. Supporting someone in moving from NPC to MPC (main player character) is priceless.
You have to decide to lead and not follow.
Remember, this is up to you and nobody else. “Memento audere semper" (translated as "Remember always to be bold") has been one of my favorite mottos since the time of my military academy course in 1998.
Imagine how exciting it would be to fully recover from this disease and transform yourself (or perhaps one of the many NPCs around you) into a super-healthy hero like Lara Croft, Donkey Kong, or Super Mario. Imagine the power of making them come alive and finally playing the game, to see yourself doing things, and not just wandering around. Well, now stop imagining and start playing, for real. You are in control of your life, of your game, and it's never too late to put yourself in charge of that powerful gamepad. You are the only controller who can get better and learn new moves in order to advance to the next level. You are the hamster that decides to get down from that wheel and run somewhere. You are the MPC, the main playable character in your game of life.
Steve Maraboli, the author of “Unapologetically You” once said: "Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't."
Life is too beautiful and precious to get sick and stay sick, living as a non-player character. So I choose to believe that inside of each of us—inside every NPC—there is an MPC, there is the main character, a leader, a doer, just waiting to wake up and play, learn, lose, succeed, repeat and go to the next level in the game of your life.
From a non-doctor and non-gamer: Get well, play, and enjoy your beautiful game of life, my friends.
Do you want to learn more about this topic?
Subscribe to our newsletter, and we will let you know when my new book "Stop Being a Non-Player Character in Your Own Life." is available. -AP