"Success momentum" Isn't that a great term? When I first heard it I instantly knew what it meant and just as completly recognized the truth of it. Success does build momentum: emotionally, monetarily, you name it. This idea is at the heart of what B.J. Fogg and the Stanford Persuassive Technology Lab have to say about changing habits. First, don't talk to him about "breaking habits". That implies that a habit is one set of behaviors that will power alone can destroy. Fogg talks about "untangling habits" and replacing them new positive ones. This involves designating a trigger to do the new behavior and then keeping the new habit incredibly small and easy. The third step is celebrating these tiny sucesses, thereby creating momentum. If you'd like to hear Fogg explain this himself (and how tech companies use these ideas to change your behavior) you can listen to an interview on WGBH's Innvoation Hub. Fogg also has a funny, quick slideshow on creating new habits.
I've been thinking about untangling habits and creating more healthy ones lately, no great surprise since it's national resolution season. I thought I would go back through my blog posts and see what I've tried in the past to change my habits.
- July 2010 - Replaced resolutions with "wannas"
- Dec. 2011 - using gmap.com to track my walking habits
- Jan. 2012 - Set out to finish my canvas of all Lexington Conservation Land
- July 2012 - Joining walk related groups
- Feb. 2013 - Choosing the pedometer that works best for me
It was nice to see that I hadn't tried anything that would count as a fad. I was surprised to see that I never talked about MapMyWalk.com I started using this website a couple years ago because it had all the helpful features of gmap, but without the bugs of a system created by one person in his spare time. MapMyWalk's basic version is free. You can track your calorie intake, the weather and half a dozen other things, but I've used it to make note of my exercise, whether that's walking, yoga or even raking. Yes, the website has a drop down menu with all sorts of exercise options. You choose the exercise and the duration and it calculates your estimated calorie usage depending on your weight and height. You can then look back on your workouts using a number of filters depending on whether you care about your distance, duration, calories etc.
I like the feeling of typing in my exercise. It's like giving myself a high-five. I also like that if I forget my iPod/pedometer, the website has a map feature that lets me easily calculate how far I travelled. The website also sends me weekly workout summaries (which I tend to ignore) and then a final end of year one. Here's what my year end summary says:
- Workouts 158
- Routes mapped using website 10
- Miles 299.1
- Hours 178.4
- Calories burned 68,024
OK. Now what? The number of workouts tells me that there are way too many days where I'm not getting any sustained exercise. My walks equal out to less than a mile of walking per day! That's disturbing. I need to revise my life so I encourage myself to exercise more.
I know that I like writing down (recognizing) when I exercise. I also know that it's easy to convince myself I've exercised more than I have. So, I'm going to try a visual approach. I'm going to use one of those ubiquitous free calendars you receive in the mail at this time of year, and track my healthy habits there. That way the information is right in front of me (no hiding from it by not visiting a website). I'll let you know how it goes.