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Goal creation or setting goals is something you always hear in businesses, schools, or at the start of a new year. But they hardly work, let’s change that!

author: @aestranger

Reading time: 9 minutes

How effective goal creation can actually gamify your life

Goal creation or setting goals is something you always hear in businesses, schools, or at the start of a new year. But you don’t often hear how to do it effectively, and when you do try to do it, most of us usually tend to not hold true to the end to achieve the desired goal.

The problem here is that you are often told to aim for a singular point in the future, which isn’t that great advice really. What you inadvertently create by doing that is a general lack of focus that will eventually overwhelm you and will lead you to give up. Or worse, never start because most us don’t enjoy failure and therefore will avoid it. This sense of apathy due to not having a clear path to the end goal is what can defeat all of us.

First, what you need to do is change the word, this is all semantics, but instead of creating a goal, you need to create a system. You need to create a framework that enables you, something that looks more like a journey with quests along the way. So that your overall enjoyment of the process is improved and that the road to the goal becomes the goal, instead of a grind to a possible anti-climactic point somewhere in the future.

Goals, or systems then, offer focus and direction, something that you and maybe others need and crave in their daily lives, but one thing you must remember is that it needs to be challenging. But not so challenging that you put unnecessary stress on yourself to accomplish it.

The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it.” — Michelangelo Buonarroti, Renaissance artist

How to create your Quest System

What we need to do is to create your hero journey, a quest line as it were, that guides you to the desired state. This is done by taking the end point and breaking it down into its component parts.

This is a good exercise because too many personal goals are far too vague, and without a direct line to follow you will end up aimless and dispirited.

This is where we will be gamifying your life. Using words like quest and journey, and so forth, does not mean it suddenly becomes a game, but they do help to alter your perspective in the right direction, and the word quest I feel better encapsulates the idea of having a system towards a goal, the quest reward.

Quests in that sense then create a feeling of urgency with the individual; the player, the word also evokes a sense of epicness, which can in term instill a belief of confidence in yourself. The main thing is that the quest pushes you to a state, where you would otherwise not feel motivated to do something, but no can’t wait to start. And the quest reward, the end goal, isn’t really the goal, it’s the focal point around which you will create your framework, your quest line.

“It’s much more effective to become a systems-oriented person, rather than a goal-oriented person.” — Source

The problem with goals then…

So, what are the problems of setting goals versus creating your very own quest?

Goals, as they stand, have the following issues:

  • They can offer a lack of focus
  • If Goals are too broad and too far away to give proper scope
  • They lack urgency
  • There is a fear of failure — either due unrealistic goal setting or a lack of motivation
  • Often end goals are not researched properly, thereby leading to a sense of being overwhelmed
  • There is the illusion of always being a failure until you achieve the final goal
  • The goal you picked is not your own but what others believe you should be doing — lack of motivation
  • That the goal is about physical gains like money and not about a state of being.

The problem for so many is that you end up putting yourself on a set of rails designed by someone else, by society, to achieve a goal, not of your own making. You need to think beyond what you have at the moment, you need to use what you have right now and how you can achieve that quest reward with those limited resources and knowledge. Focusing on that singular point doesn’t work, your journey it what counts. And through that, you will gain confidence, and because of your hard work, the continued successes and achievements become deserved.

So, how do we create a solid, epic quest for you and your life?

Creating your very own Questline

What is your desired goal, your quest reward? You still need to ask yourself this question, because this is your starting point. Make sure it’s an adequately epic goal, something that will challenge you and motivate you.

Once you know what the final quest reward roughly looks like in your mind, then you can start breaking it down into smaller pieces to create your quest line. A good method for breaking something down into its constituent parts is First Principles thinking. Remember this only works if you do solid research around what you want to do and/or achieve. Don’t pick a quest you know nothing about.

A few tips when considering your goals, depending on the time frame you have available or have set for yourself, it’s best that you only 1 to 3 goals for any given time frame. Going above that number again defeats the point of this method and will overwhelm you.

If your quest reward is epic enough and will push you just beyond your comfort zone, then having around 1 to 2 goals across a 1+ year time frame is something that anyone can work towards. A year or more is a long time, but remember this the final point, you’re breaking it down into smaller milestones along the way. For example, saying you want a body that’s fit enough to run a marathon every year is an epic goal, this will require a long-term investment with many smaller goals, and a continued state of being.

To make sure your pick the right quest:

“The best way to choose goals that align with your happiness is to ask yourself these Three Most Important Questions.

1) What beautiful human experiences do you want to have?

2) What will help you grow and become the man/woman you want to be?

3) In what ways can you contribute to others and the world as a whole?”


Now one of the reasons we want to use the terminology of quests is because you need to make sure that your goals are set in the positive. You need to avoid creating goals that aim for you to not do something, or to stop doing something. You need to frame it in such a way that you move towards something you want to do. For example, instead of saying you want to quit smoking, frame it so that you wish to move towards a healthier lifestyle. This journey requires you to remove smoking gradually, increasing cardiovascular exercise and hopefully keeps your mind and body busy so that you don’t feel the need for a cigarette.

Next, you will need to start breaking down this end goal into the sub and mini-goals that will make up your quest line. Short term goals should focus on the process of achieving the final goal, in other words, the mechanics of what needs to be done rather than what the win-state is.

Make sure the smaller goals comfortably fit within your chosen time frame. If you decided you want to achieve your goal within 1 year, then break the process down into quarterly, monthly and even weekly intervals. You can go even further to daily and hourly if you want to, but that’s your choice.

If you need some help in how to create good, motivating goals then the SMART goals approach can be helpful to you. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Time-bound, it’s a good starting point, and you don’t need to use all of it if it’s not applicable.

The main thing that does always need to be present is that the goals and quests are specific and challenging but achievable if these are not present then start again.

Once you have an outline of what each step is in your quest line, you’ll need to flesh it out in an action plan, a roadmap. Some things to consider when you lay out your action plan: physically write it down, maybe actually draw it out in a visual format. Don’t type it up, have and actual physical experience in creating it, this will make it more real and surprisingly will offer a level of empowerment and ownership to you due to its physical nature.

Remember though, making a physical version does not mean it’s etched in stone and unchangeable. Goals, quests; intermediate, short and long term can always be altered. As you progress through your quest line you may learn new skills, gain new perspectives, it would be a waste if you ignored these simply because you believed the end was set in stone. Remain flexible and adaptable. If something needs to change, don’t punish yourself, just change it and go with the flow, or even better, create contingencies in your plan, let’s call them side-quests or save-points. Somewhere if you need to take a different path for a little while, you can return to, or start from again and still get to your quest reward.

Try not to create too many side-quests, sub-goals or mini-goals. You started out with 1 to 2 goals to keep it simple, don’t overcomplicate it again by making a hundred mini-goals for that 1 goal. If it turns out that your quest line needs to be longer, then just write down the title or a phrase that represents those steps, and as you work through the initial set, return to your roadmap and expand on those ideas when the time is right. You don’t want to become paralyzed with over-information or unachievable expectations right at the beginning.

Finally, the end quest reward isn’t the only reward. Come up with smaller rewards at each step. Make it something you love to do, and most importantly involve others in it. These two points are very important when creating your own quests, make sure you have motivators and allies to help you along the way. It is surprisingly easier if you have companions on your quest, even in Jane McGonigal’s SuperBetter she explains how important it is to involve family and friends when trying to make a positive change in your life.

Tips & Thoughts while creating your Quest

As two specialists in behavior and goal setting, Dr. Edwin Locke and Cecil Alec Mace, described, there are 5 principles you need to remember when creating your own quest line:

1. Clarity

“The more specific or explicit the goal, the more precisely performance is regulated.” — Edwin Locke, Motivation through conscious goal setting

2. Challenge

“Goals that are both specific and difficult lead to the highest performance.” — Edwin Locke, Motivation through conscious goal setting

3. Commitment

“The goal–performance relationship is strongest when people are committed to their goals.” — Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: a 35-year odyssey

4. Feedback

“Goal setting is most effective when there is feedback showing progress in relation to the goal.” — Edwin Locke, Motivation through conscious goal setting

5. Task complexity

Ensure the task is adequately complex to challenge, if it becomes too complex, then break down further again.

“Research shows that actually setting a specific goal makes us more likely to achieve the things we want, and is important especially when we want to make a change. The best news is that setting and striving for a goal, even if you don’t make it, will make you happier (read more on Increasing Happiness).” Source


What you are trying to do here is create a system, and gamifying that system so that it becomes more enjoyable and motivates you further to achieve what you desire. The end goal or win-state isn’t really what you want to achieve, remember that it’s the focal point around which you create your framework, your quest line, and that’s what will make you happier and give you a better life. Not the final reward. It’s a cliché, but it holds true, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.

Ensure you make it challenging, have allies involved to help you, make sure you have a solid feedback system, either people telling you when you misstep or praise you when you accomplish a smaller goal. Remember you will succeed sometimes and fail often, and that’s fine. Doing this type of quest creation is something you can practice, you won’t be great at it the first time around, but the more you do it, the better you’ll become. Be flexible, adapt and with regular practice and revision you’ll get to that epic reward you’ve always wanted. And after that? Well, there are always more adventures to go on. You’ll create a newer, better, more epic quest for yourself!

Good Luck and Have Fun!

I hope that this piece has given you some food for thought and helped improve your own methods or at least offered a different viewpoint to consider.

Please do check out the other posts on æ, and please do leave a comment or contact us if you have some ideas of your own that you wish to discuss or if you would like to see other topics discussed.

Please do Share if you found it helpful and know of someone who would it find it helpful as well.



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