To Get Serious About Wellbeing—Make a Game of It

3 min

The simplest definition of gamification is motivating people through data. This is the science behind fitness trackers, frequent flyer programs, retail loyalty cards and social media apps. The reason these programs are ubiquitous is because they work. My wife routinely checks her step count in the evening and walks laps inside our house when she’s in range of that magic number of 10,000. I check my heartrate repeatedly when I’m working out to ensure the intensity of my exercise is at the proper level. You probably have one or more data sources you check regularly and adjust your behavior accordingly.

Gamifying Wellbeing

A Wellbeing Indicator is a daily behavior, over which I have full control, that most directly impacts my wellbeing and quality of life physically, spiritually, relationally, and intellectually. I decided to gamify my wellbeing by assigning a point value to each behavior and keeping score daily for a year. I created a Wellbeing Worksheet to document the daily behaviors I wanted to track and a spreadsheet that simplified tracking my average score per category weekly, monthly, and quarterly.

Tracking this data over time gave me a perspective I would not otherwise have. For example, one of my most predictable gaps in consistency is when I’m on vacation, because I lose the context that triggers my habits. Routines are more important than time and flexibility when it comes to consistency of behavior.

Gamification and Social Support

Gamification is riding a wave of “self-trackers” interested in measuring all kinds of personal activity. Research shows when behavior monitoring is combined with social support the results are dramatic and convincing. In a study by Weight Watchers, 80 percent of people who sustained weight loss had social support. For the people in the study who lost weight only to regain it, only 30 percent had social support. The same is true of people in cardiac rehab programs. Research by Johns Hopkins University medical school showed two-years after heart surgery, 90 percent of patients had not changed their lifestyle.

An intervention developed by Dr. Dean Ornish that included specific behavior monitoring and weekly support groups flipped the script completely. The program only lasted for one year, but three years after surgery 77 percent of the participants stuck with the lifestyle changes. Lasting change in behavior results from monitoring activity and social support.

Try This Experiment

In which of the four categories of Wellbeing do you want to improve most (physically, spiritually, relationally, intellectually)? Pick a category (or several) and complete the sentence: I’m at my best (insert category) when… by listing three to four specific daily behaviors over which you have full control that directly impact your quality of life in that category.

Assign a point value for each behavior that totals up to ten. Then track your progress in a notebook (or spreadsheet) daily for a month. Invite a friend to ask you at the start of each week how you are doing.

Ordinary vs Extraordinary

Identifying the daily behaviors that enable you to be at your best and tracking progress is not a herculean accomplishment. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary in every category of life that matters isn’t one shining moment of overachievement. It is a series of meaningful but modest actions over time. Anyone could do this. Few people do.

Will you?

If you found this information helpful check out the latest episode of Learning @ the Speed of Life, which includes information on how to get a free Wellbeing Indicator Worksheet.

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