Oh, this poor snail. If only someone could just… tell him to not drink so much every time he checks in at a bar on Foursquare.
Introducing Drinking Problems, the newest bud.ge program.
Do you 1) hang out at bars with your friends 2) check in there on Foursquare 3) get way too drunkles while there? Want to take a vacation from hangovers? This is the program for you!
Explore the wonderful world of grapefruit juice, Virgin Marys, and sodas with lime! See what you and your friends are *really like* drunk for the first time! Play Drinking Problems and take on your “I’m not an alcoholic” defense head on. Commit to a 3-day or 1 week challenge, and every time you check in, you’ll get a text reminding you to drink something non-alcoholic instead.
Some texts you might get if you check into a bar:
A beer flood in 1814 killed 9 people. Don’t be another statistic. Nobody’s ever heard of a grapefruit juice flood, for good reason!
Buy a drink for a friend, enjoy the drunkenness of giving to others. No drinks for you though!
We thought of this and made it in an afternoon. Can’t wait to start cranking these out more frequently! Let me know if you want an invite.
I had an idea the other day and had to built it…
It’s called Gonna Try and it’s sort of a super-simple hybrid of 43 Things and Health Month. It’s freeform like 43 Things, but it’s rooted in actual attempts to make a change right now, like Health Month.
The added twist is that I ask you *how* you plan to do this thing that you want to do (apps, services, gadgets, books, motivational techniques, etc), and ask you for a date that you’re gonna try to be done by.
This lets me come back on that date and ask if you succeeded or not. Which is pretty awesome because then I’ll know something a couple things that I don’t think any of us know yet:
- How often to people succeed?
- What helps people succeed the most?
Anyway, that’s the idea behind it. Give it a test run and let me know what you think.
From the About text on the site:What’s this site all about?
Gonna Try is a pseudo-scientific experiment into what you try to do, and how you succeed. Made with love by Habit Labs.How does it work?
Simple! You tell it what you’re gonna try to do, the tools you plan to use, and a date that you’re gonna try to be done by. On that date in the future, we ask you whether or not you succeeded. So much of the hype around health, fitness, productivity and self-improvement tries to ignore the fact that, more often than not, we don’t succeed at making the changes we set out to make. Gonna Try is okay with that. We just want to know what the truth is, we want to see if there are any patterns that emerge from the small percent of people who actually *do* succeed at the things they set out to do.How is this different from other goal-tracking sites?
- It’s WAAY easier! We don’t even require you to sign up with an account.
- Rather than focusing on goals, we’re focusing on attempts! They might seem similar, but how many goals and resolutions have you had that never involved a single ounce of actual trying? You can’t get away with that here.
- We are okay with failure! An attempt is the reward in itself. If it doesn’t work out the first time, or the tenth time, keep trying! That’s the best we can be expected to do, right?
- We will learn what works! Since we don’t have any preference about goals you work towards, or what tools and motivational techniques you employ, we can simply collect the results, and give them back to you. We’re very excited about what strange correlations we might find.
Our other projects include Budge, Health Month, and How’s My Email. We are intensely focused on building tools that help you change your habits and behaviors in a positive direction. Follow us at @habitlabs, @budge, and @healthmonth.Do you like us? Want to help?
First of all, add a thing or two that you’re trying to do above.
Second, send us feedback (team at habitlabs dot com)! (or just say hello)
Third, spread the word!
Almost every recent book on positive psychology (Flourish, Redirect, and The Happiness Advantage to name a few off the top of my head) mention one exercise that has been proven in studies time and again to have not only immediate positive effects, but also effects that last for months after the exercise has ended. The exercise is to list 3 things you’re grateful for every day.
I’m an admitted self-help junkie, and yet even I find this exercise to be a little cheesy. Not only that, but it also feels forced. I resist it. My gut reaction to forcing happiness is that it seems potentially dangerous, and insincere. What if we end up just repressing negative feelings rather than resolving them?
Yet, on the other hand, I know that sometimes we can be surprised by the effectiveness of brute force on our actual selves. Exercise, eat right, get enough sleep, and all will be well. Sometimes it feels like we’re just a bundle of mechanisms that, tuned correctly, lead to a balanced mental state. Many of the outer world’s problems magically go away when our inner world is healthy.
Possibly the most difficult thing to admit about why I resist the gratitudes exercise is that I find them to be difficult. Sitting and trying to think of things to be grateful for (even when I instinctively know that there are tons right in front of me) is a lot like turning off a hiking trail and clawing through vines and brush to get to my destination. It’s difficult mental work, and it’s embarrassing to admit that sometimes. The difficulty, at least in my case, is probably because my brain’s not used to thinking in this way. They are unused and unfamiliar neural pathways.
Which, when I think of it that way, makes me want to do them more.
I should not resist the unused neural pathways just because they’re a bit thorny and slow going. In fact, I should be diving into them with my best machete, clearing the way. Claiming territory in my brain that really should be mine.
And that’s the point of this exercise. Or, at least, it’s the point that convinces me to change my stance on the topic.
The act of clearing out new paths of thinking has a few primary effects.
- It gets easier over time
- I end up proactively noticing things in real time that I can “use later” during my 3 gratitudes
- I realize how many of the things I’m grateful for are super simple things. My walk to work, coffee in the morning with Kellianne, a surprising twist in a conversation.
The whole cycle of thought around this idea is helping me reverse my initial negative reaction about the 3 gratitudes, and turning it into more of a sincere interest. Now there just need to be less cheesy and ugly tools to help me make the gratitudes habit real.
A somewhat related, and entertaining, TED talk that got me thinking more about this:
The multiverse, the universe, the world, history, everyone alive, your friends and family, you, your behavior, what you are doing right now. You can only change one of these things, and it’s not easy, and you’ll probably fail the first 38,000 times, but by eventually changing it you indirectly change all of the others. After figuring that out, the only remaining problem is figuring out what you want to change and why.
- Interested since: 2006
- Looking for a mentor: Nah
- Willing to mentor: In a minor way
- Level of interest: 4
- Level of mastery: 3
Strangely, my interest in the particular topic started with an obsession with a song, which started with an experience. If I may quote myself from January 4th, 2006:
This weekend I was walking to a bar or something with a friend and we walked along this big guy (sort of a down-and-out kind of guy, but probably not homeless) who had a giant boom box on his shoulder and it was playing “The Impossible Dream” loudly and he was singing along and walking so slowly, swaying. We started singing too, and it was a moment. It was the most beautiful, sad, awesome, terrible, beautiful, terrible, horrible, awesome, sad, and beautiful thing… I spontaneously burst out in tears and started laughing. I have been listening to the song over and over since… something about the whole scene just tears me apart.
When whales die they slowly sink down into the ocean, and all of the fish and the mermaids and the turtles and the sea horses line up and watch it and wipe away the opposite of tears and sing.
The Impossible Dream. Yeah, it’s a bit dramatic. But I feel like the topic deserves drama. We are so used to being practical these days. Living within the realm of the doable and the possible. Why not ponder for a while on the impossible? Feel the beauty of expression that exists when you do something knowing full well that you will never finish, that it will never work, and not making excuses about it.
Anyway, that train of thought eventually led me to this idea of lifelong projects. I remember being inspired by Jane McGonigal’s Cookie Rolling project. Wow that is cool.
To embrace it in my own way, I started taking a photo at 8:36pm every day, captioning it with what I’m doing, who I’m with, and anything else that came to mind. I started in May of 2008 and have been going since. Others have joined, unjoined, and restarted. I have sort of hesitated to put together a website or central repository for this project… I like that it is personal, and sprawling, and sort of chaotic.
Here’s some of the original thinking behind the 8:36pm project.
Once you start thinking about this in a certain way, you realize that our lives are filled with lifelong projects. Family, health, self-development, finances, career, etc. But the key ingredient that makes them qualify as a #lifelongproject in the hashtag sense is that they are done intentionally, and with an internal acknowledgement that they will never be done, and that is the beauty.
- Interested since: 2010
- Looking for mentorship: Yes
- Willing to mentor: Yes
- Level of interest: 9
- Level of mastery: 4
Habits are an interesting little corner of behavior change. They are the behaviors that have somehow become ingrained in our subconscious. They are programs in our brain that we do without thinking.
Of course, that is largely a myth. Even breathing, which can be considered one of our best habits, isn’t entirely automatic. We can stop. Of course, we’ll pass out before dying. Wouldn’t it be cool if all of our good habits were like that? Where, if we ever tried to stop going to the gym, our bodies would knock us out and take us to the gym without our consent? That’s how cool the breathing habit is.
The reason I’m interested in habits is mostly because so many people want to make and break them. It gets to the heart of our struggle between routine and self-improvement. It perfectly illustrates just how out of control we our in our own lives.
Anyone that tells you that it takes 21 days to start a new habit (or 7 days, or 30 days, or 90 days) is trying to not only sell you something, but is willing to lie to you in order to do so.
So what is it that we sometimes mistake for a habit: something we do automatically without thinking? I am coming to believe that it’s a hormonal program. Basically, a finely tuned set of dopamine triggers around a specific behavior.
Say you want to wake up at 7am every day. Creating positive experiences around this desire is one way to help you make it a habit. Drink a cup of warm chamomile tea half an hour before you want to go to bed. Find a nice robe to entice you out of bed in the morning. Take a shower to relax. Read a good book in bed for 5 minutes. All of these positive experience (if you think those are positive experiences) create a line of positive associations that lead you by the hand into a particular behavior. You can just start gobbling up the dopamine hits starting at bedtime, and pac man your way all the way through to the morning.
The last remaining thing is that you need a trigger to remind you to start this cascading game of habit pac man. Maybe a soft chimey alarm on your phone at 10pm. Maybe it’s “the moment of zen” at the end of the Daily Show. Basically, a “after this, do this” style direct connection, ala BJ Fogg’s behavior change philosophies. It’s easier to add an extra link to an existing habit chain than to start an entirely new one.
On the other hand, we all know how addicted to certain routines we can become. Left to their own devices, a strong enough habit chain can pull in all kinds of unintended associations that aren’t necessarily 100% great. Like having to sit at the same chair in the same restaurant on the same day every week and ordering the same thing, just so that you don’t upset the habit chain associated with connecting with your spouse. And then getting upset at your spouse when they invite a friend and they come early and get seated at a table that isn’t “yours”.
Ah, habits. So interesting.
This last year I played a little game with myself, trying to post a tweet a week that I thought might possibly get more replies than the previous record. It’s an idea that Ze Frank threw out at a talk at SXSW last year… and it stuck with me as a fun experiment in the world of engagement and Tweet-making. I tried to stay away from Twitter-specific tweets, as those are artificially inflated to be interesting… but one snuck in to the top 5 anyway. Here they are:
- What do you do to help get yourself out of a bad mood? I’ll include aggregate answers in a talk I’m giving on Friday. - 41 replies - Nov 9th
- What percentage of tweets in your stream do you think you read? And how many people do you follow? - 37 replies - Nov 28th
- Quick poll: would you be willing to try a product that helped you start a morning meditation routine in a novel way? - 24 replies - Aug 8th
- If you want to have fun doing pushups, let me know in the next hour and I’ll add you to the very early @budge test we’re running right now. - 20 replies - Dec 15th
- I think I’m gonna give up alcohol for the next month or so. Is this a good idea or a bad one? And who wants to join? - 19 replies - May 20th
The fact that all but one are health-related tweets was surprising to me. I tried many different tactics for beating my previous records for number of replies. But it’s reassuring to know that the kinds of questions that resonate most are the ones related to the kinds of problems I’m trying to solve.
- Interested since: 2011
- Looking for mentorship: Got one! Diana Kimball.
- Willing to mentor: Not quite yet.
- Level of interest: 8
- Level of mastery: 1
This just all of a sudden jumped onto my zeitgeist last year, as a strategy for self-improvement that I hadn’t really considered before. Diana Kimball started this cool /mentoring movement that got me excited. Then I read about article by Atul Gawande called Personal Best in the New Yorker. We were running into engagement issues on Health Month and accountability became one of the most frequently mentioned suggested features to help with that. It was mentioned multiple times at Camp Mighty by speakers as the best way to continue development and growth in areas that you feel like you’ve started to plateau on.
What really got me was the idea that even masters of their crafts could have coaches, mentors, etc. It definitely resonated with me as a good idea. So, I started putting it out there as something I could offer to people, and that I’d be interested in finding a mentor myself, and everyone seemed to be keen on the idea. Excited to see where it leads.
Testing the waters. Finding a couple people to mentor, and finding a mentor for myself. What does it take to be a good mentor? Is there a way to make mentoring scale, or is it an inherently 1-on-1, time-intensive, pursuit? What tools can help?
- Interested since: 2000
- Looking for mentorship: Yes
- Willing to mentor: Yes
- Level of interest (0-10): 10
- Level of mastery (0-10): 7
Behavior change is the holy grail of my life’s work. I think that’s the most grandiose way to put it (and why not be grandiose?). From my early interest in building recommendation systems at Amazon (2000-2004), to my obsession with cults (Scientology, Landmark Forum, Jonestown, Vipassana, The Secret, self-help in general, etc), to 43things.com, to 750words.com, to healthmonth.com, and now to bud.ge, I seem to be on an ever-tightening downward spiral onto this particular millenia-old problem.
I love a good personal challenge. I remember, way back when, trying to gain and lose 10 pounds in consecutive months just so that I could feel what the weight of change felt like when it wasn’t attached to desired outcomes. I’ve fallen for NaNoWriMo several times, and before Health Month was a website, it was a challenge amongst friends every January (which Kellianne and I are doing this year too, for old-time’s sake).
I like playing around with the question, “how do you change yourself?” It’s a riddle that seems obvious “just do it, fool!” and impossible “but I can’t!” at the same time. Some things work for some, and not for others.
Teasing out an understanding of why certain strategies work, how to become a better experimenter of my own behavior, and how to help others change their behaviors, is where I’m currently focusing my interest.
New year resolution thoughts, in no particular order.
- Rather than making goals or resolutions this year, I’m going to be more intentional about cultivating specific interests.
- My current interests are:
- Behavior change
- Mentoring, and being mentored (inspired by Diana Kimball)
- “Good” gamification
- Life lists
- Non-violent communication
- Radical honesty
- Transparency (recently re-inspired by Avi Muchnick)
- Sustainable health (good example from Summer Tomato)
- Awesome mornings (via Tony Stubblebine)
- I have an idea for combining interest-cultivation with mentoring that I hope to explore on a meta-level with all of this.
- The reason to focus on interests rather than goals or resolutions, for me, is to place the emphasis on the enjoyable elements rather than the expected results. Sure, I’d like to weigh less, but the only way to get there and stay there is to find new enjoyment in healthier eating habits, a clearer head, and a less of a eating/drinking-to-self-medicate mentality.
- I’m gonna create a hashtag for each of my interests, and track thoughts, articles, etc that come up. Then I can collect them on busterbenson.com and see how my interests progress, wax, wane, etc.
- If it’s interesting enough, I’ll open it up to others.
- That is all.