…you have to take charge of your fun and plan it into your life.
When I tell people that I host a podcast about adventure, everyone tells me how much they love adventure. Why is adventure so popular? Many people say they want to take life less seriously, play more games and have more fun. We all work really hard and need to balance it with some fun. When we play games we are more creative and willing to take risks. I’ll talk about three ways we can think about life more like it is a game or adventure, in order to have more fun and be happier!
Gamify Your Life – Tip #1: The Game Mindset
Having more fun can simply be a matter of changing your thinking – anxiety is the same physiological response as excitement – you can say “I’m excited” or “get excited!” whenever you feel anxious and it will immediately change your mind. In social interactions such as parties or big events, to avoid getting nervous, I focus on maximizing how much fun I have with each conversation.
Do you do any repetitive functions at work – TPS reports? I used to see how quickly and efficiently I could run 100 of the same lab experiment when I worked as a microbiologist. Beating my previous best time while maintaining perfection became the game.
One of my favorite parts of Jane Mcgonigals book ‘Superbetter’ is giving yourself a secret identity. You essentially get to become a composite of your favorite TV, Movie, Book, or Sports heroes by simply listing them and then figuring out what traits they have that you like. Those are the traits you like within yourself and you can highlight when you are facing your own challenges. Once you have you secret identity you can face challenges and problems in your life as that heroic version of yourself. It also helps you think in the 3rd person “what would Derek the Explorer do in this situation?,” which can help you take more bold action.
Gamify Your Life – Tip #2: Schedule Your Fun
We know that we get more of what we focus on. This means you have to take charge of your fun and plan it into your life. My best friends and I were trying to figure out a way to have more fun and also spend more time hanging out with our guy friends. Suddenly it hit us: we would create a weekly mens group that plays ultimate frisbee.
After the games, we all go out for a meal. This serves the function of getting out our manly aggression, getting fit, playing games, and tell stories afterwards. A competitive sport gives us a chance to practice our ancestral urge to cooperate with other men towards a collaborative goal (hunting for points instead of a bison).
Host a party or event with a game theme. I recently threw a party for charity that was a Rock Paper Scissor Tournament. Part of everyone entry fee went to a local charity. Having game framework gives people and objective or a mission at the party to concentrate on and connect with other party goers.
When you go out with friends try to come up with creative games you can play. Jon Levy gave me the example of carrying a can of beans to the bar with you and taking turns explaining why you have it, or only spend $5 in a night going out. Another common game I play is trying to get people to tell deep and interesting things about themselves by asking the right questions. You can even give yourself a points system for your game – for example each time you talk to someone you earn a point, first person to five points wins.
Gamify Your Life – Tip #3: Quests
One of the best things about games is that they provide structure and rules and a clear way for you to win. But how do you win at life? Chris Guillebeau talks about quests as the having a definite, measurable end point in his book the ‘Happiness of Pursuit’.
One of my big quests was to visit all 50 US states before I turned 30. Each time I planned a trip I knew I had to try to fit in visiting a new state. My final state was Alaska and my friends and family there made me a cake in the shape of Alaska! Having the framework of the quest allowed me to experience many more places. Now whenever I meet someone from the US I can connect with them instantly because I have been to where they are from!
A good quest has many smaller missions along the way, for example you can only go to one new state at a time (unless you are in 4 corners), which means you get the satisfaction of ticking off your achievements along the way. Hemingway was known for forcing himself to write 1000 words each day whether he wanted to or not, because writing regularly was the only way for him to complete his books. Ben Franklin was well known for his quest to act in accordance with his 10 virtues throughout the day. Each night he would mark off whether he achieved living out those virtues.
If you think back to the times in your life where you were working towards a big challenge, many people find that these were times of optimal experience. This is know as the flow state, first described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, where you have absolute focus and time has no meaning. Steven Kotler recently calculated that doing a challenge that is 4% harder than your current skill level is the optimal way achieving a flow state. Within a game structure of your life, its easier to see what the next level of challenge for you would be.
Hopefully that get your wheels turning in your brain – How will you apply game thinking to your life? Do you have an epic challenge that can be broken into smaller quests? How might you add a game structure to your work or your social life?
Also by Derek Loudermilk
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