How To Gamify Your Life - Lessons From The BWCA

August 22, 2023

Video games have a "hard mode" and an "easy mode."

But so does life.

Here's what "hard mode" looks like:

  • Stressing over things you have no control over
  • Planning out every detail of your future
  • Feeling rushed to get everything done
  • Ruminating over past events
  • Taking life too seriously

Here's what "easy mode" looks like:

  • Letting go of things you have no control over
  • Making plans but staying open to change
  • Having time for your priorities
  • Learning from past events
  • Laughing often

I spent most of my life in "hard mode."

Recently I learned how to live life in "easy mode."

Hard Mode

I just returned from a 5-day camping trip with seven other bros up in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA).

Most people have never heard of it (let's keep it that way), and it's my favorite place to visit for a complete disconnect from society.

Minimal to no cell service, quiet, tranquil, peaceful, and a damn good opportunity to get some solitude.

It's beautiful up there, but here's what most people don't tell you.

It's a lot of work.

Canoeing in the BWCA

Getting to our campsite took 6 hours of paddling and portaging.

  • Hauling gear
  • Lugging food
  • Carrying canoes
  • Paddling in the rain
  • Loading and unloading equipment
  • Teaching people how to steer their boat

And this was only the beginning.

Once we got to camp, we had to:

  • Build a fire
  • Setup tents
  • Gather firewood
  • Filter clean water
  • Cook our first meal
  • Drape a tarp for rain storms
  • Find a spot to hang our food

It felt like I was living life on hard mode.

But only because I had the wrong mentality.

On day three, someone brought up the topic of video games.

Specifically, Dungeons and Dragons and World Of Warcraft.

After a few hours of nerding out, it made me realize something profound.

Life is like a video game... but better.

  • No skill cap
  • Infinite quests
  • Character development
  • Rewards and achievements

But most importantly, levels of difficulty.

Easy Mode

For the second half of the trip, I decided to start living life like a video game.

  • I practice my paddling skills
  • I learned how to snare animals
  • I set a quest to catch more fish
  • I named everyone after a character class
  • I gave myself rewards (S'mores) for accomplishing tasks

As a result?

  • I found joy in building skills.
  • I became more engaged in everyday life.
  • I learned how to rely on other people's strengths.
  • I discovered how to play again.

Easy mode was activated.

It made everything about our camping trip 10x more enjoyable simply because I decided to reframe how I viewed the world.

Remember how I said it took 6 hours to paddle into the BWCA?

It took us less than 4 hours to paddle out.

Perception is an interesting thing.

Our eyes are more projectors than they are receptors.

In the words of William Shakespeare.

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

How To Gamify Everyday Life

As an ex-gamer, taping into that old mentality was fairly easy.

But even if you're not a gamer and want to gamify your life.

Here's what I would do.

Step 1 - Determine Your Quest

Everything starts with a goal.

A direction.

A north star.

A quest.

What is it that you hope to accomplish?

What excites you and scares you?

What's worth writing a book about?

The quest to the BWCA was to upgrade my survival skills.

I've done my fair share of camping, but never with a group of this size with this varied skill sets.

  • I learned how to canoe rapids from Bates.
  • I learned how to hack down a tree from Ross.
  • I learned how to capture a snapping turtle from Bret.
  • I learned how to pack the ultimate fishing gear from Calab.
  • I learned how to run on rocky and uneven terrain from Connor.
  • I learned how to set up a rain tarp with a ridgeline from James.
  • I learned how to never get bored from Joey.

Determine your quest.

Step 2 - Reward The Progress

A quote from BJ Fogg in Tiny Habits.

"People change best by feeling good, not by feeling bad."

Do you know what feels really damn good?

  • Checking a box
  • Getting rewards
  • Making progress
  • Moving towards a goal

In other words, that hit of dopamine we receive when we move toward our quest.

Getting better at a skill can often be the only reward we need.

Improving my survival skills in the BWCA felt good, which made me want to pursue it even more!

There are an infinite number of ways to reward ourselves.

I named a few above, but here are a few more I use:

My favorite by far is basic skill development.

It straight up feels good to get better at things.

Track and reward your progress.

Step 3 - Find Your Guild

Gamifying life sounds fun, but if I'm honest with you (and myself). It's pointless without people to share it with.

By the end of the BWCA trip, we all had a name that represented us.

  • Bret - The Monk
  • James - The Move
  • Caleb - The Hunter
  • Bates - The Paladin
  • Ross - The Machine
  • Joey - The Facilitator
  • Connor - The Optimist
  • Me - The Wrangler

Having a guild keeps you accountable.

Having a guild allows you lean on other people's strengths.

Having a guild makes pursuing your quest way more fun.

Find the guild that will support you on your journey.


  • Life has an "easy mode" and a "hard mode"
  • We can choose to live in either mode
  • Determine your quest
  • Track your progress
  • Find your guild

If you want to learn more about gamifying life, contact me here.

Hope you enjoyed this one, my friend.


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