People who know me or follow me on social media know that I use apps to quantify my success in life. Last year I read and micro-blogged on Facebook about the book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by renowned social psychologist Roy Baumeister and award-winning NYT journalist John Tierney. I’ve read the book twice since and refer to it often.
You could sum up a large body of new research literature with a simple rule: The best way to reduce stress in your life is to stop screwing up. That means setting up your life so that you have a realistic chance to succeed. Successful people don’t use their willpower as a last ditch defense to stop themselves from disaster, at least not as a regular strategy…[p]eople with strong self-control spent less time resisting desires than other people did….They use their self-control not to get through crises but to avoid them. …They play offense instead of defense. (Baumeister and Tierney 2011, 238-239).
I’ve been taking a long hard look at things that have been hidden from my own view but that were there to be seen and noticed if I were actually thinking and planning rather than living my life moment-to-moment. I have lived my life the last 10 years by serendipity alone to my own detriment especially in the last 2-3 years. I quit a great job. Got married and divorced. And am gratefully starting the next phase of my life powerfully.
I’ve spent the last 16 months getting present, thinking accurately, developing habits that fit long-term thinking in the areas of my health, money and work. This is not about what I do to earn money but the work I do with my mind and body biologically, linguistically and socially to get to the best job, career and savings. It’s starting to pay off with deliberate practice over a long period. This is a kind of practice I have never mastered before in my life.
What I am discovering, and more importantly demonstrating to myself with the help of my apps is the power of my action: daily weight monitoring, fitness from walking the Williamsburg Bridge daily, eating salads daily, eating 3 meals a day, losing weight slowly and surely, sleeping 8 hours a day, drinking 9 glasses of water a day, planning ahead for my teaching and learning, etc. All this I am learning in completely new ways via apps on my iphone and it is in line with the theme of my blog: voicing the unspoken.
BECOMING CURIOUS ABOUT OUR SELF
One of the explanations before the voicing the unspoken is that curiosity comes from making room in your thinking for new ideas. That means voicing more than what you already know especially about yourself. You are not like an physical object, a table or a chair. All physical objects including our bodies change from moment-to-moment. But a chair is not capable of any consciousness about its own change. Not unlike the chair, we often operate in life without any consciousness of our changing states. We need help to be and become self-aware. It’s easy to observe others but we cannot see our own eyeballs or ourselves for that matter. We see what’s outside ourselves better.
The mysteries of living a life that matters to me are starting to unfold but it has been the objective measuring, the quantifying of those things I contribute to the SELF I am creating that has made the difference. So from time to time I thought I should share what apps I use to move from surviving to thriving. Thus, I came up with the ideas of blogging about the apps I thrive by or “thrive-by apps” for getting where you truly and accurately want to be.
I THINK, THEREFORE I AM? IT DOESN’T MEAN I’M AWARE OR IT’S ACCURATE
Subjective feelings, moods, despair and disappoint versus patience and accurate thinking have been the downfall of my efforts before this year. I can’t keep my goals present without my apps and I cannot see the objective and accurate thinking needed to continue to develop a goal over a long period of time in this current age of social media and technological distraction that alternates often with feelings of loneliness or doing things alone. This is a particular symptom of being single, being black and a black female professor all at the same time who doesn’t live near here immediate family and grew up as an only child. I am thrown towards loneliness or alone-ness is more accurate.
Certain apps aimed at a “quantified self” approach to live make a world of difference to my mental and emotional wellness as well as my actual progress and achievements towards what truly matters to me. Of course, being able to articulate that is more than half the battle. To learn more about the Quantified Self movement or QS click here.
The app I want to introduce first is one of my most recent additions to about 5 apps I thrive by. I heard about it at the first Quantified Self meetup I attended in May 2013 here in NYC. In the meet-and-greet phase at the top of the night, I heard this brainiac Sikh talking about several apps. He had attracted a crowd of listeners as if he was one of the speakers. He was not. I was captivated by how much he was showing off how much he knew about this and that app when he mentioned an app that was better than any other for tracking goals because the focus is on commitment as a contract not simply tracking a habit or goal.
The app is called Beeminder. I downloaded it on my iPhone that night and tested it out. It’s been a month. And I LOVE IT!! It’s like a Kickstarter app for your personal goals and can be applied to reading pages to complete a book, walking a set number of miles a week, or weight loss or gain (View my goal here). It’s unique for it’s simple input systems though it takes a week to get used to the visual display. But once you get it, you’ll have access to staying on track with your goals in a completely new way.
The description of the app from the site itself cannot be beat, so let me just cut-and-paste it here.
What is Beeminder?
It’s reminders with a sting! Or, goal-tracking with teeth. Mind anything you can graph — weight, pushups, to-do tasks completed — by replying with data when Beeminder prompts you. Or connect with a service (like Fitbit) to report automatically. We plot your progress on a Yellow Brick Road to your goal. Keep all your data points on the road and Beeminder will always be free. Go off the road and you (literally) pay the price.
How is Beeminder different?
Beeminder is Quantified Self plus Commitment contracts. [THIS IS WHAT MAKES IT WORK FOR ME!!] If you just want self-tracking you have a lot of choices and if you just want commitment devices you have more and more options as well (StickK being the most well-known). Beeminder combines self-tracking and commitment contracts: keep all your data points on a Yellow Brick Road to your goal or we take your money. The combination is powerful. We call it flexible self-control.
Each morning I get separate emails asking me to update each goal and letting me know where I am progress-wise. Am I on track, off-track, how many days do I have before I go off-track, am I in danger or safe. No thinking here, just setting you up to succeed. So some of the benefits include:
- choosing daily reminders sent to your email, SMS or none
- backing up all your data daily to the website
- viewing a more comprehensive view of your progress online
- reminders come after each update letting you know if you are safe and on-track or in danger and
- it tells you exactly how many days and minutes you are safe or in danger like a countdown. This is the best incentive!
MAKING IT COUNT
You can also sign up to contract for a consequence of $5 or more when you go off track. If you go way off track, you get locked out of the app and website until you recommit and you of course lose money. Unless there is a consequence along with a clear articulation of whatyou want to achieve, there is no winning. You are just operating with good intentions. This is truly an app to thrive by. No surviving through false actions and intentions.
You can also get this unique visual incentive of staying on a yellow brick road and you can share this to let your family or special friends in on your progress. I’m starting to realize how much more effective it is to not SHARE this with EVERYONE. Keep your network small and ambitious.
I wanted to test this app out for a month before outing myself on downloading another app. I wanted a demonstration of my progress. Not just a good intention. So far, I’ve been successful at staying on track with a specified period of weight loss, walking and studying to build up my deliberate practices around health, money and work. I definitely want to now invite a team of fit-minded folks to join me.
ARE YOU FIT-MINDED?
I am looking to join and create a team of long-term doers.
What I mean by fit-minded is this.
- You are willing to be ambitious in your interactions. No one is carrying you on this but you.
- You are willing to be accountable to others. No one is going to look after you per se but you get to report to us about how you will adapt to meet your goals when off track.
- You are willing to trust the data not your feelings and stay committed for the duration of a long period (at least one month; ideally 3 months).
- You are a learner and can take on testing your habits rather than thinking you already know. If I knew how to do most of the things I want, I’d already be doing it which I why the apps and social support makes a difference for me.
If you’re interested, let me know. Email me at kyraocity at g mail. com
Otherwise, if you are using apps to “quantify” you SELF, please share in the comments what works for you.
DO MORE STUDY ON THE QUANTIFIED SELF
If you are looking for a great read on the subject, check on Chapter 5 of Willpower titled “Where Have All the Dollars Gone: The Quantified Self Knows” which presents data from Mint.com to other apps that help you change your distorted reality or get real about your distorted views of change. The authors assert that self-control begins and ends with self-monitoring. Baumeister and Tierney write:
Now that computers are getting smarter, now that more and moreof them are watching us, they’re not becoming self-aware (at least not yet) and they’re not seizing power from us. Instead, they’re enhancing our powers by making us more self-aware (110).
Here’s to becoming self-aware. I feel like I was never self-aware before all these apps helped me truly observe how I operate. so that’s my first thrive-by report. Til next time~!
Keep being curious! Why? Kyraocity Works!!!