5 Steps to a Happier Life with Gamification

Ok, this sounds a little “self helpy”, but it came to me when I was doing a lecture for a group of Masters students at Kings College recently. I ended the talk, rather by accident, with the following advice

“Always be sure you know why you are doing things, understand their purpose. It helps to then work towards small goals.  That way no task, no matter how big – even the crushing student debt you probably have right now – will be manageable”

Anyone who has seen me speak knows that I get quite passionate. What they may not know is that I react to the audience and adapt my talks accordingly. This group were great and it felt right to give them a little ad-hoc advice. it got me thinking, though, what lessons from gamification am I applying in my own life day to day?

  1. Goals
  2. Purpose
  3. Challenge
  4. Feedback
  5. Play


First and foremost – goal setting. I have spoken about goals in the past. Whatever method you wish to use, I personally feel that aiming at small manageable goals is the key. You have to have an eye on the big picture, but that can be overwhelming. Break down everything to the smallest achievable goal you can. For instance, you have to build a website. This can be daunting if there are a lot of sections to create or specific interactivity. Rather than have that in mind, have the first smallest part in mind. What has to happen. Well, you probably need to decide what languages to use. Easy. Next, what pages do you need? Simple and it goes on like that, incrementally increasing the difficulty of each task – consider it your user journey towards your main goal! Enrol, Engage, End Game!

Consider a game like Mario. You have your immediate goal – get to the other end of the map without dying, Then you have the level map that shows you other things you will have to do. Then you have your world map to show you everything that is going on. All the while you have an overriding goal – save the Princess.

WiiU NSMBU scrn02 WP e1347569986894 5 Steps to a Happier Life with Gamification
Super Mario


Next, you need to understand the purpose associated to each goal. I wrote about this recently, purpose whether it is meaningful or altruistic, is essential for happiness. Always ask the question “Why?” Why am I doing this? Why is this important? Then ask “What?” What is the benefit? What is the purpose? What’s in it for me? For instance, when you have to build that website you would create the following sentence. Why am I building this website,

Why am I building this website and what is in it for me?

That answer may well be simple. You are building it because the client has asked you to and you get paid!

Again, it goes hand in hand with small goals and understanding where you are and what you are doing. Again, back to Mario, you know the answers to both,

Why am I running accross this map and what will happen if I don’t?

Why, because I need to save the Princess. If I don’t, she dies! Just remember the parable of the Little Cog 😉


One of the things that keeps me happy is little challenges, usually, that don’t relate to work. I always have them, whether it is creating a game, writing a book, learning something new etc. It breaks is one of the ways I force my mind to stop churning! I also love the statement from Andrea M. Kuszewski about doing things the hard way – I mentioned this when I wrote about my shaving routine 😉  Rather than use a prebuilt framework that does way more than you need, if you have time, make it yourself. If you need to throw something in the bin – add an unnecessary obstacle like having to throw the paper across the room. After all, one of the definitions of what makes a game is from Bernard Suits “the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles”.

Challenge feedback reward cycle 2 1015x1024 5 Steps to a Happier Life with Gamification
Challenge, Feedback, Reward cycle


Feedback is essential to any good system, even if it is your own internal system! You have to know what success looks like and you have to be able to measure it! This can be as simple as just getting a new bit of code to work and silently celebrating it, allowing yourself an extra bit of chocolate if you get an assignment finished early, buying that dress you saw because you lost the weight you had aimed for and so on. Just remember to make sure that the reward fits the effort of the task / goal.

Perceived value vs effort 500x500 5 Steps to a Happier Life with Gamification
Perceived Value of Reward vs. Effort


This is the biggest and most important factor that keeps me sane and happy in my life – adding elements of play wherever I can. This can come in various forms. It may be that I actually stop and play with the kids for instance. It could be that I take a Batman break and do something playful for five minutes to reset my brain a little. I may just approach a new task with a more playful / lusory attitude and make the task more playful even if only in my own mind. Often play is more a state of mind.

There are many ways that games and gamification can help you in your day to day life, but these are just a few things that I actually do personally, so know they work! Let me know what you all do

Let me know what you all do day to day that you have learned from games or gamification?

Gamification for a happier life 500x500 5 Steps to a Happier Life with Gamification

Similar Posts:

Also published on Medium.

Please wait...

2 thoughts on “5 Steps to a Happier Life with Gamification”

Leave a Comment