April 3, 2014

Having Trouble Changing Habits? Turn Your Life Into A Game!


Procrastination is a problem for all of us. Most of the time we accomplish what we need to accomplish to keep things moving in our lives. But there are always those pesky, irritating, boring to-do's, and even big lifestyle changes that we just can't seem to get around to.

Exercise is one of those things. We vow that we will start exercising...tomorrow. But when tomorrow comes, we're tired at the end of the day, so we sit in front of the television and binge watch episodes of Dexter or Orange is the New Black.

One of my clients was having this exact problem. She couldn't focus at work. She was highly anxious that her lack of productivity would lead to her being fired. And yet, as stressed out as she got, she could not seem to change her behavior and get motivated. She knew that exercising in the past had helped her sleep better, feel more rested, and concentrate better. So we set exercise goals and discussed the specifics of what days and what types of exercise she would do. Then she put the exercise to-do's on her calendar. But it was still not enough for her to get off the couch and start exercising. 

So we talked about finding another tool that made the idea of exercising more fun, more gratifying, and created accountability for her. She was able to get what she needed from a website Habitrpg.com. The concept is really interesting. It treats life as if it were a game. You designate a habit, or to-do's that you want to accomplish. Then you create an avatar who is in the world of habitica. You can gain  points/rewards when you accomplish certain tasks. If you fail to complete your tasks, you lose points and can even die. You can also add friends to the game to encourage you, or join a guild of people with similar interests. This creates a sense of accountability and a social community which can be motivating.

This idea of turing life into a game is called gamification. If you want to find out more about the psychology of ramification, and listen to a TED Talk about the subject, check out this article. In the meantime, if you are having trouble breaking bad habits or starting new ones, try turning your life into a game with an app like habitrpg.org.  Gamification is not going to work for everyone. But sometimes the hardest part of creating a new habit is getting started. So this tool might just give you the initial push you need to be successful.

Happy gaming!

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