Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Raise the Bar

You can't improve what you don't measure, I heard once.
Many times in life there is a conflict between what's good in the short term,
and the long term, or even just slightly longer term.

Supposedly, some people are better than others at thinking about the long term.
But I think of it differently (intentionally oversimplifying): All humans are equally incapable of being motivated by anything except what feels good now;
but humans vary significantly on their ability to generate short term emotional rewards,
for performing a ``not fun'' activity that is good for the long term.

For example, while small kids rarely enjoy brushing their teeth,
by adulthood we can enjoy the physical sensation of cleanliness during and after the brushing.
Once we learn to enjoy it, the brushing does not really require `sacrificing the short term for the long term'.

I've been working with an app called Raise The Bar that helps me give myself immediate emotional rewards for positive long term behaviors.

Basically, each time you do the positive behavior, e.g., a push-up,
you get to press the up-arrow of the push-up bar on your app


You can define a daily goal you want to get to - like 35 push ups, or 2 hours meditation in my case.
Or you can just use a progress bar, that measures, say, from now onwards, how many pullups have you done in your life.
When you choose to use this progress bar, you can progress up levels, where each time you need to do more repetitions to get to the next level.
For example, 5 pull-ups suffice to go from level 1 to 2, but to get from 2 to 3 you'll need 10.

You can also use timers.
For example, I make a goal of spending a total of 1 hour cleaning the house each week.
Each time, I do a one minute mini-clean - taking out the trash, or picking something from the floor,
I activate the timer, and see my percentage go up a bit more towards the goal

You can track goals of avoiding certain things as follows:
You can track  ``days without activity X'', where I take X for example to be more than 60 minutes of non-work related internet, and for each day you managed to maintain that you raise the bar by one.
Then you can set a goal of, say, having at least 25 such days till the end of the month.

Yesterday, I went to the beach near my house,
got a (soy-milk) cappuccino,
went to the exercise area;
and did reps of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 3-5 meditation

Having the constant feedback of pressing the up-button on the app, and seeing your stats go up makes it more fun.

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Hi! I am a computer science postdoc. For some reason google is not finding my new homepage so I added a link from this profile