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“I know I should be reading, but it’s just too boring.”
“I’d like to get in better shape, but I can’t motivate myself to exercise.”
How many times have you heard these words? How many times have you uttered them?
That’s right – even the most ambitious and successful creatives and creators sometimes give into laziness. And let’s be real – starting a new habit isn’t exactly easy.
But if you’ve been looking for a way to make self-improvement more fun, here are some tips.
Anything Trackable Can be Gamified
Self-improvement is nothing if not for strategic input.
Meaning – we need to choose our inputs deliberately and engage in their consumption consistently.Personal development is about choosing our inputs deliberately and engaging in their consumption consistently. Click To Tweet
Habits like goal setting, reading, journaling, listening to audiobooks or podcasts, exercise, or meditation are practically a given. Though I think it best to choose a few “big dominos” habits instead of trying to do everything.
The point is, while the effects of the habits are a little harder to measure, the amount of time invested in them, or pages read, or pushup reps is not. These are all trackable.
And anything trackable can be gamified – even self-improvement.
So, here are some thoughts on how to gamify it and why it’s a good idea.
This is What I Used to do
In 2011, I was introduced to network marketing. And as I started reading Jeff Olson’s The Slight Edge (affiliate link – recommended read), one of the things that caught my attention was that successful people track everything.
So, I got to thinking. Maybe I could gamify my network marketing efforts. And by tracking what I was doing for my business, I’d be able to visualize my results.
Instead of thinking to myself, “hmm… how many contact and invites did I make last week?” I’d have a clear record of everything I’d done to take my business forward on any given day.
So, I put together a simple Word doc, split it up into two columns, and added key habits to the left column (texts sent, emails sent, phone calls made, meetings had, etc.). I left the right column blank, so I could track how many times I’d texted someone, called someone, and so on.
At the end of the month, I would tally up my totals and give myself a score. Then it would be my goal to beat that score the following month.
3 Benefits of Gamifying Self-Improvement
As I see it, there are three major benefits to taking this approach to personal development.
First, it makes it more fun. Reading a book, meditating for 15 minutes, or knocking out 30 sit ups can sometimes feel like a chore. But if you’ve got a scorecard by your side, you’re probably more likely to follow through on your habits, because it feels a little bit like competing with yourself.
Second, you can get a much better sense of how much effort it’s going to take to reach your goals. Don’t have that six pack yet? Might need to increase reps. Not the smartest person in the world? Your book reading habit needs some leveling up.
I jest, but it’s quite amazing when you think about it. If you’re not on track to getting to where you want to go, or it’s taking too long, you get feedback on whether you need to course correct.
Third, you can create a reward system for yourself. I didn’t do this when I was engaging in my network marketing habits, and in retrospect, I would have been more deliberate about it. The whole point of gamification is that there are generally rewards built in.
After a month or two of tracking your score, you should start to get a sense of what might be a “stretch goal” for you, at which point you can set that goal and if you make it, reward yourself with an ice cream, a nice meal, a gadget on Amazon, or otherwise.
And if you want more community or accountability, you can do this with others and compete for the best score!
Have Fun & Keep it Simple
The goal of self-improvement is to become a better version of yourself. In the grand scheme of things, though, it’s more about becoming a sharp knife than a Swiss army knife.
When you say “yes” to something you always say “no” to something else. Which suggests that you will get better at the things you focus on and stagnate or get worse at all the things you say “no” to.
And practically speaking, while we will improve at things we practice daily – be it writing, playing our instrument, painting, taking photos, or otherwise – we won’t necessarily retain everything we read, notice a major difference in how we feel from meditation, or wax eloquent on the benefits of a daily journal.
That’s why I suggest having fun and keeping personal development simple. Life is not meant to be taken so seriously.
Many of us engage in self-improvement to get something. Sadly, then, it just becomes a means to an end, and I don’t think that’s the point.
The point is to increase your health and longevity, challenge your thoughts, connect to your spirit, and enjoy the process. So, hopefully there is joy in the process, even if doing 100 squats doesn’t seem like a whole lot of fun in the moment.
Also know that you don’t need a 50-point morning routine to be successful. That’s just silly. You’re better off focusing on a few core habits.
And always remember – there’s nothing wrong with you.
If you’re engaging in personal development, it might be worth gamifying. It might help you stick with it for longer and develop the habits you’ve been trying so hard to master.
But don’t worry about trying to do it perfectly, and feel free to ditch whatever doesn’t work for you.
What does your personal development routine look like? Why does it work for you?
Let me know in the comments below.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.
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