Why turn a goal into a game?

For many people, including me, turning a personal or professional goal into a game is deceptively effective.

It keeps me engaged, gives me regular ‘hits’ of reinforcing progress, and that feeds my continued inspiration for the goal.

A game can change my perspective on a goal that may at first seem ‘difficult’, overwhelming, perhaps even impossible. Instantly it becomes doable, fun and self-reinforcing. It jacks up the odds that I actually stick to it by turning my focus away from the anxiety, fear or resistance that may be present, back to winning my game. I think about strategy instead of the end result. I anticipate rewards along the way. Most importantly, I’m playing the game so I’m in action, and that action is consistent and cumulative over time. Before I know it, my actions add up! I have small wins, and then more wins. My brain and I experience progress. The more progress I make, the closer I get to my goal, and the closer I perceive my goal to be, the harder I will work.

Thinking about your game

The sky is the limit when it comes to what you choose as a theme, the rules, the score keeping or the rewards you set up. It’s your game, it’s up to you. Really, anything goes.

Think about the kinds of games you already like, that capture and hold your attention. Design with that type of game in mind. Consider involving others that have a similar goal or desire particularly if you do well on a team, appreciate external accountability, respond to moral support or just love a like-minded crowd!

Think about building in rewards, and take your time with this. It’s personal, that’s why it works. Choose rewards that are appropriate for the milestone you achieve, rewards that are meaningful for you and are at intervals reinforcing to you. You’ll know what reward frequency is most likely to keep you in the game. And while the intervals between your rewards can be long, the time you take to experience your reward should be relatively short. When you hit your milestone, enjoy that reward soon after to lock in your reinforcement.

5 steps to your game design

  1. Decide what you want to create. It has become important to you to create a sum of money for a very specific reason. You’re feeling some fire for this goal. Write down what is it you want to create, and how much money you need to create it.

2. Write out the following statement: “I need to make (x amount of money) for (y goal.)

Lets say I want to obtain a certain professional certification or coaching program, that will cost $10,000. Here is a very specific thing I want to create, and a specific dollar amount to reach to make this happen.

3. Start listing ideas, generating all possible ways to get to that target. Notice if ‘mind’ starts worry about the ‘how’. Redirect your attention to the fire you have for your goal. Thoughts of ‘how’ will stop you in your tracks and take the wind out of your sails. Start again brainstorming, listing anything and everything that comes to mind- with no judgement. Anything is fine at this stage.

If you are having trouble brainstorming, here is a simple technique credited to the eminent Nathaniel Brandon ,The 6 Pillars of Self Esteem. It is aptly named 50 Brand New Ideas. The process is as follows: each morning for 5 days in a row, list 10 new ideas on a sheet of paper numbered 1 through 10. Do this first thing upon wakening or over breakfast. The agreement with yourself is that you will not quit the task, you will stick with it until you have your 10 ideas on paper for that day. Five days later, viol!a!

I recently heard Gary Vaynerchuk describe the simplest, fastest way most people can start generating money (that people don’t even realize.) Look around at what you have in your environment to ‘flip’. “If you need 5K, it’s in your house, in your closet, in your basement.” He believes ‘it’s just that most people don’t want to put in the time to do the work’ to benefit from posting on forums like Craigslist, Ebay or FB Market Place. But if you’ve got a burning goal, you’ll give it a whirl. If you don’t know already, you’ll find that selling online is very much a gam itself.

4) Review your brainstormed list. Make a new list of those ideas you know you can do to make money; who can you call, what service can you provide, what can you sell, etc. If you have a long list, consider each idea more deeply, or from a unique perspective, and choose what you will commit to.

5) Make yourself a scorecard. It can be as simple as a grid with boxes to cross off.

Say I want to get a professional certification or join a mastermind group, and my money goal is $10,000, then my scorecard could look like this: The program starts in 10 months. I am looking to make an average of $1,000 each month to hit my target. I could create a grid with 30 boxes across, 10 rows down, each box worth $34. , or points if I like, with rewards at increments of my choosing. I simply get to cross out a box each increment of 34 that I reach.

Make your scorecard easily accessible, satisfying, preferably fun to use and visually stimulating. Put it somewhere visible, take a look at it everyday. This tells your unconscious very clearly that this game, this goal is important to you, and to keep the game running in the background ‘looking’ for opportunities to play. ’

Reflect on your experience

I am for anything that works for you, for me, everyone. And that is usually the challenge; sticking with a new idea long enough to find out if it actually will work. Often it takes experimentation to find a game that grabs us, keeps our attention, and is supported by our environment and circumstances. Get elaborate or keep it simple, but do give it a try.