Hacking Habits with Pokémon Go to walk 10k steps a day

Meet JK

Our story starts with JK. Who is JK? JK Baseer is a hitchhiker friend of mine who started his journey from Europe and now is somewhere in Asia.

He was visiting Denmark and came to Aarhus. We went out to eat and catch up. During our talk and even when we were saying goodbye, he would keep saying “you look different than your profile photo”.

The funny part is that I was saying the same thing to Tarik Fahim about a month earlier.

Deja Vu or Meet Tarek

Who is Tarek? He is a venture capital investor and the founder of Endure Capital.

I was meeting with him in Amsterdam to pitch Ali Huda. I also noticed the difference in Tarik compared to his profile photo.

I was saying “you look different than your profile photo”. At first, he didn’t say much. Toward the end of our conversation, he briefly mentioned humbly that he started walking 10km per day and lost weight recently.

The difference was so obvious that I couldn’t help asking for details. I was so surprised that you can lose so much weight by just walking. Besides I had an example right before my eyes.

I have been trying to lose weight. Tried many things. Running. Cross trainer. Rowing. The list goes on. It would start ok. But eventually I would give up.

Inspiration

We get inspiration from different things and different people in serendipity. Of course, I knew doing exercise daily would eventually lead me to lose weight. But it is all in theory.

For me, Tarek was my inspiration. He was standing right there as an example as real as it can get. So I took up on the challenge. If Tarek can do it, so can I.

I started walking. First things first. In business, we have KPIs — Key Performance Indicators. On the other hand, I wanted to focus on one key metric instead of many. I choose 10K steps.

First Test

It all started great. It was summer time in Denmark. Walking is easy. However, soon we should go to Tunisia for a family vacation. It was one of those all 
inclusive deals where you can eat and drink as much as you want.

As you can imagine it is hard to resist so much delicious food especially when you are on vacation. I had a deal with myself I can eat as much as I want as long as I walk 10k steps. The challenge is accepted.

Human mind is a beautiful paradox machine. Once you trick, it will produce amazing results. Once I locked in walking into 10k steps, I figured out that I can actually walk in the mornings or before sunset at the beach.

Besides, I also discovered sports at the resort. I was active every day with water polo, soccer or beach walking.

Back to reality

After our return in Denmark, the weather started to get worse. Summer is the best time in Denmark. Fall, winter and spring are usually grey days with wind and rain. It is not the most inviting weather to walk.

I had to find a motivation to go out and keep walking even under grey weather. It was then when I remembered Pokemon Go. It is an exercise game which motivates you catch Pokemons — fictionary creators in an augmented reality.

It was quite popular when it was launched in the summer of 2016. I played a bit in 2016 summer like everybody else then I quit. So I picked up the game again in 2018 summer.

Family Game

Soon after I started playing Pokemon GO, my son David joined me since he already knew much about Pokemons. David has many Pokemon Go collection cards so he was my guide.

It was also a great bond as a father and a son to go out and spend an hour or so walking every day. This led to my whole family — my wife and my two daugher joined soon as well.

Explore Neighbourhood and Meet New People

I have been living in a suburb around Arhus for the last 7 years. However, I haven’t seen much of the place except the kinder-garden, and supermarkets. However, since playing Pokémon Go, I have discovered so many playgrounds and other places of interest. 
 
As a part of the play, you will need to visit Poke Stops to collect Poke Balls, berries and other game items from the stops. Moreover, you will need to work with other players to take down the gyms — a place where you can fight together against a raid boss to capture plus other perks.

Since playing Pokemon Go, I have met other players from 7 to 70 years of old from our neighbourhood.

One good habit leads to another

Funny thing about human psychology is that once you focus on one thing, your brain will begin to present new ideas around this thing. For example, lets take my daily walking.

I work at my computer most of the day. I have been thinking how to use some of this time actively. One idea I am trying these days is that to combine all my phone meetins to a limited hours and take these calls while I walk. So far so good. I just briefly mention I am outside before the call. Most calls go smoothly as long as I have a good network coverage.

Eating healthier

Another thing is that I am slowly doing some small changes to what I eat daily. First step is to change daily sugar intakes from natural sources — fruits. My favouries are mango, cherry, grapes and some dry fruits: nuts, dried cranberries, etc.

10k Steps Daily

As mentioned earlier, I wanted to focus only one number: 10.000 steps.

By gamifying with Pokemon Go and anything else that motivates me to walk daily 10k steps, I have been walking at least 10k steps every day except 1 or 2 days when I was sick in bed.

You can see from the chart below my average daily steps before and after July. I was walking around 5k steps a day. Once you measure yours, you will be surprised you already walk at least 2–3k steps per day.

So my first task was to make sure it reaches 10k steps a day.

iPhone comes with Health app that counts steps. You just need to turn it on. You can find apps for Android easily that count your steps.

Does it work?

I have been walking 10k steps daily while eating as usual. I have been slowly changing my daily intake of sugar to natural sources like fruits and nuts. No diets or exercises.

In July 2018, I weighed 92kg before I started this daily challenge. Currently I weight 80 kg.

Why do we fail diets and exercises?

You get motivated. You want to lose weight. So you get on a diet. It works for a while. Then you will give up eventually. Until you get motivated again. The cycle goes on… I have been during this cycle many times.

Why do we fail? I love psychology because it studies why we do what we do as humans. It seems that diets and exercises require lots of will-power. Sure, we do have will-power. Some have less, some have more. But it is not unlimited.

It works as a muscle. You can lift a heavy stone. It is as long as your muscles can bear. Then you need to put it down. The same goes with diets and fitness.

Is there hope?

So, how can we solve this? Is there a way we can eat healthier and be more physically active in our daily lives?

It seems there is hope after all. If you look at your day, you will notice most of it are daily routines you keep doing every day. What do you do when you wake up? Wash your face and hands. Brushing your tooth. Breakfast.

Hacking Habits

Most of these you do almost on auto pilot without thinking too much. In other words, these are your daily habits. These are the habits you have introduced over the years by doing them over and over again. You can read more about habits in this best selling book.

Now you will need to do the same again. In my case, it was daily 10k steps.

If you want to be more physically active, choose an activity you like the most. You do this activity and you enjoy it. You don’t know how time passes.

Unfortunately, many go to fitness and end up on treadmills just to get fit. They may like the end result, but they hate the activity itself.

Sometimes you need to give some time to start enjoying the activity. Walking was not the most exciting thing for me. But the company with my son was a motivator. Then we started Pokemon Go together. It all added up to our walkig experience.

As for eating, our taste buds are used to hyper intake of sugar from artificial sources like candies, cakes and sodas. So most fruits and vegetables taste dull. Once you cut down your intake of sugar from artificial sources, you will begin to rediscover the fruits and even vegetables.

Hope you can find this post useful in hacking your habits.

Share what you think. Most importantly share your experience how it goes if you start a new habit.