I love video games, have since I was quite young. The first video game I ever remember playing was called “Mixed-Up Mother Goose” and you moved your pixelated little character around a map, finding objects from Mother Goose rhymes and bringing them back to their characters. Then I got older and graduated to more complex games on PC and on consoles (N64 being my absolute favorite).
Something happens to me when I start playing a new game. I get completely engrossed, not just while I’m playing, but no matter where I am. I think about it falling asleep or at work or where ever I am and wish that I could be playing for five more minutes. It’s dangerous. I have to actively prioritize everything about playing a game or else I could end up surrounded by pop cans and bags of chips and fast food for days on end.
I’ve learned to prioritize better. I learned why games are so addictive, how they activate all the pleasure centres in the brain. They make you feel like you’ve accomplished things, like you’re important, while only investing fifty bucks. And a huge amount of time. They let you be someone else for a while and, let’s be honest, that’s attractive.
My life for the last year and a half has been solely focused on raising two little boys. It’s hard work and something that doesn’t pay off right away. I find myself sometimes just waiting for the days to end and counting down until the weekend. The selfish part of me found little joy in child raising.
A couple of months ago, I wrote about living deliberately and how the shift in attitude changed how much I enjoyed life. I kept that up for, like, a month. I know, it’s embarrassing. Some of the things I wanted to add to my life have stayed part of my life. I am still reading lots and I’ve been keeping up with this blog better than I thought, but I still park my butt in front of the TV and zone out until Brian gets home from work.
I’m not going to blame anything, but myself. I knew when I started making excuses and getting lazy that the end of my deliberate living was near.
But here I am again, feeling like life is simply being endured rather than lived. So, again, I’m looking to make my life feel more meaningful. Or at least like I’m an active participant in my life.
So I did some googling, as I often do when I have any kind of question, and I found Nerd Fitness. Now, it’s pretty much a guy who changed his perspective and forced himself to do the things that he’d always told himself he couldn’t.
As with any fitness/life guru, you gotta think critically about what he’s saying. The follow-blindly-and-I-swear-you’ll-be-as-successful-as-Robert-Branson thing is always too good to be true. The stuff that I thought wasn’t legit, I tossed aside, but I did find a couple of things that made me think a little bit.
1. You are the hero of your life
Steve Kamb, the creator of Nerdfitness.com, views life as if it were a video game. You are the hero and you live your life building up skills, exploring the world, completing quests, and leveling up your hero. Life does not happen to you, you get to decide what life is going to be like.
Because you are the hero, you get to decide what are priorities for you. Rather than seeing someone do something cool and thinking “Wow, they sure are lucky they can do that,” you think, “What are the steps I’d have to take to do that too?” You have to stop making excuses like having no time or no money or no support, and just step up.
2. You don’t go from level 1 to level 50 in a night
I love to play games like Pokemon and World of Warcraft so I totally get the leveling metaphor. You start the game as a level 1 nothing with a pot lid for a shield and a butter knife for a dagger. Your battle moves are either “Run Away” or “Cower in Fear.” So you kill a bunch of kobolds or spiders or what have you and suddenly you’re level five and you have a real dagger. Forty-five levels later and your dagger is enchanted and has a gem-encrusted handle.
Each level that you go up takes a bunch of baby steps. You may need to kill thirty kobolds just to get up to level two. You complete quest after quest and gain experience and skills, which then turns into levels.
It’s the same with life. What would your ideal life look like? What do you look like at level 50? For me, it’s a published novel and no mortgage. It’s writing full time and taking my kids to Europe. It’s learning new languages and being in shape. That’s level 50 for me.
But right now, I’m level 1. And it’s going to take lots of time and effort to get to 50, but right now, I’m just looking to get to level 2.
3. Let there be rewards and consequences
When you are rewarded in video games, the more valuable rewards are ones that are useful. You complete a quest where you had to fight a bunch of bad guys, you get a more powerful sword so that you can fight even more powerful bad guys. When you reward yourself, do the same. I’m not going to eat healthy for a month so that I can drink a 12-pack of Coca-Cola. I’m going to reward myself with something to make eating healthy easier, like a new cook book or a cooking utensil. When my German vocabulary is at 1000 words, I’m going to rent a movie in German and try to follow along.
And while it’s easy to reward yourself, you also have to be pretty liberal with the consequences of failing a quest. Kamb’s solution was that every time he didn’t exercise, money would go from his account to a political candidate he absolutely despised. He didn’t want to lose the money and he didn’t want to support a cause he didn’t agree with so he exercised. You need to hold yourself accountable.
4. Break down your epic quests
As a level 1 character, you don’t slay dragons. You slay spiders or rats. And sometimes they slay you. If your epic quest is to slay a dragon, break that quest down into smaller quests that you can complete short term to lead to that long-term goal. For example, I want to learn enough German that when we go to Germany in the future, I can speak it fluently for the entire trip. That’s too big for my n00b-ness so we break it down into smaller quests.
- Quest 1: Research & download language-learning app (5 experience points, or “xp”)
- Quest 2: Commit 15 minutes per day for six months to learning German (60 xp)
- Quest 3: Teach the kids some German words (50 xp)
- Quest 4: Download “The Hobbit” in German and read it (20 xp)
- Quest 5: Watch a film in German (10 xp)
- Quest 6: Find someone who speaks German and have a conversation (40 xp)
- Boss Battle: Go to Germany and speak only German for the entire duration of the trip (100 xp)
By the time I ever get to the boss battle, I’m no longer level 1. Now I have a new skill (German fluency), I have helped others develop a new skill (teaching my kids), and I’ve experienced a trip to Germany. I’ve gone from “I wish I could speak German” to “I speak German and have used it to experience a country in a unique way.” By keeping the daily commitment small, it takes a longer time, but I’ve made achieving my goals more realistic.
5. Don’t travel alone
While some adventures require a sole hero, life is something best experienced in groups. And a lifestyle change needs lots of support. Brian and I are going to try some of these things together because we are both feeling like our lives need to be lived a little more deliberately and we want to be good examples for our boys. We also have family and friends who can keep us accountable. People who don’t think that we are taking on too much or that we are living our lives wrong. If you’re feeling like a change is needed in your life too, hit me up. We are officially lfg (looking for group).
What do you think? What does your life look like at level 50? Let me know in the comments below!