The Super Better Leadership Connection

Why is Super Better on a list of leadership resources?

A Summary of Super Better

By: Jane McGonigal

Super Better is one of my all time favourite reads because it changes how you look at the world around you and the opportunities you have to build your resilience. Based on the idea of being gameful, Jane shares her own story of how the Super Better game began as Jane the Concussion slayer in response to her own severe concussion and subsequent depression.  In her book and TED Talk, Jane shared how she used the science of games to create her own daily challenges to help get better.

TED Talk – The Game that can give you 10 extra years of life
(Interactive Transcript)

Built around the idea that improving your physical, social, emotional and mental resilience will improve your overall health and perspective on life, Super Better uses strategies found in gaming to increase your strength, happiness and resilience (p. xi). Did you just make a face when I mentioned gaming?  Don’t worry it’s not going to try to make you into a gamer rather it pulls from rigorous game based research, which means using what science has learned about gaming to help you become healthier.  Can you play it as a game?  Yes – there’s an app for that – What you don’t want to miss is the wealth of strategies offered that have the potential to improve your resilience.

51ohurxogil-_sx327_bo1204203200_McGoningal (2015) noted in her opening pages, “there’s a lot of evidence that it works” (p. xi) including a “randomized, controlled study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania…[and] a clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted at Ohio STate University  Wexner Medical Center” (p. xi). A summary is available at the end of the book and online at

Are you intrigued?  Here’s the very quick rundown of SuperBetter. Based on the idea of post-traumatic and post-ecstatic growth… which means why do some people grow stronger after extreme stress while others are weakened (p. 7).  McGonigal noted 7 key ways of “of thinking and acting that contribute to post-traumatic and post-ecstatic growth. And they are all ways that we commonly think and act when we play games” (p. 7-8).

(Image Screenshot from Amazon)
  1. Adopt a challenge mindset
  2. Seek out whatever makes you stronger and happier
  3. Strive for psychological flexibility
  4. Take committed action
  5. Cultivate connectedness
  6. Find the heroic story
  7. Learn the skill of benefit finding
    (SuperBetter, p. 8-9)

The SuperBetter method helps you learn how to challenge yourself in a variety of ways that you can easily do each day.  My favourite are “power-ups” – “any positive action you can take, easily that creates a quick moment of pleasure, strength, courage or connection for you” (p. 160).  McGonigal goes on to share that these will change your “biology in extraordinarily important and long-term ways” (p.160) making you less vulnerable to stress.

Power-ups are easy and can be physical, social, emotional or mental.  It can be standing up and taking 3 steps or snapping your fingers 50 times.  Building resilience helps your body withstand stress (physical p. 14);  “improve focus, motivation and will power” (mental p. 15);  increase your ability to focus positive emotions (emotional p.16); and find support in the networks around you (social p.17).  The book is filled with examples of power-ups and the online game includes more designed both by McGonigal and other players.

Power-ups build into quests – things may push you outside your comfort zone but are achievable in the next 24 hours.  It just like teachers would do for their students.  Challenge them to stretch to what is in reach but just outside where they’ve been before.  Then you build your network of allies….what leader doesn’t need a team of strong followers.  You go on to name your own bad guys and develop your own super hero name in the ultimate search for your epic win.  Even if you are shaking your head right now, remember that each aspect has the science behind it… including giving yourself your own secret identity.

So why talk about Super Better in a class that’s focusing on leadership? As an educator and a home based business team leader, I see many benefits to building these strategies into your daily life.  Can you imagine if we explicitly planned in schools to create more resilient students? Not that teachers don’t already do this, but what if we purposefully use research based strategies to build resilient learners.  Could you imagine the toolbox of resilient strategies students would have?  Can you imagine the ripple effect?

Whether you are a team leader in business or a teacher in a classroom, what you do and how you do it affects your followers.  It affects how your followers are going to respond to tough times and hard decisions, which in turn affects how they support you as a leader.  Leadership is more than having the characteristics of a leader, it’s about how you can give back to your team members.  After all, a resilient team that builds on the strengths of each other and forms a strong supportive network is more likely to produce positive results.

And so as I write this near the beginning of my ETAD 898 – Independent Study in Leadership, I see connections building to theories of servant and transformational leadership.  I think SuperBetter offers a concrete, research based way for you to become more resilient and in turn you have the opportunity to share those strategies with those around you.

My daughter is 7 and we’ve started playing SuperBetter together.  It’s a great way for us to learn how to live healthier together.  Even better, she reminds me to do our power-ups and when she’s had a tough day we stop for a moment and look at all the positive power-ups that she’s already done and at ones that will help us feel better.

So whether you play the game faithfully or learn some simple strategies.  There’s always something to learn from the SuperBetter method.

SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient – Jane McGonigal

McGonigal, J. (2015). SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient. New York: Penguin Press.



Tech-addict? Tech-Balanced? Is it really changing us or has it already?

Tech-addict? Tech-Balanced? Is it really changing us or has it already?

The Unhealthy habit? Are you aware of the choices you are making?

Tuesday also featured a lively debate on whether or not Technology is making our kids unhealthy…… is it making you unhealthy?

While Fitbits, health apps and Facebook groups may inspire us to build healthy habits, foster social connections and remind us to get moving, I can’t help but wonder just how much technology is affecting our lives.  Have you ever stopped to think how it’s shaping our daily habits and interactions?

wendy_brian_kidsIncluded with permission from © Eric Pickersgill
From Removed
Photographer, Eric Pickersgill, “has released a series of photos from everyday life with one minor adjustment: all electronic devices have been removed.” (Denicola, 2015, para. 3).
(You can view the series online at – it’s worth taking a look.  Is this how you want to be remembered?  What’s happening to our face to face connections?)

Thanks Eric Pickersgill for his suggestion to check out his TED Talk
Do Our Devices Divide Us?
He reflects on how it isn’t until we see ourselves with the devices
removed that the true impact hits us and has actually caused a change in behaviour.

I remember back to when I first started teaching in the fall of 1999 – cell phones, digital cameras and social media were not part of my daily habits.  The internet was alive and healthy in it’s information delivery form with interactive sharing restricted to the users that understood html, ftp and flash.  When I looked around my classroom the most distracting form of peer to peer interaction was whispering or the paper notes they quietly passed from one desk to another.  And when you ventured out into the halls at break or lunch, students were sitting next to each other talking.
25158194552_3a76a8b81cFlash forward to 2016 and when you walk down the halls of a school you will likely see students in close proximity to their cell phones.  Just think of how the mobile phone has evolved  – from the advent of texting to the immediacy of information – to students sitting next to one another staring at their phones and texting each other instead of talking.  Just to clarify this is not always the norm and I have to admit, you won’t find me far from my cell phone – it’s an integral part of how I document the interactions and stay connected to all of my schools no matter where I am in the pod. In fact, as a self admitted introvert, a device is a unique tool that connects me to selected social media connections when I want and in person it gives me a way to blend in.  Check out Why introverts love Social Media by Mack Collier for an interesting read especially for “Online extrovert[s], offline introvert[s]- it’s complicated.”

Photo Credit: via Compfight cc

So we know technology has changed our lives, so much so that our brains even pick up on phantom vibrations. When’s the last time you thought your cell phone buzzed?  Did you need to check it?


As Hatch (2011) noted while referencing Sherry Turkle, “naming technology as either good or bad will not solve the issue. “I’ve tried to get across that computers are not good or bad — they’re powerful…. I think we’re getting ourselves in a lot of trouble thinking there’s an Internet or a web that has an impact on children” (Hatch, 2011, p.4). It’s the daily habits and the way we choose to engage with technology that leaves room for our own creative interpretation – addictive or balanced.  It seems to be a common theme  – the search for Balance – using the tools around us, tech included, to help us lead a healthier life. Photo Credit: TEDxUIUC via Compfightcc

Facebook, Twitter or mobile devices for that matter don’t hurt people, it’s people that make choices on how they use the technology that truly impacts ourselves and others.

Just for a moment let’s agree that technology has the potential to connect us to many positive interactions and healthy choices in our lives. Now let’s pause and reflect on just how those devices have already shaped our lives and those of our children, so we can make informed choices not just rote, device guided interactions.
2977041097_920b2b3001Photo Credit: edmittance via Compfight cc

In the video, 5 Crazy Ways Social Media is Changing your Brain Right Now, Asap Science noted how increased device usage and instant feedback are decreasing the white matter in our brains and in fact rewiring our brains to crave that stimulation. In a 2014 Huff Post article, Lindsay Holmes explained “there is such a thing as technology addiction … [and] research from Swansea and Milan Universities also found that heavy Internet users suffered withdrawal similar to those experienced  by drug users when they went offline” (p.4).

Now if you’re like me you are probably saying, for sure that’s true but that’s definitely not me.  In Super Better, Jane McGonigal, noted that gaming up to 21 hours a week resulted in positive benefits. Over that and the positive benefits of gaming were lost. Everything has a balance. We need to listen to our own bodies and find ways to use tech to enhance rather than in inhibit our health.51ohurxogil-_sx327_bo1204203200_

If you haven’t listened to one of Jane McGonigal’s TED Talks or checked out her book Super Better, I would highly recommend it.  As she shared it’s a revolutionary approach to getting stronger, happier, braver and more resilient all powered by the science of games (it’s on the cover). It’s significantly changed my perspective on how applying the psychology of gaming can positively change our lives by building up our physical, social, mental and emotional resilience. She addressed the need for balance and shares the science behind it – in fact there’s an entire website devoted to the science behind the Super Better game.  That’s right it’s also a game – you can play.  There are so many educational applications here that it needs it’s own post,         Image from
but here’s what I will say.  My daughter and I are using the strategies and I’ve recommended them to teachers to help deal with all things from behavior to learning how to read.

Holmes also identified eye strain, headaches and reduced sleep as fallout from spending extended time with our beloved devices; moreover, she highlighted staring at our phones changes our posture adding to the health costs.

23172149944_d29d8b52201During the past year I’ve been working with Carla Gradin, a body language trainer and wardrobe stylist (also a former high school math teacher). During our training sessions, she’s shared how first impressions take less than 2-3 seconds to form a lasting perspective and how power posing can change your brain chemistry. But what’s really interesting is how technology, in particular, staring at your phone closes your body language.  Just think about it, you look down at your device, your shoulders roll in and your eyes are focused on the cyber world.  What impression are you giving to those around you and how is your body position influencing your brain.

Photo Credit: FotoGrazio via Compfight cc

Check out Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on how your body language shapes who you are.  How you position your body affects the hormones released in your body.  So maybe think twice before you pull out that cell phone at your next gathering.

One of my favourite parts of my online graduate classes is learning from the stories of my fellow students and each week I’m amazed at how much I learn from everyone’s perspectives.  Life truly is about perspective.  This week Nicole’s post the Pursuit of Health in a Modern World, resonated with me.  Our health is dependent upon the choices that we make and the practices that we as teachers and parents model for our children. It’s about choosing to actively find balance.  I appreciate Nicole’s description of life with a conscious decision to choose when tech adds value.  She shared…

We haul our kids outside about 360 days a year. We crush books, and we cook, and we break toys and make rather large messes and spend a lot of face to face time with them because we find that when technology isn’t in the moment, we do actually have lot of time to be face to face. – Nicole

And so as my daughter fell asleep watching Netflix on the couch while I worked on this post I understand first hand the challenges and advantages of parenting in our device connected world.  While I know life is about consciously making healthy choices, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy.  We are surrounded by technology that has the potential to heal or harm depending how we use it.  What I hope you take from this post is an awareness of how technology influences our health and as Oprah shared (in the video below) it’s about asking ourselves, “What’s the next right move?”  and then the next right move.  Find your balance and enjoy the journey along the way:)

Interesting Articles I encountered while writing this blog post: