Getting “SuperBetter” at Building One’s Career
By Shekina Rochat
Bringing gaming elements to real life can improve individuals’ physical, mental, emotional, and social resilience. For instance, playing the game “SuperBetter” has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and depression symptoms (Roepke, Jaffee, Riffle, McGonigal, Broome, & Maxwell, 2015). SuperBetter (McGonigal, 2015) is a game played worldwide that was created to engage individuals in being “gameful” in the face of stressful life events and to achieve meaningful goals.
The rules of this game are simple. To adopt a “gameful mindset” you have to:
1. Reframe the current struggles as “challenges” instead of threats
2. Identify your personal strengths and purposes in the current challenges to create your “secret identity”
3. Find and complete “quests”: the daily small and meaningful steps you can take toward achieving your bigger goal
4. Spot and battle the “bad guys”: all the obstacles that prevent you from moving toward your goals
5. Define the people whom you can ask for help or who have gone through the same tribulations as your “allies”
6. Detect and activate your “power-ups”: all the things that make you feel more energized and powerful
7. Track your “epic win”: the positive outcomes that can occur through the achievement of intermediary gameful goals, related or not to your principal challenge.
Implications for Career Counseling Practice
Given the popularity of games, and especially of video games, SuperBetter’s principles and gaming vocabulary appear very likely to make sense for many young and not so young career clients. SuperBetter is suitable for virtually anyone facing any kind of challenges, so it may be interesting to incorporate all or part of the game into career counseling interventions. This may help clients meet the challenge of building their career. The SuperBetter game rules may thus be integrated into career counseling programs with a wide range of populations facing a variety of career transitions, from elementary school to retirement.
SuperBetter Career Counseling
The following guidelines can help clients get “SuperBetter” at building their career:
- The initial step invites clients to reframe their mindset about career issues, consider themselves as superheroes in a game, instead of helpless victims persecuted by a dreaded career foe.
- As superheroes, clients will have to identify and define more precisely the positive attributes that they may have been keeping locked away – their secret identity – by identifying what these “superpowers” are, and how they can redefine the career challenge they are facing.
- Once they have a clearer view of who they are, clients can be encouraged to specify what their career “challenge” is, along with the side quests (e.g., updated resume, web research, informational interviewing, etc.) that they will have to complete to finish the main quest.
- The next step will be to name and find strategies to battle the “bad guys” or obstacles that can hinder their way toward the accomplishment of specified career quests and bigger goals. These can include poor health or work habits, low self-esteem, or a tight economic market.
- Clients can then identify potential allies in career development (e.g., family, friends, colleagues, professionals, web resources, etc.) that can help them battle the previously recognized “bad guys”.
- Next, clients identify and activate career-related “power-ups”, the resources that help them with recharging when they experience disappointment and discouragement along the way to career success.
- Lastly, special attention can be paid to pinpoint the clients’ previous “epic wins” in other life domains, so that they can prepare for unexpected positive results that can emerge in their current career-related situation.
The Case of Lucy
Lucy is a middle school student who has to choose a major. Lucy can be encouraged to see herself as a superheroine challenged to discover in which universe she wants to evolve. As a superheroine, Lucy may identify her independence with regard to people’s opinions and her desire to become a person fully engaged in the creation of a satisfying life as core components of her “secret identity”. For Lucy, being fully engaged in the construction of a satisfying life can imply working hard to improve her grades in order to make more career opportunities available to her. Lucy’s lack of concentration and her tendency to be easily discouraged can be labeled as the “bad guys” that she has to battle in order to meet her challenge. Working in an uncluttered environment may be identified as a strategy to stay focused. She can recognize playing her favorite song as a “power up” that immediately restores her energy and help her battle discouragement. Finally, she can identify her school tutor as an “ally” in her quest for improving her grades, and her roller derby activities as a source of “epic wins” bringing her feelings of both achievement and empowerment.
The way we perceive life events strongly determine the way we feel and act on them. SuperBetter provides a useful metaphor to adopt a positive mindset in face of career and life circumstances and to empower the individuals to build their own satisfying path.
McGonigal, J. (2015). SuperBetter: A revolutionary approach to getting stronger, happier, braver and more resilient—Powered by the science of game. New York, NY: Penguin Press.
Roepke, A. M., Jaffee, S. R., Riffle, O. M., McGonigal, J., Broome, R., & Maxwell, B. (2015). Randomized controlled trial of SuperBetter, a smartphone-based/Internet-based self-help tool to reduce depressive symptoms. Game Health Journal, 4(3), 235-246.
SuperBetter website: https://www.superbetter.com
Shékina Rochat is a doctoral student in Counseling and Vocational Psychology at the University of Lausanne. She received her master’s degree in Counseling and Vocational Psychology and her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Lausanne. Shékina serves as a graduate assistant at the Institute of Psychology of the University of Lausanne. Her research interests include motivational interviewing in career counseling. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org