Think Like a Gamer

“When times are tough, doing what you’d do in a game — powering up, finding allies, and beating the bad guys — is a supremely powerful response.” – Jane McGonnical

I recently read Jane McGonical’s article, It’s Time to Think Like a Gamer, and found her study to be a simple yet insightful look into the mind of a gamer and how the lessons we learn while playing our favorite video games can also be a guideline for success in our real-world adventures and challenges.

Jane’s basic outline:

1. Be willing to play.

 Be willing to engage wholeheartedly with difficult obstacles and look at stressful life events as challenges, not threats. In games we do this as we Accept the Challenge to Play. Every game starts with a challenge. Whether it’s to solve a puzzle, or rescue a princess.

2. Power-Ups

Power-Ups are bonus items that give you more strength, power or extra life. A real-world power-up is any positive action you can take, easily, that creates a quick moment of pleasure, strength, courage, or connection for you. Collecting a power-up simply means identifying it as something you want to try and then using it in your daily life. For example: What physical activity energizes you? What reliably inspires you when you read or watch it? Is there a place or space you can get to easily that brings you comfort? Who is the best person to get in touch with when you need a pick-me-up? Eventually you may build up a super collection of power-ups. The bigger your collection, the more control you’ll have every day to feel better.

3. Bad Guys

Bad guys are used in video games as obstacles that force us to be creative and clever. Bad guys in everyday life work in the same way – they make things tougher on us. But they also help us develop skills and strategies that ultimately make us smarter, stronger and faster. This is not just a feel-good sentiment. It is a validated, scientific finding. To become happier and healthier, we need psychological flexibility – the courage to face things that are hard for you. “It doesn’t matter in any given moment, or even three times in a row, if the bad guys overwhelm you, or if you back away,” says Todd Kashdan, professor of psychology and senior scientist at the at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University.” But if you look two or three weeks in a row, and there’s a willingness to approach those stressful things, and to absorb some of the stress and discomfort that comes with it – that’s true psychological flexibility.”

Identifying the bad guys: What habit do you want to break? What makes you nervous or uncomfortable? What zaps your energy? What thoughts or feelings run through your mind and make you question your goals or abilities? What has a doctor or therapist recommended you do less of or avoid? Just identifying them is a step toward your win.

4. Go for the Win

Always hold out the possibility of a positive outcome. Learn the skill of benefiting. Be aware of good outcomes that can come even from stress or challenges. Extremely positive results can arise when you least expect it, even in the most daunting circumstances.


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