We’re traditionally told to quit playing games and get serious. But game-playing is not only proven to increase goal achievement, it makes the work a lot more fun!


Let’s face it, we’re usually pretty gung-ho at the beginning of every new resolution or challenge: full of energy and enthusiasm to make any changes necessary to get it done. But then reality sets in: we’re some combination of tired, frustrated, cranky and uncomfortable at stepping outside our comfort zone to stretch and achieve our goals.


In order to stay present in that motivated space, try including games. Why? Playing games puts us in a state of flow, which is both energizing and performance-enhancing. It can create healthy competition, increase learning, and enhance creativity.


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (who has studied creativity, happiness and flow), asserts that “In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does”.


“Gamification” is a whole thing, actually: there are books, courses, certifications, and degrees. And of course video gaming! But it can also be just as effective while being quite simple and analog.


One of my favorite stories is the mind game Arnold Schwarznegger played with himself: at the beginning of his bodybuilding career, Arnold trained hard and bulked up well. He was particularly proud of his back and other body parts. But not his calves.


Arnold realized this was because he was not giving as much attention to them as the rest of his body. So he got scissors and cut off the bottom half of all his workout pants, leaving his skinny calves exposed for him to see, and everyone else too. Nowhere to hide!


Arnold then put himself in an intense – but fun! – game to force his calves to grow by overtraining them, and included a variety of new methods: such as training super heavy, training them every day, using different angles, stretching and walking exercises, and visualization.

While he was clearly very serious about achieving his goal, making the whole thing a game empowered and motivated him to achieve it so well that the following year many people thought he’d had surgery!


In my own family it comes naturally, I guess because my Mum had us all playing games from an early age. As we got older, to increase our responsibility she gradually increasing our chores around the house such as increasing the number of dishes and silverware we had to do each night, from 6 each at age 6, to 7 each at age 7, and so on. But she also made it fun: the game for dishes was to see if you could hold all 6 (or 7, etc) pieces of silverware in one hand. 


And now with my family and friends there are many games being played in order to support ourselves and each other in achieving all our goals. One game with my Mom is to check-in and compare our bedtimes, in order to help each other get to bed on time so we get enough good quality sleep. Another game I have is with a friend where he increases his bench press and I increase my pull-ups – this one is actually a bet: winner gets treated to a long weekend at the beach – some skin in the game is great motivation! 


Do you play games at work or at home? If so, share them with us in a blog comment below!