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As a fan of MMORPGs, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of approaching life like a game/RPG for years now. Just think about how much effort we voluntarily put into a game to make progress. I mean it’s literally hard work for hours on end over months. And not only that we don’t get any money for it, we are even willing to pay for this kind of work. If we could channel this motivation into more productive activities, we would be unstoppable.
I’ve tried a lot of things to accomplish a gamified lifestyle, like tracking real life points and levels, writing my to-do list like a quest log or different apps like Habitica or LifeRPG (look it up). However, none of these tools have persevered for me. The problem with these approaches is, that games like World of Warcraft don’t make you addicted just by giving you experience points and a nice looking level up animation They make you addicted, because these points and level ups bring you a step closer to the next nice thing. To the next awesome sword or mount, with just the right amount of effort ahead to reach that quickly enough to keep you motivated. It’s not the level or the experience points themselves that give you that feeling of accomplishment, it’s what they represent.
But what has persevered for me, is a game mindset and a generally more playful approach to life.
When I think of my life as more of a game, challenges become opportunities to grow, rather than just obstacles on my way. For example I got in the habit of taking ice cold showers, but instead of thinking of them as something I “have to do, because it is better for me”, I think of them as a tool to increase my “skill points”. Level up my willpower and my body’s defenses. It is something I want to do, because it makes me a little bit better. Like a little quest I actively choose. The same goes for lifting. The bar on my back is not just something I have to lift because it is on my to do list, but because it is another valuable opportunity to improve myself.
But also in other aspects this mindset helps me to see a situation positively. When I was going to visit my mother for Christmas a few years ago, I knew that there was some drama ahead, because I made a life choice she didn’t like, just shortly before that visit. Initially I was dreading this moment and hated that I had to go through that. But on the way there, i had kind of an epiphany. I realised that this is a good opportunity to improve a lot of my social skills. I could improve my self-assertion and convincibility by standing for my decisions, I could improve my stress resistance and communication skills and generally my ability to handle difficult situations. How awesome is that? So much growth! So much possibility to level up! It would be uncomfortable only for a moment, but benefit me greatly for pretty much the rest of my life.
But what if there is no positive to find in your obstacle? No growth?
Even though I think there is always some sort of growth to find in an obstacle and you just have to be more creative about it, you actually don’t even need that growth to get into a game like mindset. Just think about your life event as part of the game. The following thought often comes into my mind: I was not so much into Super Mario, but if I remember correctly you reached a castle at the end of level one with the expectation to find the princess in there. You battled your way through the enemies and put the effort in, but when you arrive at the castle, some tiny mushroom tells you, that the princess is in another castle. How do you react? You don’t say “For f*cks sake, I put all that effort in and now everything was for nothing! Why can anything ever go as expected?!” No, you are excited to jump into the next level, because you know this is all part of the game. What if you look at life problems like this? Something goes downhill, but you look at it as a part of your journey. The princess being in another castle or you getting fired from a job because the right workplace for you is somewhere else. Your project failing because your successful project comes later in your quest. It’s all part of the game, as long as you keep playing. And real life is pretty much like that. If you keep going, success is always somewhere along the way. Of course there are really unlucky circumstances like a bad disease or some other terrible life event. But for all of us that are gifted to be healthy, there is no reason to ever give up.
I read a couple different books about gamification and if you want to get into that topic, I can recommend the following:
–Superbetter by Jane McGonigal, where she describes how a playful approach to life helped her beat suicidal depression from a severe concussion
–Level Up Your Life by Steve Kamb, who turned from a lazy couch potato to an adventurer by gamifying his life
–Actionable Gamification by Yu-kai Chou, which from all these books is the most detailed and explains the driving forces behind gamification and motivation. If you really want to dive deep into this topic, this is probably the best book for you.
One more tip that isn’t directly related to gamification: If you’re allowed, listen to game music while working. Game soundtracks are made to keep you focused and they are mostly just awesome. Nothing makes me so happy and focused as quickly as game soundtracks. There are a lot of nice playlists for them on Youtube, so search for “Video Game Music for Studying”.