Turning Everything Into a Game and Having Fun with It

Feb 23, 2022


Have you ever wondered why it is that we enjoy games so much? And have you ever wondered why it is that many people tend to dislike their jobs so much? What is the difference between pressing buttons on an Xbox or cell phone and pressing buttons on keyboards?

The answer may surprise you:  it actually comes down to our efforts and how much we care.

We care about games and we make the effort because we want to get better at them and because there’s constant variety and plot progression to keep things interesting. This makes us try harder in order to progress and that in turn gives us the feeling of reward that makes the gameplay satisfying.

From a neurochemical perspective, this essentially boils down to the release of dopamine. Each time we attempt a level or challenge, we first visualize it happening in our mind’s eye. When we then attempt it for real and it goes to plan just as we visualized it, it will in turn result in us getting a release of the reward hormone dopamine. This is actually highly addictive and that can be enough to make us want to try again – which is why it’s so hard to put down that game we try to control! That release of dopamine and serotonin will also help to reinforce the neural connections required to perform the task again. This strengthens our likelihood of doing the same thing again in the future with perfect technique and generally improves our technique and ability.

When we don’t care about the outcome though, we don’t have this trial/reward loop and as a result, it can end up feeling like a dull slog. To change this, all we need to do is to start taking things more seriously and actually focus on what we are doing.

The Most Basic

Try this silly exercise:  Let’s say that you have to write something by hand. This is a mundane task and something most of us won’t pay much attention to.

So instead of simply doing it absent-mindedly, why not try instead to really focus on doing it as perfectly as possible?  You can try to let the pen flow perfectly as we write and doing so with the most perfect handwriting we can muster. Visualize it happening as you do.

Simply paying attention to your writing in this way and making it perfect will then be enough to ensure that you are more engaged and that you get the release of dopamine when it goes well.  You’ve now turned the mundane into a game.  Why? Because the brain loves learning and improving.  And why not apply that to other things you do?  The lesson here:  Being present can make all the difference in the way we feel about any endeavors we take.



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