How to Add Epic Meaning and Calling into Your Lifestyle Design: Lifestyle Gamification Examples 1/8

This series is written by Erik van Mechelen, based on the Octalysis framework by Yu-kai Chou. 

Gamification in your life

Yes, gamification can be used to improve your lifestyle.

You’re probably already doing it. If you’re a parent helping your child with homework, you’re helping your son or daughter be the best they can be because you believe in education to change their life.

Gamification, depending on how you define it, is essentially positive psychology combined with game design. Throw in a bit of behavioral science, motivation, and design and you have a working definition of gamification.

Yu-kai likes to call this human-focused design (not to be confused with IDEO’s human-centered design).

This contrasts function-focused design (this chair is for sitting, nothing else).

Because human motivation is complex and complicated, we need to account for the various drives that play into it. Why do we want to move towards something better? Or away from something worse? Because we want what’s best for our life. Isn’t it as simple as that?

Simply stated, perhaps. But creating a life is what we are all doing and aim to do each moment of our day. How well you execute or live within the framework and models you’ve constructed (whether internally or externally) give you some experience on the spectrum from suffering to satisfaction.

In Yu-kai’s Octalysis framework, there are 8 Core Drives (and one hidden Core Drive) to behavior. If none of the drives are present, there is no behavior.

In this series, I’ll take each of the Core Drives one at a time to give you a detailed look at how each contributes to lifestyle and how you can apply more or less of each into your lifestyle design to improve your life satisfaction.

Ready to get started with Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling?

Yes? Good, me too!

How Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling effects your lifestyle

Here’s a short definition of Core Drive 1 from Yu-kai’s “Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards”

Epic Meaning and Calling is the need or the urge to be a part of something much bigger than just yourself. When this drive is activated, participants choose to be members of your system and will take action not because it necessarily benefits them directly, but because it turns them into the heroes of the company’s story.

So how can this be applied to lifestyle gamification? Let’s take just the first line…

Epic Meaning and Calling is the need or the urge to be a part of something much bigger than just yourself.

That’s all we need. Something bigger than just yourself. And something bigger than yourself. Examine the work you’ve done today. You’ve probably done something bigger than yourself on multiple occasions.

All we’re doing now is approaching lifestyle with the same mentality. How are you organizing your lifestyle to account for something beyond just yourself?

What’s more, Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling is White Hat and can produce long-lasting reward loops.

An obvious starter example: Volunteer and Charity

It’s easy to understand how volunteer work and charity often derive from Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling. Whenever you feel the urge to help others without expectation of return, that is, to GIVE, you are embracing compassion and giving. This sharing of your time and exercise of compassion and process of giving helps another individual or your community or even society (something bigger than yourself).

One aspect to notice. What other drives are present when you partake in volunteer and charity work? Usually CD1 is not the only drive present (CD5 is a common). Volunteer groups deliberately incorporate CD2 and CD5 to make volunteering more enjoyable.

The real test of if something is primarily driven by CD1 is if you would incorporate an activity into your life (for a larger purpose) WITHOUT recognition from friends or prompting from others.

A personal note on volunteerism

I do Reading Partners in Minneapolis, MN. I love it.

I like what Jordan B Peterson says about driving toward a better life. For yourself, for your family, for society, and for the world. When your actions improve each of these circles, the behavior feels optimal.

To apply this thinking and consider why the volunteerism feels so good: When I help a 3rd grader reading at a 1st-grade reading level, I’m helping myself be a better teacher, helping the child improve his reading ability, helping his community in the long-term be more literate, helping him be a stronger member of society.

In Adam Grant’s Give and Take, Grant cites research in Australia showing 100 hours is a “magic number” for volunteerism. Below 100 and one could feel more of the positive impact/reward. Above 100 though, and the individual moves toward burnout.

Interestingly, I do 2 hours a week (3 if you count driving time).

Yu-kai’s shift to Octalysis Prime

I don’t know this for sure, but I sense from my interactions with Yu-kai that part of the reason he has shifted to developing content for Octalysis Prime is because it has the potential to fulfill a larger Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling imperative for him. If he gets the change to improve lifestyle and workplace outcomes for people, and those people’s lives change so they can change the world, then Yu-kai has changed the world himself.

This is a different focus to his traditional design emphasis in his gamification consulting business.

Editing book for Vasco, 3x tech founder, about the dark side of founder psychology

I recently started content editing and collaborating with Vasco Patricio, a 3x tech startup founder from Portugal.

The opportunity gives me the chance to improve the following:

  • personal, improve my editing and writing and critiquing
  • startup founders, improves quality of life for startup tech founders, prepares the ones that will and dissuades those that aren’t cut out, and prevents suicide for those that are considering it
  • startup ecosystem, adds to growing concern and conversation, the truth that media or the industry won’t share… suicides are UP
  • the world, startups generally add innovation and can change the world, and this will be part of that conversation

In conclusion, your meaning ACTUALLY needs to matter

Some people do charity because they feel others will look down on them for not doing it.

This occurred in my team at Target. People would shrug and go because it was a team event. This even happened to me. I would have rather done a reading volunteer event than a food-packing event.

In essence, some of my team weren’t doing the volunteer event because they wanted to plant trees and regrow Minneapolis parks/wildlife areas, but rather because they felt compelled by CD5 and CD8.

ESPECIALLY when we’re talking about your LIFE, you best not bullshit yourself. You need to think really hard and feel out your emotions and reactions.

Start from first principles if you can. What would make a better life for me? For my family? For my community? Society? The world? Then build epic meaning & calling into your day-to-day.

When I took a few moments to answer these questions (using the Future Authoring program), it became very clear which epic meanings mean most to me and what I’m called to do. The beauty of our world is that there are many epic meanings and callings out there to pursue.

In life, you must do what you cannot not do.

See you on Thursday for CD2 in gamification lifestyle design…

2 thoughts on “How to Add Epic Meaning and Calling into Your Lifestyle Design: Lifestyle Gamification Examples 1/8”

    1. I won’t say I’m an expert with IDEO’s human-centered design, but I will say that most of these designs focus on being INTUITIVE and USABLE (assuming people already have some motivation), instead of being MOTIVATIONAL. For instance, in Human-Focused Design we know that sometimes making things more difficult increases motivation, or making things uncertain/unpredictable enhances engagement. I typically don’t see that in the works of human-centered design or other UX philosophies.

      Hope this answers your question!

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