Why your whole life can be a big game – reach your goals more easily

Imagine you are climbing a mountain with a friend, but you slide down at one point and fall into the depths. You are now lying in a dark crevice, your friend can no longer hear you and cuts the rope to you because he thinks you have been killed. You’re alone and your leg’s not doing too well either. This is how the climber Joe Simpson, who made a game out of this situation in order to save himself. This post is based on the book Barking up the wrong tree by Eric Barker, I’ve read this weekend. Here’s my summary for you.

Below are the four basic parts of each game that he used to survive:


The goals must be attainable for yourself. As a rule of thumb, the author mentions here at least 20% of the time that is devoted to the task you should believe yourself that you can do it. Otherwise, the target is set too high. In the case of the climber, he dragged himself from visible hill to hill, up to the camp from which they set out. When he reached a small goal, he celebrated himself. If he didn’t, he reflected why not and put in a new one. So he crawled until he could see the camp and call for help to be rescued by his friend.
These small “levels” have kept him on the big goal, until success.

If you set yourself a goal, make it a challenge, but an achievable one.

New challenges

Monotony paralyzes us. Something becomes increasingly boring the more often we have to do the same job. In computer games the same mechanics are often used. The levels look different and other ways to reach the goal are needed. So it remains interesting.
A way to use it in a relaxed life: Set your own time limits. The “level” becomes more difficult because it has to be completed in less time. For example, I give myself a time limit for animating my videos. Instead of 4h for one part, I give myself only 3h and see if I can finish animating it. When I made it, I saved an hour. If I don’t make it, however, the increased pressure will make me realize where the potential for improvement has now been uncovered. In this context, the 80/20 rule can be very advantageous. Also: “Better done than perfect!”

New challenges motivate and can be created in all situations.

Clear goals

The goal has been achieved, or not. Black or white. Is the article ready to be published or not? Once it’s released, there’s no turning back. For our climber: has he reached the hill or not. SMART targets can help here:

Simple: what is achieved and who achieves it.
Measurable:  How much of something, for example, to create the animation in a given time. The clock has run out or not.
Achievable: The goals must be achievable for you as a person. If possible in a small window of time, so as not to lose the desire too quickly.
Realistic: Being three times faster than setting goals is not really realistic. It has to be a challenge and nothing that is completely impossible. Even if it’s only impossible at this point in time.
Time limited: Our climber set himself 20 minutes for each additional goal to precisely measure his progress and define small packages that could be reached.


In games, we get feedback about achievements and experience points. With every little bit, we get closer to our goal. We notice directly whether we are approaching our goal or moving away from it. That’s why it’s good to set yourself small goals and maybe even mark them in your calendar.
The internet is the perfect place to get feedback, which is why I also publish here. Only with feedback from others can one’s own work become better.

Summary in one sentence

If you need the motivation to go a little further, turn the activity into a game and the motivation will come.