Continuing our series on getting superbetter…
So far I’ve talked about the first 3 gameful rules Jane McGonigal gives us for playing SuperBetter:
Rule #4 starts to put it all together in a bigger package by getting you to focus your efforts on specific quests.
Within the SuperBetter game, a quest is something specific that you can do in the next 24 hours that will produce a positive result or a good outcome. In the book Superbetter, McGonigal lists the following examples of quick quests for each of the four resiliencies they help strengthen:
- Mental resilience — tense one specific muscle and then relax; research shows an effect called “embodied cognition,” when a strong body cues a strong brain.
- Social resilience — sharing a dream you’ve had with someone; sharing and discussing a dream boosts trust and increases intimacy with the other person.
- Physical resilience: hum a tune for sixty seconds; humming increases nitric oxide levels in your nose and sinus cavities which in turn produces less inflammation there, meaning fewer headaches, allergies, colds, asthma attacks or infections.
- Emotional resilience: find and adopt a “Lucky Charm,” something you believe can help you be luckier; even if you’re not particularly superstitious, choosing a Lucky Charm can boost your feelings of self-efficacy, the ability to be personally effective.
In fact, by this point in the book, McGonigal has presented the reader with no fewer than 24 small quests along the way, starting back with the first, simple one on page 14 (Stand and take 3 steps, or raise your fists high over your head for 5 seconds). In this way she also demonstrates how completing quests can boost your resilience in what becomes na upward spiral.
Designing you own quests gives you extra boosts in several specific ways. Firstly, you can target your personal challenge at your own level based on your personal values. Secondly, you imagine a good outcome — and that “future boost” possibility right there is a power-up! Finally, when you complete a quest, that success experience is both a present power-up and something you can remember later as a future power-up.
See how taking on and completing quests can start an upward spiral of increasing resiliency?
Taking on a quest boosts your hope, optimism, and self-efficacy — 3 similar strengths that differ slightly. Hope says, “A good outcome is possible.” Optimism says, “A good outcome is likely.” Self-efficacy says, “A good outcome is under my control.” Pull all 3 together, and you’ve got a powerful potion for increased resiliency.
Key to designing challenging but satisfying quests is to make them real-life committed actions by making them SMART:
- Specific — make sure it is quite clear how to accomplish this quest
- Meaningful — choose and design quests that fit into the bigger story of your purpose, challenge or journey
- Adaptive — complete quests that help you practice crucial skills you can develop even more later
- Realistic — make sure this quest can be completed with your current skills and resources
- Time-framed — set your quest for a specific day, or even better, a specific time of day
To use quests as a means of getting superbetter at meeting your personal challenge, McGonigal has several specific recommendations:
Set out on at least 1 quest every day. Complete that one quest, and you’ll begin to experience that upward spiral. Remember every quest offers 3 power-up opportunities: one for imagining the positive result, one upon completion, and a future power-up when you recall completing this quest.
Ask for help from friends in designing your personal quests. You might be pleasantly surprised at their observations and recommendations for you. Plus you get a social power-up from sharing your need and asking their help.
Some quests, once completed, can be converted into power-ups for future use that you can activate again later when you need one.
The quest I set for myself earlier today was to walk a little further that I usually do on my exercise strolls. I went down the hill to the trail by Lady Bird Lake, something I used to do regularly. It’s not that much longer a walk than my usual stroll around our topside neighborhood, to be truthful. But it’s coming back up the steep hill to our neighborhood toward the end of the walk, that’s the Bad Guy involved in this particular quest.
But on the way down, I had an opportunity for a power-up by talking with some folks walking their grandbaby in a stroller. A few minutes later, I was lakeside, watching people walking, running, biking, walking their dogs and feeding the ducks and birds. I got a good long drink of water at the fountain (power-up!) and headed home.
Climbing that hill was no easier than before — harder for not having done so in weeks — but I made it!