We often know what we should do. But sometimes we are challenged to get ourselves to do as well as we know. Simple solution: Make it a game.
Throughout my life, this motivation technique has worked for me. I play games with myself all the time. When I was young and working two jobs to get through college and every penny counted, I made it a game. Every time I found a way to save a dime or earn a dollar, bingo! It was like an arcade pinball machine: A light would go off in my head, the chime would sound, and another score went on the board for the home team.
I got a kick out of having a savings account. Why? Because I had a plan and a goal, and every dollar I placed into that savings account put me one step closer to the bright, shining mountaintop of a college degree, earned by and paid for by yours truly. My dad paid my first quarter tuition and books, everything else I did myself.*
Building my business was a game. A game of carefully plotted moves, a game of Legos stacked one on top of the other, a game of building blocks, games of chess and poker all rolled into one.
Eating healthily, staying trim, going alcohol free: All these are games to me. Games with rules, games ever tougher and more rigorous at each higher level (high school to college, college to the pros, pros to the playoffs!), games I joyously play with zest and verve, games I “win” even if I just play hard, games where I want to be the Michael Jordan of my own game of life.
After all, the difference between work and play is often just attitude and perspective. We often “work” harder at our off-hours recreation than we do at work.
It is difficult to get motivated over someone else’s goals or by someone else’s values. You have to have the goal, and the purpose behind that goal must have personal meaning to you.
Soooo… What can you make a game of? What can you turn from work to play?
*Dutiful acknowledgement should also be made to the Federal Insured Student Loan program, said loans long since repaid on time with interest.
This is a classic from the NSC Blog archive, originally posted May 30, 2008.