Let’s face it: you’re going to need help in your push to get superbetter. Everybody needs help — I do, you do, everybody does. To help you meet — and beat! — your personal challenge, research suggests another powerful strategy: recruit allies.
An ally is someone you can speak to honestly and openly about your challenges and stress. Equally important, an ally is someone you believe you could ask for help with a serious problem. For many of us, that’s a bit trickier.
Many of us find it difficult to ask for help in our personal challenges. Our sense of independence falsely tells us it’s weak to ask for help, we shouldn’t burden others with our problems, and we’re better off just going it alone — except all of those ideas are wrong.
Whenever you get any level of support from someone, several things happen, including a drop in stress levels (measured as a drop in cortisol), boost to your immune system, and your heart “literally gets stronger” (research links thoroughly footnoted).
Even when we know the benefits of an ally, crossing that line to ask for help can still be challenging. Jane McGonigal offers a key insight about recruiting an ally from her own experience devising the SuperBetter game:
It’s hard to be vulnerable and ask for help with a serious problem.
But it’s easy to invite someone else to play a game.
Then you can explain what the SuperBetter game is, and how you’re using a gameful approach to, well, get superbetter. Share the challenge you’re facing with them. Tell them about the power-ups you use to boost your resiliency, and how they help you on a daily basis. Tell them about how you battle your Bad Guys. Share the story of a completed quest, from start to finish (remember, sharing that story is a power-up twice over, once as a social connection, but also as a replayed memory of victory).
Maybe you have a natural ally in mind — a spouse, a friend, a co-worker. Or maybe you’re unsure who to recruit. A related quest in the Superbetter book helps tap your imagination by posing 3 crazy challenges:
- Mutant Superpower: a meteor crash has turned you and millions of others into mutants with unpredictable superpowers, and the government is out to capture you.
- Chocolate Mudslide: your house has been flooded by chocolate from a candy factory explosion and you have no place to stay and no clothes to wear.
- Million Dollar Spree: a crazy aunt left you billions of dollars on the condition you spend a million of it within one week — but you can’t accumulate any possessions and you can’t give it to charity.
In each instance, imagine someone specific that you know that you could turn to as ally to meet the challenge of mutant superpowers, or a chocolate mudslide, or a million-dollar spending spree. Right there, you’ve got 3 potential allies you could recruit — oh, and imagining connecting with them already gave you a power-up to boost your social resiliency.
If you’re talking to the right person, by now, they not only will agree to be your ally, they may ask more questions about SuperBetter. Show them Jane’s TED talk, “The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life” for a quickie overview. You may find that some new allies even want to start playing SuperBetter themselves, as well as becoming your ally.
Allies help you by checking up with you regularly. Report your progress — and your struggles — to these allies often to receive advice, encouragement and support. They might suggest new quests for you, or different strategies to battle your Bad Guys. Check-in with your allies regularly to update them on your progress and celebrate your victories along the way.
Assign your allies their own quests in helping you. An ally might agree to send an inspirational text each day, or join you in activating some power-ups. Some people report their allies quickly start using the language of SuperBetter, noting such things as, “Watch out for that Bad Guy” or “Maybe that could be a power-up for you.” Just having a common framework of language to talk about your challenges can help you open up and connect with an ally.
If you feel reluctant to impose on your family or friends to become your allies, you can always start with virtual allies via online support groups or the Superbetter game community itself. McGonigal provides a list of popular forums and support groups at Areyougameful.com for common Superbetter challenge categories.
Within a week of recruiting an ally, you start to get huge benefits in terms of social resiliency. Sometimes, an ally may get busy and neglect to connect with you for awhile. If you “lose” an ally along the way like this, just keep living gamefully and remember you can share adventures with many different allies along the way.
So I’m still wondering who’s going to help me out with my mutant superpowers, saving me from drowning in chocolate, or helping me spend a million bucks.
Anybody up for being an ally?
Next: Secret Identity