Think of role-playing games where we spend hours levelling up our character so we can slay dragons and complete world-changing missions. You start out with just a cloth tunic and a rusted dagger, but eventually you build yourself into an unstoppable force. Why not approach your life goals the same way? Top image by gdainti and karpenko_ilia (Shutterstock).
Life is pretty great at Level 50: you get to enter special zones, wear special armour, and the level comes with a certain amount of prestige. Oh, and you can pretty much vanquish any bad guy you want.
Why should life be any different? In games, there are a million different combinations that can result in a max-level character, and life is no different. You can be a battle mage who is equally strong and wise, casting lightning bolts with one hand and swinging a flaming sword with the other. Another character might play the same game completely differently, though, and create a drastically different type of character at Level 50.
I want you to determine what type of character you hope to be when you reach your personal Level 50. Depending on your current situation, your "max level" might be simple or extraordinary. You might be focused on getting healthy, or travelling, or increasing your wisdom and intelligence, or simply giving back. In order to get this process started, I want to share with you a few archetypes you can use to help determine what type of character you want to become.
Ultimately, I want you to think of how you would answer the question that King Leonidas of Sparta asked his faithful 300 warriors: "What is your profession?" And I don't mean, "What do you do for a living?"; but rather, "How does your character view this world of adventure?" Even if you are a couch potato who has never gone on an adventure, I want you to pick what kind of character you WANT to be and then we'll work on getting you there. After all, it's tough to adventure if we're not built for it!
I always start by encouraging heroes to pick the type of activity he or she plans on pursuing when it comes to adventure. We're designed to move, and thus a healthy body is a happy body: We need to find a way to introduce physical adventure into our lives if we're going to live up to our full potential. We can't take on the world if we can't first get off the couch or if we get winded after climbing a flight of stairs!
Below is how the class system is built in "The Rebellion" at Nerd Fitness. This gives us a great starting point around which to start prioritising our adventures, quests, and missions. You can create your character and pick your class at LevelUpYourLife.com.
These familiar archetypes can offer a framework of how to frame your goals? Are you all about fitness? Then maybe you're a warrior. Seeking to improve your day to day skills and knowledge? Perhaps you can strive to be a monk or druid. Think of these as aspirational roles to start framing your goals; I focus a lot on fitness but you might be trying to improve your life in any number of ways.
Warrior: You love the idea of getting stronger and more powerful. Every day is an opportunity to move heavy things or test yourself against others in competition and prove your might.
- Fictional example: Thor of Asgard (The Avengers), Maximus Decimus Meridius (Gladiator), Brienne of Tarth (Game of Thrones)
- Real-world example: Hafthór Júlíus "Thor" Björnsson, who plays "The Mountain" on Game of Thrones
Scout: Built for distance and efficiency rather than strength and power, you can outlast any animal on the planet. Your muscles are designed with endurance in mind, and you can cover great distances whenever necessary.
- Fictional example: Legolas of the Woodland Realm (The Lord of the Rings)
- Real-world example: Rita Jeptoo, Boston Marathon record holder; Jan Frodeno, 2008 Olympic gold medalist and 2015 Ironman champion
Ranger: A jack-of-all-trades, Rangers are well-equipped for any situation. You're good at strength training and pretty good at covering distances when required, but neither is a specialty.
- Fictional example: Jon Snow (Game of Thrones), Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
- Real-world example: Rich Froning Jr., four-time winner of the CrossFit Games'
Assassin: Every building can be climbed, every gap can be jumped, every obstacle can be conquered. Assassins spend most of their time training with functional body-weight exercises, as that's usually the only thing they need to lift. Gymnasts and parkour enthusiasts would fit into this category.
- Fictional example: Ezio Auditore (Assassin's Creed 2)
- Real-world example: Kacy Catanzaro of American Ninja Warrior fame; Damien Walters, professional stuntman, gymnastics coach, and free-running professional
Monk: Monks can kick your arse with their fists and feet, and they can do it before you even know what's happened. Incredibly agile, lightning fast, and loaded with power, Monks specialize in martial arts to stay in shape and destroy the opposition.
- Fictional example: Neo (The Matrix); Beatrix Kiddo aka Black Mamba (Kill Bill)
- Real-world example: UFC fighters Georges St-Pierre and Ronda Rousey
Druid: Druids spend a majority of their time training in the arts of yoga, tai chi, and other movement-based disciplines. Each movement has a purpose, and that purpose is to further improve the dexterity, agility, and strength of the druid.
- Fictional example: Lady Galadriel (The Lord of the Rings)
- Real-world example: Josh Waitzkin, Tai Chi Push Hands US champion and chess prodigy
Adventurer: Adventurers are brave souls who fear nothing and are always curious about what's over the next hill or across the ocean. They are often found working diligently with their allies to help ensure that every adventure leads down the correct path, exploring and learning for the sake of others.
- Fictional example: Indiana Jones, Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
- Real-world example: Les Stroud (Survivorman); Lewis and Clark, explorers
Now, these are simply some fun archetypes to get the ball rolling. The great news is, there's no wrong way to play life when it's an adventure, and the type of character you get to play is totally up to you. Despite what the movie WarGames will tell you, the only wrong way to play is to not play at all. So I want you to take a few minutes and think of your favourite way of being active. Even if you're 227kg and couch-bound, think about the type of character you'd like to be, or the types of activities you hope to one day complete.
Don't fit perfectly into one of the categories above? Great. Me neither! I'm more like an assassin-adventurer-bard hybrid, which I've determined is a "Troubadour". If you want to be a berserker or a battle mage, that's totally up to you. What's important is that you start to apply specific traits to the type of character you plan on building, because it helps paint a more complete picture as we move forward. (In my book, we get into the actual quest/mission portion of the game you're building.)
Back in 2011, when I first started to build my life around the idea that it was a game, this is what I decided my Level 50 looked like:
From a fitness perspective, I'm in the best shape of my life — handstand push-ups, pistol squats, pull-ups, and a 184kg deadlift. I'm also flexible as hell, well trained in Kung Fu, a great break-dancer, and a damn good cook. I live in a nice house on the coast. I wake up without an alarm clock and grab my surfboard for a morning session.
I spend the middle of my day working on Nerd Fitness and The Rebellion (while also booking a business trip to . . . Hawaii? Japan? And a free vacation to Tahiti using airline miles), and then sneak out to play some golf in the afternoon at a local course. I come home, crank out a quick strength-training workout or martial-arts session, cook a healthy dinner for my wife and myself, and then relax by inviting some friends over for drinks, music, Cards against Humanity, and hanging out.
That was the life I wanted to live at Level 50 a few years back. Here I am today, and some of my goals have certainly shifted a bit. I'm sure a few years from now they will shift again. And that's fine! I'm not at Level 50 yet, but I'm much closer now to the life I hope to live than I was back then! Every time I go out on a quest or a mission, I return with a fun story I'll never forget, a transformed perspective about what's important to me, and the desire to make some adjustments and get closer to those goals. These two paragraphs gave me a starting point and something to work toward as I was developing myself as a hero. Most important, it gave me permission to take action because I had a direction in which to go.
If you're struggling to come up with the type of character you want to be, feel free to look at real-life people who are where you want to be. When you are playing a game like World of Warcraft and you are at Level 1, looking at somebody who is Level 50 inspires you to get started; one look at his inventory and you're inspired to play more. You know it took this guy months or years of questing, grinding, and dungeon crawling, but if he can get to Level 50 and get all that stuff, so can you some day.
Reprinted from LEVEL UP YOUR LIFE: How to Unlock Adventure and Happiness by Becoming the Hero of Your Own Story by Steve Kamb. Copyright (c) 2015 by Stephen Kamb. By permission of Rodale Books.