6. Gamify, All the Things!

Or, the power of setting goals. Or, don’t underestimate what you can accomplish with small regular steps over time.

This essay is part of my 42 Deep Thoughts project.

The book Superbetter by Dr. Jane McGonigal has had a huge influence on my life. It’s backed by a ton of research, and makes a strong argument for leveraging the power of gamification to better your life.

The premise of the book is Jane had gotten a concussion. Recovering from one can be tricky. There are a lot of things you need to do daily to speed up your recover, and the chances of full recovery lessen as time goes on. So she gamified it the process to help her recover more quickly.

Gamification is the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service.

You’ll recognize this from many apps and websites you frequent.

My knee-jerk reaction is to be defiant when I recognize it in the wild. I don’t like feeling manipulated.

However, I realized that I can be thoughtful about it, and choose to let it manipulate me in order to accomplish the things I want. That gives me a huge sense of power and accomplishment.

I read a book a week in 2015, and 2 books a week in 2017. I read all the plays of Shakespeare in 2021.

As of writing this my Duolingo streak is at 1078 days (about two weeks shy of 3 years). For about 6 months before we went to Florence I switched to Italian. By the time we got there I couldn’t converse, but I could communicate.

I’ve leveraged Apple Fitness to reduce my cholesterol, unfortunately I didn’t stick to that, so I am doing it again, and will tweak my games to keep it up.

You may have noticed an element of gamification in this 42 Deep Thoughts project. I’ve been meaning to write more, and more regularly. Packaging the process in a project with a theme was what did the trick for me this time.

The way you gamify can help you accomplish your goals. As you’ve seen above with my examples, sometimes you need to tweak the game.

My biggest tip for success would be to dedicate a specific time, or action, that you link to the tasks you need to do to accomplish your goal — anchor them. Whether it’s first thing in the morning, or before you go to bed. Or when you grab lunch.

I was having trouble taking my vitamins, because some I had to take on an empty stomach, and other vitamins with food.

I linked the former with when I first get up in the morning, and go down to grab water for my morning run. The later I linked to preparing breakfast. Now I do both consistently.

Another trick I use is visualisation. If I’m having trouble getting started I’ll envision how I’ll feel if it goes right, or if it goes wrong.

I don’t want to go on statins if I don’t have to, that’s a huge motivator to keep running each morning, or not grabbing that extra snack.

I want to be able to communicate when I travel, so that helps me keep up with Duolingo. Learning a language is supposed to be good for your brain, aging gracefully is another motivator for me.

I LOVE how much I’ve grown since gamifying my life. That helps me make up more games, and set new goals.

When you set a goal, if you play it, it is no dream.

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About the image: Alabaster chess set from Volterra Touscany