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  • Deborah Moyer

How to Gamify Your Goals & Make Them More Fun

When you think of setting a goal, does it get you excited or does it fill you with dread?

Many people see setting goals as a chore, something to endure, which is probably why achieving a goal can seem so difficult to achieve.

Yes, we want the end result, the prize behind the curtain, but all the work to get there? Not so much.

Our Body’s Motivator

But, what if there was a way to improve your chances of reaching any goal and have it be fun instead of a drag?

It can! Now, do I have your attention?

The key to shifting to a more fun experience with goals starts with understanding human behavior, what we respond positively to and what we resist.

When you achieve a goal, your body rewards you with a sense of pleasure or well-being.

This is largely due to a chemical reaction in your body called dopamine. Your body creates it so your nervous system can send happy messages from one nerve cell to the other.

It’s that flush of elevated emotions, a sharper focus, or the increased energy we get when we experience something fun or pleasurable.

Turns out that dopamine has a big part in how we humans think and plan.

It’s not something you always notice as you go about your day, but depending on whether you get too much or too little of it, it can seriously affect your emotional, mental and physical health.

Dopamine Health Affects

Dopamine affects basic functions like learning, heart rate, blood vessel function, sleep, mood, and ability to focus.

Too much or too little dopamine in certain parts of your brain can create serious mental health conditions like schizophrenia, ADHD, and various forms of addiction.

But, it can also improve our health. Doctors use dopamine to treat conditions like low blood pressure, poor blood flow to vital organs, and more.

For our goal purposes? We want the Goldilocks ‘just right’ version. To use dopamine in a healthy way to improve our general mental and physical health.

Generally, we aren’t really aware of how many times our bodies feed us with a hit of dopamine throughout the day. You probably haven’t given it much thought. You just like the way it makes you feel when you are enjoying doing something.

Take, for instance, that addictive behavior we are all acquainted with called social media. We just have to check that email or social media feed to see if a friend has reached out or if there’s some important news we should know about.

Every time you pick up that phone or check your email, you get a hit of dopamine.

So how can we take that same happy feeling we get from things we love to do and create them in the things we don’t?

We need to start thinking about the ways we can incorporate more fun into the rewards we give ourselves for achieving a goal.

First, we should avoid making a goal so big that it seems too impossible to attain, no matter how many hours, days, or weeks we work at it.

Reducing the goal into smaller milestones that are more achievable in shorter bits of time can be a great way to reward yourself sooner and more often.

How to Gamify Your Goal

One way to do that is to “gamify” your goal.

It’s probably no surprise that the definition of “gamify” is to turn an activity or task into a game or something that represents fun.

Gamifying any task encourages creativity, ramps up our human tendency to compete, raises our focus, and reduces the negative implications that we actually have to work to succeed at our goal.

We all have some level of competitiveness in us. I don’t know anyone that consciously wants to lose at anything.

Gamifying draws on that by shifting the resistance to experiencing loss into positive winning energy that makes you want to continue the process.

A Life Goal Example

One of the more popular goals that people have gamified is losing weight, getting more fit, or just getting healthier.

Just the word “losing” is, in and of itself, a negative reinforcement, right? We automatically go to the negative meaning of something rather than default to the positive.

When I need to lose some weight, I immediately cringe because I know I’m going to have to cut out some of my favorite foods. Why is it a universal rule that it has to be three times as hard to take off weight than putting it on? You know some level of suffering will be required.

Why can’t I just fast forward my brain to embracing the ultimate positive benefits I’d be getting from looking and feeling better?

Well, about 2 years ago, I decided to "gamify" the process. I started religiously tracking my weight every day and exercised every other day for at least 30-45 minutes.

I then kept a daily log of my weight and exercise time on my desk calendar. It was in black and white. There was no escape.

Now I had a history I could monitor to see where and when my weight fluctuated. I could then adjust my eating habits and see how quickly my body reacted to those changes.

I felt like I was taking charge of my health and could see the difference! A veritable bucket load of dopamine was flowing!

The Unexpected Evolution As time went by, something else happened that I didn’t expect. I started noticing I wasn’t feeling as energized or as good on the off days as I did the days I exercised, so I upped my exercise to 6 days a week.

Was it painful getting up at 6:30 am to trudge out to the treadmill or put on my coat and gloves to walk in 30-degree weather? Yes, yes it was!

But, afterward? I was proud of myself and felt that dopamine synergy flowing!

I also realized that I worked out harder when my weight had increased because I wanted SO badly to write a lower weight number or a higher exercise time on the calendar. I was hooked on the game!

When I stood back and looked at the evolution, there were other benefits too. It helped reduce my stress, motivated me to expand the process to other work and personal goals, and it increased my mental focus and productivity (and we can all use a bit of that, right?).

So, if you have a goal you’ve been frustrated with, why not try "gamifying" it? If it worked for me, there's no reason it can't work for you too!

So, until next time, my friend, as I always say….stay safe, stay healthy and stay strong!

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