Personal Development RPG

So let’s talk about personal development.

Every few months, I get this weird idea. It’s a kind of feeling of inadequacy that forces me to look around at the video games and twitter feeds and ask “What am I doing?”

Not in a derogatory manner, just in a general inventory-of-actions kind of way. Seriously. What am I doing today? What did I do yesterday? What am I planning for tomorrow?

Usually, that happens at a time when I’m doing almost nothing at all, which is why the feeling is generally seen as a bummer. I say, “I’m playing Diablo III for the third time through, and I guess I’ll do that again tomorrow, until I beat it again and start over.”

But this last time that the feeling hit, about a month ago, I started getting all analytical about it. I started thinking about those marketers who are “gamifying” everything. I like a good RPG as much as the next guy. So I decided to put RPG rules in with my personal development.

Here’s the sections that I think just about anyone can develop at just about any time:

* Intellectual
* Emotional
* Financial
* Physical

BTW, if you can think of any others (and I’m sure there are more) leave it in the comments and I’ll add it to the list.

So I figured I could give myself stats on each of those, and improve them (level up) based on XP. Here’s how that works.

* Intellectual – Every technical manual I complete or language I learn counts as a level. I break up technical manuals into chunks that are small enough to complete in a day, then count each of them as 1 XP. I also count writing (my fiction writing) as intellectual, because I sincerely believe that I get better at writing the more of it I do. I break that into 1 XP every 4 pages. Every 100 XP, you gain a level.

* Emotional – This one is more difficult, so I break it up into XP groups. Every thing that you do that is meant to improve joy or peace in the world counts as 1 XP (meditation, sitting and reading, playing games with the family, making a connection with a stranger, helping someone you don’t know. All of that- Ding!) Every 100 XP counts as a level (I may have to change the level ranges on the high end if I start volunteering at a soup kitchen or something).

* Financial – This one is easy. It’s like your Armor Class (I’m referring to the original D&D there, so if 3rd ed is different, my apologies. I haven’t played in years.) With Armor Class, every piece of armor you put on gives you more protection, but brings your AC score down. With Financial development, I started out with my total debt (credit card debt in the tens of thousands). From there, I measured my goal debt (zero), and divided the remainder by 100. So, if I’m 40k in debt, that means that every one XP is $400. So I recorded my debt at time zero, then for every $400 I remove from the debt, my XP goes up. I level up when I get to 100XP (note: I’ll also be debt free when I get to 100XP, so that’s a level worth winning). Once I go totally debt-free, then I’ll have to change the rules.

* Physical – This one is tricky, because there’s two sections to it for me. First, I want to lose weight. So, it’d be easy for me to just use my weight like Armor Class to show progress as a golf score. But at the same time, you can lose weight just by changing your diet. It doesn’t make you any stronger or more fit really. So I’m adding XP to that in the form of each physical exercise. I’m saying about 30 minutes of exercise = 1 XP. Weight then becomes a modifier based on distance from ideal weight. I’m still working on that one. May need to split them into two groups.

So there you go. I started out a Level 1 human, with a 1 in every stat except Financial. Now, how to turn this into more than a spreadsheet.

I wanted to start small, so I worked on just the Intellectual section (specifically, the book writing). This was in mid-July. Every day that I wrote 4 pages (around 1000 words), I gained one XP. Since then, I’ve written 40,000 words on my new book, meaning I’m up 40XP. Not a huge amount in the grand scheme of things, but it’s nearly half of the way to Level 2. That’s not nothing.

I also got a huge desk calendar and hung it on the wall. Every day that I wrote 1k of words, I crossed off that day. I’m trying to make the longest uninterrupted chain of days. My current record is 28. Note: I’m taking work and turning it into a game again.

Now that I’m getting used to it, accustomed to it, I decided to put on a new one. I’m studying to get my Java Certification, which means reading and comprehending a 900-page book, then being able to pass the test at the end. The book is easy reading, and I’ve split it up into 10-page chunks so that I can finish it in three months. I’m giving myself 1XP for every ten pages on that one.

I’m also working on Emotional in terms of reading and trying to take time with my family. I’m currently reading “A Hidden Witch”, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, and “Daemon”. Not all of them are reading about peace and joy, but it seems to me that having fun should count toward Emotional development. Let’s face it, without fun, this whole exercise is a grind. Also, we have at least two “family nights” a week, one where our friend Paulette Jaxton comes out to talk about writing, have dinner, and play board games with us. The other is the whole family gathering to watch a movie, play a game, or something.

But I noticed today that I’m still only working on Intellectual. Let’s face it, my current stats are:

Level 1 Human
1 – Intellectual – 42XP
2 – Emotional – 14XP
3 – Financial – 5XP
4 – Physical – 2XP

Clearly, I’m working on one system at the expense of others. But because I’m a gamer, I start thinking about how to rectify that. I mean, yes, I’m doing okay on Intellectual, and I don’t want to hurt that velocity, but by looking at my stats, I can see that I need to add 30 minutes of exercise each day, and to add in more financially light family time (board games, chess club at the library… Hell, just spending time at the library with the family). I can even combine them with things like taking the EP out to the pool (Physical + Emotional at the same time).

I know there are a lot of self-development systems out there, and I’ve tried a few of them, but I’ve stuck with this one for nearly a month, and I think the reason for it is that I see results. After all, I’ve written one-third of my next novel, I’ve dropped 2k from my financial debt, and I’m well on my way to having a certification that will help me in getting jobs and commanding a better salary.

Most important of all, the next time I get that, “What am I doing with my life?” I’ll actually have an answer.

If you like this system, or have one of your own you’d like to share, tell us about it in the comments.

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  1. Have you also thought that maybe your a min maxer?

    j/k definitely good you’re headed in the right direction

  2. I tried this with a more complicated system involving an algorithm for evaluating how much each task was worth. This was a MAJOR problem because I ended up spending so much time planning and not nearly enough doing. I like the simplicity of yours though if I used it I’d have to tweak it.