Habit Building in 2016


Gretchen Rubin’s “Better than Before” calls habits the “invisible architecture of our everyday lives.” She asserts that about 40% of our daily life is the result of our habits and, therefore, if we want to be better than before then we should start with identifying habits that will get us there and build towards that. Well, this was a no-brainer to me. I’d heard it all before guised under the phrases morning rituals, daily habits, and routines.

Rubin offers some ground-breaking insight (that makes this book among those on my quake list) into how we form habits, that is intuitive. She says there are four categories of people:

  • Upholders: want to meet external expectations but their internal expectations are just as important.
  • Questioners: they make everything an inner expectation… if they don’t accept something as necessary then they won’t do it.
  • Obligers: readily meet outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations.
  • Rebels: they want to do what they want to do when they want to do it

It became abundantly obvious that I was an “Obliger” when she wrote that when conducting interviews one man offered that when he was on the track team he never missed a practice, but once he quit he hadn’t been able to will himself into going on a run. Ah, BINGO!

So the question became: how do I build external forces that align with my inner expectations.

The answer I found was Habitica; it’s an app that aims to “gamify” your life by assigning scores to each of the habits that you want to build. Each day I want to do six things:

  1. One Second Everyday.
  2. Write 10 ideas.
  3. 20 pushups.
  4. Take a cold shower.
  5. Floss & brush my teeth.
  6. Read 50 pages.

The external motivation that this provided has been tangible in just the week that I’ve had the app — I haven’t missed a day.

Each time I complete a task I get “experience” and I have a list of other habits that I want to develop: have a great conversation, 10 pull-ups, run, listen to podcasts, watch good movies, text an old friend, and many more. It also holds my long-term goals like finish a half-ironman, a marathon, do a 250lb bench press, add 100 things to my artistic musts list and many more.

Finally, and most importantly, it offers me the chance to “reward” myself after doing things that are to my benefit. This will take the form of drinking brews.

Cheers to a new year,