Converting distress -> eustress (or its easier to be better when you make the consequences less serious)

After Jane McGonigal's talk at the gamification conference, I had the same thought that I had as I was reading Tim Ferriss' 4-hour work week earlier today.

Some observations from these sources, general self-help lore, and logic:
  • Eustress (the opposite of distress) is a good thing. Its the "good" stress that you experience during gaming that makes you focussed, motivated, alert, determined, persistent etc..
  • The more often you can get yourself in this state (especially while doing things in the real world that have an impact on your own life) the better.
  • One of the reasons (only one, mind you) we're able to do so well in this state is that we're less scared of the consequences of failure in a game and so more willing to be...well.. heroic.
  • In life, we tend to over-estimate the negative consequences of taking risks or deferring tasks or doing anything unconventional, which leads to stress and makes us less likely to get to "hero" situations.
So something I've been trying the last week, and finding a little success with, is recognizing when things are generating stress in life and at work, and trying to re-frame them as something that brings on eustress - most of the time it involves thinking of the person/situation/discussion/email as something to conquer in the game of life and recognizing that
  • its not a big deal. I'll likely get to play a similar level again.
  • taking a risky path to get to a better place isn't much riskier than the status quo.
At the very minimum, this technique is an instant de-stress mechanism - framing everything as a game reminds you that the real impact of failing isn't anywhere as serious as you first tend to think.

Laugh if you must, but game on! :)


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