The Science Behind’s Goal Tracker

Tony Stubblebine
Inside Lift
Published in
3 min readMay 29, 2013

We built our goal tracking app on top of the science of positive reinforcement. If you understand the principles you can be your own behavior designer, make better use of the tools and community, and change from someone who aspires to achieve goals into someone who can achieve whatever they want.

There are four parts to understand: consistency, motivation, ability, and triggers.

The last three make up a framework for designing behavior change that comes from our favorite behavior designer, Dr. BJ Fogg, who runs the persuasive technology lab at Stanford. It’s called B=MAT and it means that in order get a behavior you need to have motivation, ability, and experience a trigger.


Sustained effort over a lifetime produces incredible results. Research into genius-level talents almost always turns up that they are the product of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

When you think of goals within think about them in terms of momentum. What goals are going to get you going? One heroic week from you isn’t going to change your life, you need practices that you can keep up.

Dr. BJ Fogg calls these tiny habits. If you can lock in a routine then there is plenty of time to expand the difficulty. As a concrete example, our research into successful practitioners in our Meditation habit turned up that the majority started with just two minutes of practice a day. Anyone could do that!

Motivation Part 1

You can’t change what you don’t measure.

That’s the fundamental reason tracking results is an integral part of every training plan, diet, etc. Having an accurate history boosts your motivation because you can’t help but think, “Can I do this 5 times? Can I get a ten day streak? Can I do this one more time than last week?”

People think the quantified self is for geeks, but it’s really for your own motivation.

Motivation Part 2

You’re 50% more likely to succeed in your goal if you know at least one other person doing it. Adding a friend is the most important thing you can do on

Friends provide friendly accountability and inspiration. If someone else can do it, so can you. This removes a mental block around doubt.

But more importantly, friends makes achieving goals more fun. In, we use a feature called props to cheer each other on. This is the positive reinforcer that helps wire your new behavior into your brain so that it isn’t so hard next time.


If you’re not sure what to do, ask.

Every goal in is filled with people who’ve been where you are. They already figured out the tricks. Those tricks get you to the goal faster.

Your ability to achieve your goal is a multiplicative based on your motivation and your ability. Most people focus on motivation, but often you can get where you want faster by knowing the short cuts.

As an example, my co-founder and I went vegan for four months. As long time meat-lovers, that was a HARD change. But the thing that got us over the hump was being able to ask a very simple question, “Where do other San Francisco vegans eat lunch?” It turns out they go to a kiosk in the basement of the mall next door. Suddenly going vegan became very easy (we’re not recommending veganism, feel free to choose your own ridiculously hard goal).


You can only do what occurs to you.

Sometimes you’re holding the floss and you just don’t have the energy to wrap it around your fingers and run it between each of your teeth. In this case you’re lacking motivation. Other times, you’re travelling, you didn’t pack floss, and it doesn’t even occur to you. In this case, you’re lacking the trigger that starts the chain reaction of your flossing goal.

When you’re creating new goals you want to create some sort of trigger. Some people put their workout clothes next to their bed in order to prompt them to run in the morning. That’s a self-designed trigger.

Coach.mehas a built in system for triggers, which we call reminders. Make sure to set some for your goals.

Putting It All Together

Now you know how to be a behavior designer. Use this knowledge on yourself, on your spouse, on your boss, on your dog. It can be very handy.

The one downside to all this is that there are no shortcuts. You have to do the work, go through some trial and error, and put some thought into your practice. But that’s true of everyone and we at are here to make that work a little easier.