I play a lot of video games, so some things are much easier for me to get a handle on when they are restructured in gaming terms. As part of my big 2016 Epic Life Relaunch Of Awesome (patent and details pending), I have put a great deal of thought into exactly how I plan on making all the life changes I have decided upon when I don’t exactly have a great track record of sticking to habits, maintaining resolutions, or even finishing sentenc-
Hey, look! A squirrel!
What was I saying? Oh, right. Video games and building good habits.
The idea of gamification has been around for a while, and there have been countless books, blog posts, and apps written about it, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about how it works. This post is about how to take those ideas to start again with a mindset more geared toward success. This is how I plan on achieving my various goals, and I hope it helps you as well.
At Level One, You Have Nowhere To Go But Up
In (almost) every role-playing game, whether it be tabletop, pen-and-paper, or pixelized on the screen, your character begins at level 1. You have a rusty old sword, no armor to speak of, and a high likelihood of being wiped out by the first knoll, goblin, or slime to cross your path. To be blunt, it sucks. You can’t rush off to complete any quests, you can’t fight any boss monsters, and the loot tables are more likely to reward you with an old bucket for your efforts than a +5 Magical Sword of Stabbing Stuff.
But you can beat up rats, complete tiny little mini-quests, and wander around doing minor tasks to gain experience points.
The same applies to your big life goals. For example: I want to lose weight. A lot of weight. Maybe more than you weigh. I’ve tried for years and always failed. Lately, I’ve begun to think that it’s because I aimed too high. I gripped my -1 Dagger of Suckage, pulled on my Pantaloons of Disappointment, and charged right into Castle Weight Loss. And I got my substantial rear end handed to me along with a side of curly fries.
So, how do you avoid my mistake? You start small. You complete mini-quests. You take a sack lunch to work instead of eating out. +5 experience. You go for a five-minute walk. +10 experience. You make a healthy dinner at home instead of picking up a bag of burgers. +25 experience.
It adds up. Seriously.
Restarting At Level One Lets You Start Over
Like me, you’ve probably tried (and failed) to accomplish a major goal. You’re disappointed, disheartened, and probably wondering whether or not you will ever have the willpower, time, or whatever else you feel you did not have in sufficient quantities to complete your task. So, the next time you try, you start even farther back from where you began. Maybe you weigh more, maybe you haven’t written in ages, or maybe you’re on the verge of transforming into some kind of wombat and have a powerful urge to run off into the forest.
I think that’s what happened to that one newscaster who gave up his job. You know, the one with the hair who read the news?
Forget all that. Take an amnesia potion, turn a new page, and re-roll your character. None of that matters any more. You’re starting over, and this time will be different. This time, you’re going to break down that epic quest of awesome into bite-size single steps of reasonability, and you’re going to start working your way a little at a time every day until you reach level two, level three, and so on until you reach maximum level and build a throne out of swords or dragon hide or Lego bricks.
Forgive yourself and start again. The mountain is high, but you’re wearing sensible shoes.
Every Hero Starts At Level One
No one is born a hero. J.K. Rowling didn’t come into the world with the first three Harry Potter novels plotted, Scott Kelly’s first words weren’t, “Hi, Mom. I’m going to be an astronaut,” and Abraham Lincoln was not born with the Emancipation Proclamation in-hand (though he did have the top hat; thanks, Wikipedia!). They all started at level one and worked their way up. That’s the way everyone does it, and you are no different than them.
Though you may not have as magnificent a top hat as Lincoln, but finding one can be a quest if you want it to.
They worked their way up from the beginning, they put in the work, and they crawled and scraped and fought their way to epic status. There is nothing preventing you from doing the same other than whatever limitations you place on yourself.
The Chinese Ming Dynasty did not build the great wall without a massive amount of effort divided into a million tiny improvements. They just kept putting one more brick in the wall (as described in the Pink Floyd audio-documentary) until they were done. You won’t lose a hundred pounds or write your novel or change the world without your own massive effort, but no one ever said you had to do it in a day, or that you were a failure if you couldn’t do it all at once.
Choose a healthy sandwich over a burger and fries? You’re a winner.
Wrote 500 words on that novel you’ve been dreaming about? You’re a winner, too.
It won’t be fast, it won’t be easy, and there is no shame in killing slimes until you level up and can fight stronger battles.
Just keep at it a little at a time. You will get there eventually.
So, what sort of epic quest are you undertaking? Are you writing a novel, building muscle, starting a business? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to like and share this post on social media. Thanks for reading, and full steam ahead!