When people think gamers, they don't typically picture optimal health.
But a pro gamer isn't that different from a pro soccer player. Both are hyper motivated to overcome strenuous challenges, improve their skills, and have a fun time. The difference is between the physical and the mental domain. But by gamifying real life, you can transfer your motivation to succeed in the mental domain to the physical one.
I know because I used to be addicted to video games.
In high school I played games like Terraria, Minecraft, and Civilization 6 for hours. Through learning to gamify my life, I have successfully kept a gym and cardio routine for four years and went from looking like this:
Lets do the same for you by exploring the 5 ways you can gamify your life to sleep better, eat healthier, and exercise more.
Adopt A Challenge Mindset
A challenge mindset involves seeing obstacles not as annoyances in the way but as challenges to test and grow.
In other words, seeing obstacles not as a threat but as a challenge to play. I remember playing League Of Legends with my brother and friends back in the summers of high school. We would spend hours every day testing out different team comps, items, and strategies.
We could have been doing anything else, but instead we willingly subjected ourselves to frustration.
Because we saw the failures as challenges to overcome, not obstacles in the way, we persevered.
You can adopt a challenge mindset in your health. See obstacles you come across as challenges to test and grow. The physical pain of weightlifting. The strain of cardio. The difficulty of resisting that Reese's Peanut Butter cup at work.
They are all challenges.
Find An Ally
Games 10x our love for playing by integrating the most powerful form of motivation of all: other people.
Humans are social creatures. We evolved to be with others. Ethics, laws, shaming, and more are all human-made inventions to monitor social relationships. Mirror neurons are activated when we see someone else doing something targeting the same parts of our brain as actually doing that thing, minus the movement.
In effect, just being around others can be not only a learning experience, but a motivational one.
We can learn from games by getting an ally to join us in our health endeavors.
Find an ally who will stick to a sleep schedule alongside you, a diet, or a workout regime. When your motivation inevitably drops after the excitement of starting something new, you'll be there for each other to stay in line.
Think of them like your robin to your batman.
Create A Super Alter Ego
Lots of games have secret identities: Metal Gear, Hitman, Spiderman.
Often when playing these games you feel like these avatars. But it turns out this happens outside of games as well. Just seeing an avatar pursue and complete a goal like running a 5k, cooking a healthy meal, etc. can increase self-efficacy and motivation in the person playing them. However, this effect only occurs if the avatar is created to look closely like you. 
Self-efficacy is our belief in our capability of creating and pursuing goals.
Think about that: just SEEING a avatar you identify with pursue goals, build's your confidence in pursuing goals AND your motivation.
So one of the best ways to pursue your health goals is adopting a secret identity.
Mine is Aidan The World Singer:
He's a spin off of Kalladin, Ellend Venture, Hoid, Mark Watney, and Leonardo Da Vinci.
Anytime I feel myself slipping on my health goals, I remind myself of who I aspire to become, Aidan The World Singer. WOULD THIS MAN EAT THE DONUT. NO! So neither shall I.
Turn Your Health Goals Into Adventures
In games everything almost everything is framed as an adventure.
We can do the same in real life by framing normal health goals into adventures. Sleeping on schedule turns into replenishing the mana stores. Eating healthily turns into preparing to fight the dragon. And exercising turns into unlocking your inner superhero.
Framing normal health goals as adventures makes them more fun, and therefore motivates you to keep doing them.
I integrated this by using the gamified task management app Habitica.
Habitica is a task management app that turns your regular tasks and habits into quests that once completed give you experience points, gold, and mana. Through completing your tasks and habits you do damage to bosses. And using your in game coins you can build your characters wardrobe and buy pets.
Gamify Your Health Trifecta
All games include these attributes:
- A goal (non-trivial and achievable)
- Rules (some form of arbitrary externally imposed constraints)
- A feedback system (can see progress toward goals)
- Voluntary participation (motivated to achieve goals voluntarily)
- A Gameplay loop
One of the best ways to motivate yourself toward your health goals is to ask this question: how can I make this into a game?
How can you create a goal, rules, feedback system, voluntary participation (hopefully that's already there) and a gameplay loop around your health goals.
The possibilities for how you can do this are endless. That's one of the things that make sit so fun. But one of the most classic ways I have seen it integrated is by taking regular progress photos for the gym and comparing them to your ideal body type over time. This gives you a goal (your ideal body type), rules (the health regime that will get you to that body type), a feedback system (the comparison between your ideal body type and where you are now), and a gameplay loop (the continual process of comparing your progress photos to your ideal body type).
It's got everything!
Get my gamification resource list with all my best resources on gamifying your health, work, and relationships. Turn your real life into a game and become addicted to learning, make healthy habits fun, 10x your work productivity by getting into the flow state, and cultivate deeper relationships.
- Jeremy N. Bailenson, “Doppelgangers—A New Form of Self?,” Psychologist 25, no. 1 (2012): 36–38. ↩︎