Game developer and researcher Jane McGonigal is among 155 million Americans who play video games, but it's more than a hobby. In her new book, "SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient--Powered by the Science of Games," McGonigal uses what she learned about the psychology of games to tackle life's challenges.
Try these SuperBetter "quests" to see what you can do to become more resilient.
QUEST: Plus-One Better
Pick three people:
1. Someone who would like to hear from you
2. Someone you would like to hear from
3. Someone who might be surprised to hear from you
Do you have your three people in mind? Good. Now--you have a choice. You can complete this quest on a difficulty setting of easy, medium, or hard. "Easy" means you're going to send a message to the first person on your list. "Medium" means you're going to message the first and second person on your list. "Hard" means you're going to message all three.
What to do: Ask each of the three people, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how is your day going?"
It may feel a bit out of the blue to the person who receives it. That's okay. In fact, it's good. Your goal is to catch someone off guard with a signal that you care, and that you're thinking about them. Meanwhile, asking for a number from 1 to 10 prompts more reflection than simply asking "How's it going?"--and it often gets you a more honest and interesting reply. (You'll see what I mean as soon as you give it a try!)
Send your message now. Make sure you send it privately--through email, text, or Facebook, for example.
Now you wait--and if they message back a number from 1 to 10, here's what you're going to reply: "Is there anything I could do to help move it from a 6 to a 7?" (or . . . "from a 3 to a 4" or "from a 10 to an 11"--you get the idea).
I learned this habit from my friend Michael, a philanthropist and entrepreneur who likes to ask this question (and make this offer) to almost everyone he talks to, day in and day out. He asks me to rate my day every single time I see him. He asks it of servers at restaurants when we eat out. He asked my husband the first time they met, too. After a while, I came to the conclusion that this question is completely awesome. You really can ask it of virtually anyone, close friend or stranger. And it's easy to answer--everyone can think of a number from 1 to 10.
Sometimes they'll answer with just a number. Sometimes they'll offer details to explain their number. It's amazing how much you can learn about what's on someone's mind by how they explain their 1, 5, or 10. And when you offer to do something to bump their number up by just +1, it pretty much always makes them smile. You'll be surprised by how surprised other people are when you take the time to explicitly offer your support. Consider this reply from my friend Chris, when I sent him the "1 to 10" question the other day: "Better now that you asked. Truly makes a difference. Was a 5, just became a 7."
Why it works: This quest is designed to adapt the best features of social games to everyday life. It's quick and easy, and like online games, you don't have to be face to face to do it. It models reciprocity: by offering to make someone's day +1 better, you're communicating that you care and that they can count on you for support. And it increases common ground--if they explain their number to you, you'll know a little bit more about what's going on, which gives you something to talk about. If they don't explain their number, you've still checked in--and every check-in helps increase the familiarity that leads to stronger relationships.
Tip: Don't do this quest just once--do it often. Whenever I find myself thinking about someone I haven't talked to in a while, I text them the "1 to 10" question. It's an easy and fun habit to develop and a great way to spark conversation. And if it becomes a playful tradition with some of your friends and family, all the better!
QUEST: Collect Your First Five
The world around you is full of power-ups. All you have to do is spot them. So let's start looking.
What to do: Collect your first five power-ups. Remember, anything that makes you feel happier, stronger, healthier, or better connected counts as a power-up.
You can collect any of the power-ups already shared in this chapter. Or, if you'd like to personalize your list, here are some brainstorming questions to help you out:
Quest complete: Congratulations! You've collected your first five power-ups. Eventually you may build up a supercollection of one hundred or more! The bigger your power-up collection, the more control you have every single day to feel better--no matter what stress, pain, or adversity you're facing.
Bonus quest: I challenge you to activate one of your five powerups right now before you continue reading!
QUEST: Assemble Your Hero
Getting superbetter means developing your heroic qualities--like bravery, kindness, humor, appreciation of beauty, leadership, or love of learning.
You can find these qualities in any heroic narrative, real or fictional--film, comics, TV, mythology, video games, literature, history, religion, social activism, or sports (to name some of the most likely places you might look for heroic inspiration).
Everyone is drawn to different heroic stories. Picking your favorite heroes reveals a lot about your character. Why? Because we're usually drawn to heroes who embody the strengths we already have inside us and that we have the potential to develop even further. In other words, your favorite heroes are like a mirror for your own heroic qualities. This is true even if you feel like you haven't done anything heroic in your life yet, or lately.
To find out more about your signature character strengths, let's assemble your hero dream team.
A hero dream team is simply three or more heroes assembled to work together to achieve a common goal. Each one usually has a different strength or ability. You can find examples of dream teams everywhere in culture, from comic books to music to sports. Think of the Avengers, made up of the diverse superheroes Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. Or the Traveling Wilburys, a superband that included the Beatles' George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. Or the teams that play in the World Cup, when a country's best soccer players join forces to face off against the rest of the world.
Your hero dream team could span every category of hero you can think of. Be as creative as you like. Why not have a hero dream team made up of Spiderman, the Buddha, Serena Williams, Sherlock Holmes, and your mom? (Can you imagine the adventures those five could get up to?!)
What to do: To perform this quest, pick at least three heroes. Whose character makes you feel like you could do anything, if you were more like them? Whose story inspires you to strive harder? Whose adventures embody the kind of life you want to lead? Here are some more brainstorming questions to help you assemble your unique dream team.
My hero dream team is made up of:
Tip: If you have more ideas, don't hold back! You can add as many heroes to your dream team as you want. The more, the merrier.
There's one more superimportant step to this quest. For each hero you've picked, identify at least one skill, power, virtue, or character strength that you admire. If you picked Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi, for example, you might say "grit" or "competitive drive." If you picked Queen Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen, you might say "the ability to embrace her own power and use it without fear" or "the courage to celebrate who she is." Whatever you do, don't skip this step! The more clearly you can articulate the strengths in your heroes, the better picture you'll have of your own heroic qualities--whether they're already in full force in your life or simply waiting to be developed and unleashed.
Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Jane McGonigal, 2015