One of the most important features of all games, and especially the game of your life, is a good reward system. You need ways to keep working on your game plan, and good rewards help you stay focused.
The stakes and the rewards for playing the game of your life are as high as you make them.
What’s the Point?
In my Master the Game of Life blog, I talked about running your life as though it is a role-playing game. But sometimes the stress of daily life doesn’t seem very fun. Maybe we just don’t get rewarded enough in real life, and that’s why we run to games where the rewards are easier to see and achieve.
You work very hard to accomplish your goals and it would be nice if someone recognized your efforts. How about yourself? Just as games use point systems to reward accomplishment, try tracking your own “Life Points.” They can add up fast!
Does that seem a little arbitrary? Most game rewards are just as intangible, but still highly addictive. We are hard-wired to get pleasure from rewards, kind words, and winning in any way. Keeping track of your life points will make you feel good. You will also be able to look back and say, “Wow, I really accomplish a lot!” Sometimes we forget just how much we do and achieve every day.
The Achievement Grid
Start out by creating some Achievement Categories. You can base some of these on the goals you laid out last week in your Life Plan. Haven’t started on that yet? There is no time like the present!
World of Warcraft has this set of Achievement Categories:
- Player vs. Player
- Dungeons & Raids
- World Events
- Feats of Strength
This is really a remarkable list in that so much of it applies to real life. I’m not so sure about “Dungeons & Raids,” unless you’re in the police or military, but the rest really work. “Player vs. Player” covers competitive activities such as sports and any sort of multi-player gaming. Yes, games are part of your real life – Their consequences reach outside the game worlds.
Now think about some things you want to accomplish – near-term and far – and fill them in to the appropriate grid categories. You can start out on paper, but I recommend moving your grid to a computer spreadsheet as soon as possible. This will make it easier to add new achievements and to change their categories. More importantly, you can use formulas to total up your points so you can watch them grow over time.
I’d probably add a “Health & Wellness” category. Want to lose weight? Don’t just say it – Track it in your Achievement Grid and award yourself points every time you lose a pound and keep it off. When you reach a goal, such as losing 10 or 20 pounds in a year, mark off a special achievement and give yourself a reward (hopefully not a hot fudge sundae!).
Don’t neglect the “Summary” category. That’s where you will keep the totals and track your most recent accomplishments. One way to do this is to copy any major achievements into the summary section and date them. (“Promoted to store manager 2010 Aug. 29 for 5 points.”) It can serve as a log book tracking your life changes and accomplishments.
Quests – One-Time and Daily
All role-playing games feature quests. You take on many quests in your daily life too. Do you need to get a report ready by Thursday? Treat it as a quest! First decide what you need to acquire to complete it, then begin gathering your quest materials – research and other data that you will need for your report. Work on each of the steps you need to complete – the sections of the report – and track each accomplishment. When you have checked off the last part, you will have completed your quest. You’ll have had more fun and probably finished it ahead of schedule. Not only that, but you can check off (or add) your completed quest to the Achievement Grid and rack up more points!
World of Warcraft and other on-line games offer daily quests to reward players for accomplishing useful tasks. Life has many daily quests too – Report in to work or school, prepare regular nourishing meals, clean your room, and so on. Make sure you include points for daily quests in your achievement system so that you can reward yourself each day for accomplishing them.
Create achievements such as, “Brush my teeth every night for a month,” and do your best to fulfill them. You might want to make these a little flexible so that you don’t “fail” by missing one night. Quests give you goals; they aren’t there to punish you because it took you two or three tries to accomplish them. One noteworthy feature of on-line games is that you can’t really “fail” – If you don’t manage to complete a quest or achievement on the first try, or on the first seven tries – you can keep trying it again until you succeed.
Building Your Reputation
Most online games such track your reputation with various factions. We all know the importance of maintaining a good reputation in real life. In the Reputation section of your grid, list some areas where you want to build and keep a good reputation:
Let’s say you volunteer to help clean up a local park. Give yourself a Community Reputation point. Did the dishes without anyone prompting you? That’s sure to gain a Family Reputation point. When you start seeing people smile everywhere you go, you know you’re racking up the Reputation points! You will feel good about yourself and you will find you have a lot of friends you can call on when you need help with a more difficult quest.
Feats of Strength
Some achievements are so special, you may not be able to fit them into any ordinary category. Getting a new job or a promotion is certainly worth some achievement points, but founding a company and helping it go public is a milestone that few people ever accomplish. You should give yourself a trophy for a major life milestone to help you remember the achievement points. This is your personal Hall of Fame for accomplishments you will always remember.
For me, these might include each of my computer game releases, my national bridge championship, the opening of The School for Heroes, and a handful of other events. I give myself an Achievement Point every time I complete a blog article or file my income taxes, but some events are special enough that they deserve their own category.
I find it interesting that World of Warcraft assigns the same number of points to most achievements, the trivial and the incredibly difficult alike. The important thing is to know you achieved something. For a truly impressive task, doing it may be its own reward.
Many games allow you to “unlock” special achievements and more challenging game modes. To do this, you must first accomplish easier goals. Add some unlockable achievements to your life plan. If one goal is to get a job, achieving that should unlock the “Get a Promotion” goal. If you are starting your own business, next you need to unlock “Have a profitable quarter,” then “Have a profitable year,” and so on. If your goal was to cash in a poker tournament, your next goal might be to make the final table, then to win one, then to win three, and so on. Of course, if you win a bracelet at the World Series of Poker, that feat of strength belongs in your Hall of Fame.
You can also do this in reverse. Choose one of your more difficult and challenging goals, then come up with some less ambitious steps that will help you achieve the larger goal. Treat each one of these as a goal to achieve, and “unlock” the big goal as you accomplish the smaller ones. Make sure you add each little quest to your Achievement Point Grid so that you can track and reward yourself when you complete it.
Sharing the Glory
For now, your achievement points will just be a personal motivation and a way of keeping track of what you’ve done. But maybe in a few years, if the idea catches on, we’ll find ways to share our achievements. Maybe it will be a Facebook app or on its own Web site. Maybe you’ll get together with some friends to form a local Achievement Club. Businesses can start rewarding their “Achiever of the Month”.
Until then, the rewards are up to you. Track your achievements and rack up the points. Every time you hit a milestone – 100 or 1000 points – collect a reward to recognize your achievements. All you have to do to live a rewarding life is to recognize that you are worthy of it. You’ll have more point(s) to your life than you could ever imagine!