EntertainmentGamesChasing goals like in a video game is very...

Chasing goals like in a video game is very effective

In 1997, at the dawn of the internet, Josh Clark posted a plan called Couch to 5K on a website. Using a system of progression and achievement similar to that of a video game, the plan was intended to be the spur to get anyone to finish a five-kilometer long race even if they had never jogged .

His idea was born after what happened when he broke up with his girlfriend. Desperate, he began to run like catharsis, every morning, without stopping for a single day. Other times he had tried to play sports, but this time he did not give up, but kept going. At a certain point, he integrated the habit of running into his life and it was no longer difficult for him to do so .

So wondering if he could inspire that change in others without going through his bad experience, he conceived the Couch to 5K .

The power of gamification

Clark’s plan was for anyone to make a goal of participating in a 5-kilometer long race, because races are public, social, competitive, and fun. If the goal had such characteristics, reaching it would not be difficult . To achieve this, it was enough to carry out three weekly training sessions for nine weeks. The first workout only consisted of alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.

Progressively, the training intensified. And those who persisted in it, finally also used to integrate the habit of running or doing more sports into their lives. Years later, given the success of his plan, Clark sold his project to a company called Cool Runnings, beginning to be called C25K .

The trick behind the success of his plan is based on two widely studied psychological effects. The first is that it is easier to reach a modest goal (5 kilometers is) . The second is that if progressive improvements are obtained in the form of gains of some kind, be it performance or accumulated points, then the same springs of video game players are put into operation, such as Candy Crush- type apps .

Getting in shape is an ambiguous goal, but if you have an unambiguous number then it is crystal clear. The achievements must also be achievements, so that there is something to celebrate in the intermediate moments, and that those achievements give small nudges to move forward. That is why the gamification that underlies this dynamic is what also operates in the most successful video games, as Steve Kamb explains in his book Level Up Your Life: How to Unlock Adventure and Happiness by Becoming the Hero of Your Own Story .

In fact, overcoming levels that progressively increase in difficulty feels so good to our brain that it doesn’t matter if the game has a definite ending. Sometimes the reward in the form of points, diamonds or virtual money is enough for having passed a more difficult level than the previous one. The feeling that something has been obtained and that that something is unequivocally preserved .

The problem with us abandoning many goals in life, according to Kamb, is that we forget to introduce motivating intermediate levels, achievements that allow us to receive rewards if we are on the right track. And this trick serves as much to not abandon a video game as some guitar lessons, including, of course, running a marathon.

These gamification strategies are, in fact, so effective that they have already been adapted to apps and devices for exercising or losing weight, such as Fitbit : for example, the India badge recognizes the user for having walked a total of 3,200 kilometers, which is the longitude of India. An unmistakable symbol of our achievement.

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