The Science of Willpower

It’s Sunday morning, and I am not hungover. And I am being productive. Holy cow this is awesome!

Anyhow, following are some of my cliff notes from a TED Blog post on why it is so hard to stick to resolutions:

1) “People come up with resolutions that don’t reflect what matters most to them, and that makes them almost guaranteed to fail…The kind of New Year’s resolution that works is when you start really slowing down and asking yourself what you want for yourself and your life in the next year. What is it that you want to offer the world? Who do you want to be, what do you want more of in your life? And then asking: “How might I get there? What would create that as a consequence?” When you start from that point of view, then New Year’s resolutions can be incredibly effective.”

2) “Any tips for how to find those big things and then narrow them down to specific resolutions?

A very practical way is to ask: At the end of 2014 — on January 1st, 2015, looking backwards — what are you seriously going to be grateful that you did?”

3) “So on those things you feel like you should be doing — the going to the gym or the quitting smoking — is there a way to build your willpower towards those things?

One of the things I always encourage people to do is to not try to do things alone, and to start outsourcing their willpower a little bit. If it’s exercising, you should be doing it with a family member, a friend, a co-worker.”

At a later date I am going to go back in and throw in my 2 cents to the above. For right now I have to go to yoga/krav maga classes. One of my other year long resolutions…

Starting Good Habits

It’s tough enough to get started on a mere mortal goal.  Like a new fad diet. Or maybe some sissy 30 day challenge. How the heck do you pull off an ambitious new goal for 365 days?

This morning I took some time to collect my thoughts and do some research on some tips and tricks.

First thing that came to mind, is one of my favorite recent reads – Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Chef (similar parts might also be found in the Four Hour Body).  I won’t take the time to review the whole book (even though it’d be worth it) but the section I am going to key in on the section where he discusses how to initiate long term behavioral changes. Some of the relevant tips and tricks:

  • “Make it measurable, make it a game”. I definitely believe that measuring progress is huge to sticking with a new goal and I have had success in the past doing this with workout programs (IE 5×5 and P90X).  I have been keeping tabs on the estimated number of drinks and money saved every time I am in a situation where normally I would be drinking on a Google Drive spreadsheet. It’s already pretty interesting and I’ll share details of that at some time in the future.  Another app that I used to help instigate healthier eating is called coach.me (it was called Lift when I used it) and I have also tinkered around with QuantID.  Make it a game? For whatever reason the creative part of my brain doesn’t want to tackle that one this morning. Any suggestions?
  • “Take Pictures of it All”. I’ll definitely start sharing some pics of what I am up to on Sunday mornings, instead of being hungover. Likewise, I can’t wait for the first opportunity to wake up sober next to a drunken buddy with a penis drawn on his forehead.
  • Make it small and temporary“. $h!t. There is nothing small and temporary about what I have planned.  Upon closer inspection though, my plan will work juuuuust fiiiiine. I just need to stop thinking about all 365 days at a time, and focus on the short term and piece things together little by little. This is the most powerful part of the section: Tim explains that Nike+ designers looked at their data for 1 million+ people who wanted to start running as a daily habit. What they found is that the people who ACTUALLY stuck with their new behavioral change were the ones that successfully logged in and went through with at least 5 runs. After that, they were hooked. For a great review, check out this Wired.com article.

So I just took a look at my calendar and picked out 5 upcoming dates where I know damn well alcohol will be on the menu for my friends. I can already envision myself passing on the sauce, logging my savings, and taking pictures.

Any other ideas on how to start a good habit?

365 Days of *drumroll please* no alcohol.

None. Not even a sip.

GASP! Why would anyone do such a thing. The next 365 days of my life are focused on A) positive energy and B) taking on tasks I have always put off.

By no means was I an alcoholic. But I certainly enjoyed a good party or two (or 5) every once in a while. In reflecting back on the past year of debauchery I realized that I easily wasted 4 figures of income on booze that I easily could have put towards more worthwhile endeavors. Likewise, I probably spent a good 20-30 days in a hungover stupor and on some of the “better” performances the hangovers lasted 2-3 days. Those are days of my life I can’t get back and could have used to do something “a bit more constructive”.

For the next year I am going to focus on:
1) using the money saved from booze to go towards bettering myself. E.g. tomorrow night will be my first night of martial arts class.

2) use Sunday mornings (and other times I would have been hungover) as a time for kicking ass.

3) toss happiness bombs and motivation at my buddies who are also on the path of a year of change.

What is 365?

365 is a quixotic mission dreamed up with inspiration from a bunch of now good friends who met in the Peruvian Amazon. The point is to quit a bad habit and/or go for an admirable goal and stick it out for an entire year.