The Job vs. The Game
Have you ever wondered why people enjoy games so much? And why do we dislike our jobs so much? I mean really, what's the difference between pressing buttons on the Xbox controller and pressing buttons on our computer keyboards?
The answer may surprise you. It actually comes down to how much you care and how much effort you put forth.
Games typically give constant variety and plot progression to keep things interesting which tends to make us care. It makes us want to put forth more effort so that we can progress to the next level. Therefore, we try harder to progress which then gives us the feeling of reward or accomplishment that makes the gameplay so satisfying.
From a neurochemical perspective, it essentially boils down to the release of dopamine. When you attempt a new level or challenge, you first visualize it happening in your mind. Then you attempt it for real and when it goes according to plan, you get a release of the hormone dopamine. The good feeling created by the dopamine release is actually highly addictive which makes us want to try again, making it so hard to put down that game of Angry Birds!
The release of dopamine and serotonin also helps to reinforce the neural connections required to perform the task again. It strengthens your likelihood of perfecting your technique and ability, allowing you to pass the same level again and have a head start on the next levels up.
But when we don't care about the outcome, we don't have the trial and reward loop. Without that loop, it can feel dull. Our jobs take much, much longer to progress to the next level which can be demotivating. To change this, we need to take things more seriously and actually focus on progressing...or whatever it is you're trying to accomplish. Turn it into a game!
Make Everything a Game
So how do I turn everything into a game? Let's say, for example, that you have to write something by hand. Writing is a mundane task for most people and most won't pay much attention to it.
Instead of absent-mindedly jotting it down and being done with it, try to really focus on doing it as perfectly as you possibly can. Try letting the pen flow perfectly as you write, creating the most perfect handwriting you can muster. Visualize how pretty your perfect handwriting is.
By simply paying attention to your writing and expecting perfection, you will ensure you are more engaged and will get that release of dopamine when it goes well. You've turned the mundane task into a game. Why? Because the brain loves learning and improving.
You can do the same with your daily workouts to stay motivated to do them. Once you've identified your workout goal for the day, turn it into a game!
Let's say I want to lift 5 more pounds than usual today. Each set of reps equals one level of game play. My goal for the day is to get to Level 8. I will get a release of dopamine each time I level up! This will make the next level, or set of reps, just a little bit easier because that level up motivated me just a little bit more.
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Seek to Improve Your Game
Not to toot my own horn here, but I've always been known both at work and in my personal life to be highly productive and to go above and beyond the call of duty. I have been called the queen of productivity once or twice.
Sometimes, I've needed to do the most mundane of tasks at work which is incredibly hard for me to do with this ADHD brain of mine. As an example, this year, one of my main goals was to clean up and restructure over 3,000 knowledge articles.
This means removing old data and correcting formatting issues within the article's content. Three thousand articles is a lot of reading and formatting, it has been tough to keep motivated to finish. But I made it a game! I am in a race with my teammates to do more than they do and to get it done faster.
I set a goal for each week and each day and I work toward those goals. Every single time I accomplish one of the goals, I feel that sense of accomplishment, the release of dopamine. It feels SO good to say I succeeded today...even when what I did may not mean anything to anybody else. I accomplished what I set out to do, it feels great!
Until next time, take care and hug your loved ones,