Experiment on Sandbagging and Travel: Part II

Conclusions (Did it work?):
I’d tentatively say…yes, but it’s hard to say without doing a control. I’ve never gone to the gym while traveling, and I’ve never had that much control over food while traveling. Doing an advanced HIIT was incredibly. Meditating during conferences, writing on the plane and during freetime at a conference…incredible, things I wouldn’t have thought possible for me.

Is it directly because I artificially sandbagged the system beforehand or have I just improved in general? I really can’t say. I did however learn several interesting things.

What I learned:
Patterns: There seemed to be an odd pattern or sense of balance for what I did and didn’t do. If I had excellent control over eating, I didn’t do meditation. If I exercised, I didn’t do writing. I set up a rudimentary scale counting each full completion as a 1 and a partial as a .5 out of 5 elements - eating, writing, exercising, food, and meditation. Here’s how it came out:
Day 1 - 3/5
Day 2 - 3/5
Day 3 - 3/5
Day 4 - 3/5
Day 5 -  0  

Despite the Reproducability Debacle, in my experience, the idea of Willpower as one depleteable resource seems to constantly prove itself true.

Challenge: I also got this odd sensation that this felt so much like a 30 day challenge, and everything that could be applied to them could be applied to this. Like 30 Day challenges, flash diet type exercises seemed to spur on my control. It also strongly felt as though it was its own progression. That is, the art of doing things while traveling is its own skill that progresses.

I can’t point to any data, but that’s how I strongly felt - like a new habit, you kind’ve scrabble around to get a hold of it for a bit at first, and only then do you actually make progress. Which is interesting because now I want to travel again to test it all out and grow more!

Possible strategies:
1) Flash diet everything. Take a pic of everything that needs to be done.
2) I feel gamification, even a pen and paper one, would work really well here. The competitive spirit really seemed to work mentally to doing stuff. There was this girl whom I’ll talk about more, who worked out every day early in the morning, and after talking about it with her she asked if I was going to show up at 5 am like her. I didn’t, I showed up at 7, but the challenge got to me. That should be harnessed.
3) Record. I failed miserably at this. Jotting down notes at the end of the day or at the beginning needs to happen. This is difficult because there were some days where I had to struggle to crawl into bed to pass out instantly. They had us running around a lot.
4) Wake up early…I managed to do this for two workouts, and that NEVER happens.
5) Eat regularly. Several breaks in willpower occurred after not eating. It’s easier to have control with everything, especially food, if you’re not quite ravenously hungry.
6) Implementation Intention! I did not do this and I knew better. Going in not having a plan makes you default to unproductive behaviors.

Overall:
I think this was an excellent experiment. And I will be able to do this again. I believe the best thing is to add just one thing. I did the sandbagging, it worked to an extent. If I just add an additional strategy, just one, it might contribute to the overall progress of this skill.

Photocred: lab notebook by Calsidyrose, all other pics by me and my insta account

Skill Pushes and a Looming Problem: Strategies

I have a few ideas on how to juggle the problem of multiple skill pushes:

The Cast Method - making sure everything is exactly the same, or minimal, while ratcheting up a skill. For example, increasing rowing from 20 minutes to 30 minutes while keeping everything the same. This method is usually based in fear for me because I don’t want my whole routine to fall a part (like it has in the past). Another better method MIGHT be…

Sandbagging - I initially viewed this method to implement habits, but I think it could be used as a safe diagnostic tool to discover where the breaking point is. Take two or more skills, push them, and as soon as things start to get wobbly, drop back all skills to normal levels except one. I believe that this will also solidify that one skill’s advanced practice.

Fracturing - Cycling practice. When I had a daily practice of 1 hour of cardio at the gym, I usually did an hour of recumbent cycling. But it was pretty boring. It was actually easier to break it up and do half on the cycle and half on the treadmill, or into 3 with the last 1/3 on the elliptical. I feel this would really work well with practice that involves an extension of time.

Gamification - NanoWriMo, the Flash diet, I feel this is fantastic for 30 day challenges. I actually think it’s better for pushing skills than it is for making skills habits. 

Ritual - I keep meaning to write a massive post on rituals. The idea for me is that these small things ease the transition between the normal day and the place in the mind where difficult things happen. For example, when I was trying to establish a non-bracketed habit of recording my food, I made tea. I got to the point where I really enjoyed the process, and so I enjoyed the quiet time before bed where I recorded.

I did the same with writing for a while, and it’s something I still need to fiddle around with. Personally I think Ritual is like a proto- or ur-game or motivation - it just helps to lower that starting threshold, whether it’s starting or pushing a habit.

Changing multiple skill variables to maintain equilibrium- I mentioned one example of this already - my 8 week HIIT cycle, where it folded really well into my already established rowing habit. I think it worked because though it was more intense it wasn’t longer - equilibrium was maintained so there was no real load to the system. I think I have more problems increasing my base time. I like the idea of this best.

The Dragon Ball Z Kung Fu Method - Artificially intensifying practice in order to then lower it to higher base levels, but nowhere near the levels set during the initial push. 

In the cartoon DBZ and in many legendary “iron” kung fu trainings a practitioner would weigh himself down, or in the anime, train at weighted artificial gravity. After getting thoroughly used to the weight, they’d take the vest off and then would be able to fly, have preternaturally fast reflexes, or be incredibly light on their feet.

When I did NaNoWriMo, where some days required 13,000 words, going back to my normal writing quotas was incredibly easy. But I haven’t deliberately done this technique very much, so it would be interesting to practice this.

Where does this leave us?

So while my normal “Cast Methodology” relies on a natural growth in willpower to lift the extra load, gamification and ritual seem to lighten the new weight. Sandbagging and the DBZ Method both use comparisons in feeling and temporariness to advance practice. Changing variables and fracturing appear to cause as little load as possible. 

And fracturing also uses the feeling of doing multiple things to fool the mind into thinking things are going faster - it’s like hanging out with a friend. You go to one place for an hour, and it may be tedious, but go to three places in that hour and it feels like you’ve done a lot more and you know that person more. Depth of experience or relationship in this case acts as a stand in for depth of practice.

I still don’t know what skills I plan on moving forward, but this at least gives me a bit more clarity on my options.

photocred: chess by Ruocaled, ritual by rahul rekapalli, shaolin by Sven Laqua

Towards an Identity Model of Habits: Part I

My buddy James is a vegetarian.
I am not a morning person.
I’m a reader of fantasy books.

Remember those statements, ’cause I’m going to reference ’em later.

In the last few years I’ve been experimenting with various models of self improvement. Before I officially started this project I assumed that motivation was a significant catalyst for self change. After seeing it as a perennial problem (I can get psyched up for gym going starting on New Years, but it peters out pretty quickly, and the cycle repeats next year) I switched to other things.

I dabbled in gamification, because I saw its addictive properties as lowering willpower thresholds. Like motivation, it worked, but only for a while.

I’ve since focused on habits for the last two years, and though I’ve had a great deal of success, they’re only foolproof in relatively basic and linear behaviors. When things get complicated that paradigm just isn’t enough.

How are they not enough?
The linear model – what BJ Fogg advocates, of starting a Tiny Habit, reaching that hook point of automaticity, then naturally increasing difficulty, repetitions, or length of time until you achieve mastery – doesn’t seem to fully work all the time. Or rather it really falls a part when you’re pushing habits to mastery, which I see as another vector of effort (regimention/willpower and endurance/forming a habit being the other two vectors).

That vector involves plateaus in skill and the maddening frustration of constantly doing a task that is at least slightly above your current level.

It also runs into trouble when you’re dealing with families of skills. I advocate this not only because families can support each other, but in a world where time is of essence (we die, our bodies wear out), skills that have an accrual across time are necessary to start now to gain the benefits of daily minimums across time. If I start a habit of cardio 30 minutes a day, I may not master it. I might not get my goal of a six pack until I nail my eating habit. But for as long as I’m exercising, I’m accruing secondary cardio “points”.

Pushing skills in the vector of skill advancement throws a huge wrench into the equation because of habit harmonics. A dissonance starts – extra effort in one skill affects the solidity of other habits.

But the biggest problem with my current model is that it doesn’t attenuate in more complicated behaviors.

Let’s go back to the original three statements.

My buddy James is a vegetarian. When we go out and eat he avoids meat. In all scenarios. After the bars while tipsy and ordering pizza late at night, when going to a restaurant with friends with crappy vegetarian options, even in one place that had amazing pork tacos.

I do the same thing with fantasy books. It’s not as though I decide to read them – I HAVE to read them. It’s not even a choice. I need to have those few minutes before bed to scratch that itch and if I don’t have at least an option loaded on my Kindle, I start to get all itchy. The world is not right.

The inverse is important to analyze – I’m not a morning person. My waking up early is either a fluke or a deliberate preparation if I need it. Morning people are morning people because they enjoy it or they just are that way – it’s totally independent from fluctuating conditions. If they’re out late the night before, they still wake up early.

For all three – it’s an identity that’s welded in. It’s not what you do, it’s part of who you are, which not only makes it stronger, it also is able to somehow adapt incredibly well to changing conditions. Choice is also almost entirely scrubbed out of the equation.

For me this becomes an issue with eating and getting up early. All the other habits I consider foundational are easy. Working out – no problem, barring travel, it’s once a day at a certain time. Same with writing, meditating, and if I add flossing or recording finances. It’s a matter of if-then protocols – implementation intentions.

For eating that gets insanely complicated – it’s multiple times a day, across changing circumstances, etc. I believe it’s the reason I’ve had to scrap the habit several times, even when I’ve maintained it for close to a year. It just never stuck. And this is a big problem – eating is incredibly important for health, energy, and weight loss. It also has the biggest impact for whether I can socialize well later in the program – I don’t want to go out to meet people and, because of lack of willpower, blow out a previous habit of making good food decisions.

mask by 派脆客 Lee, tack by Zaheer Mohiuddin, welder by Per Hortlund

The Quarter Way Blues

Over the last few days I’ve experienced a drain of energy. 4 days ago I wrote my 750 words, but didn’t do my kettle bell/stretch routine. And the last three days it’s felt like I needed to expend more effort to do my exercises.

There are many explanations for this. I’m approaching the end of a year of intense travel and I’m about to go home - every time I’ve approached this time in the past I’ve felt my discipline go way down. I’ve also been extending my workouts so they are more draining - I’ve been incorporating a back bend progression and bodyweight exercises like squat thrusts, mountain climbers, and crab toe touches (I’ll describe these some more in another post) in order to have them primed for times I can’t bring my kettle bells.

But it is interesting that this dip in will is happening on day 50, roughly a quarter of the way through my projected habituation cycle for exercising.  And it’s not just will - it’s also my mood, with more frequent bouts of sadness, depression, and frustration.

And if I recall other times when I’ve attempted 90 day transformations I had the same set of emotions - it’s understandable that this would happen after the beginning where everything is new and spirits are up, and after the time when you see a lot of improvement. You’re left just chugging along with no hope, and you start wondering why you’re even doing it. 

This is actually a great thing because it confirms, at least emotionally, my theory that ¼ of the way into a habit is the hardest part. It’s where I should start using gamification to counter this low point.

Is this confirmed by the SRHI index? I’m not sure. I took it a week ago, and 750 words = 74 while exercising = 43. These stayed roughly the same when I took it today (750=73, exercising = 43). Looking at the exercising habit, I was quite surprised - I would’ve sworn that it would be lower - I don’t know if this signifies that this period is a plateau, or if this is just a regular progression. It does signify that I need to make more regular records of my SHRI score. I believe Lally stated in some interview that her problem in her habit formation experiment was that participants weren’t recording their SRHI regularly - perhaps I need to make self reporting a habit in itself!

The Hardest Thing is Not Doing More

Last week I made a decision not to go on a meditation retreat.

I was really interested in doing a 10 Day Vipassana Course. It’s a silent retreat, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. The only problem is that it involves a lot of uncomfortable sitting on the floor, and most beginners report online that it’s incredibly painful - as Westerners we’re not usually used to sitting on the ground for long periods without our legs going numb. During my year in Korea, I got used to it, but it took many months.

I started to practice sitting for long periods of time, tacking it on o my current list of habits, and it was surprisingly painful. I also felt that weight that to me signals willpower depletion - it felt like when I was doing too many habits - that feeling right before I just gave up on every skill I was trying to acquire.

It really does feel with this program that the hardest thing is not jumping into doing more things. Meditation will help me keep focused. Eating right will give me more energy, and I have so many ideas now for apps for gamification that I have to fight urges not to dive into learning programming.

It was a really difficult decision for me, because I felt like I was copping out of going, of just biting the bullet and forcing myself to do it. But I have to remind myself that this is part of the process - I’m trying something new here, something that has thus far worked at least once - 750 words is now a habit. And I know my previous way of doing things hasn’t worked.

Since making the decision not to go, I’ve stopped my timed sits, which has been a relief, both in terms of the pain involved,and a renewed feeling of endurance with regards to practicing my new habit - and I know it will be easier to continue along the process of habituation without such a huge distraction.

But I’m still eying that retreat - and I will go in the future - just not now.

Willpower Over Time Theory

I have another theory that I’ve been turning over in my head for a while.

The hardest thing about a habit isn’t the willpower needed for an individual task. Flossing is an easy task that pretty much stays easy. It’s the STREAK - it’s doing it over time that becomes a drag. 

My theory is that Willpower is one aspect of the equation, but it’s Willpower over time that’s the real issue for any given habit. Call it persistence, endurance, doggedness, or tenaciousness - but it’s what caused me to make 750 words a habit despite having periodic setbacks.

I feel it reacts differently than Willpower - after about 2 months of working out, it’s not as though working out becomes difficult in that instance - it just becomes exhausting when it comes to the streak.

The reserve that fuels the act of extending the activity over time gets depleted, while the actual activity remains the same.


Furthermore, in my theory, as I have eluded to before, after a quarter of the way into a habit, Endurance becomes heavily depleted, while for Lally, it just becomes more and more easy.

And gamified programs, (although I’m sure they help lower the threshold with regards to Willpower) through their emphasis on badges over time and accumulating streaks, help the most with regards to Endurance depletion - Or whatever we should  call it.

There is a researcher - Dr. Angela Duckworth - who recently won the MacArthur Research Grant, who may be doing research into whatever this is. I’ll get into that in the next post.

Too Many Attempts at Habit Formation

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In the last week or so since getting back my self discipline has been all over the board. I’ll be able to do 2-3 tasks, but I won’t be able to accomplish the full 4 and the additional “test” task I had of eating well.

One of two things is happening - either not hit my groove again from my vacation, OR I’ve hit my limit of willpower to accomplish those tasks.

If we say it’s the second one, it makes sense. Instead of waiting for a requisite amount of time to create a habit, THEN adding another task, I’ve just been adding another task every week, which doesn’t at all fit into the research I’ve been reading about willpower and habit formation.

Since I’ve come back from my vacation, I’ve been generally keeping up with 750 words and meditation, but things like Duolingo & Habit RPG have been falling through the cracks, with my test skill, eating right using Epic Win being hit or miss as well.

This is a good thing in that my actual actions seem to mimic the research I’m reading. It’s a bad thing because I’m going to have to re-do my overall plan for this project. Oh well. A part of all of this is knowing that I’m not going to hit the mark the first time - it’s about learning and adapting.

Back From Vacation

As I might have mentioned in another post, I just got back from a vacation. During this interlude, I put myself in the “Tavern” in HabitRPG and allowed myself to have a few drinks. I didn’t hold to doing 750 words daily. And didn’t do Duolingo or my daily meditations.

Two things about this.

One, I need to figure a way to continue being rigorous about my discipline through such interludes. There will always be interruptions, and I think the key to all of this is to soldier on despite them. Now for this trip, there were times I really didn’t have time to do my 750 words or Duolingo, and that’s fine. BUT it was not a reason to drink because that action can be done anywhere. Just a thought.

But secondly, I’ve found it really difficult to get back on track. I initially felt like I could get back “on the wagon” for all habits the next day after coming back, but instead it’s taken me a while to get over what I’ll call habit inertia. And that’s another good reason to power through vacations or other interruptions in some way or another. It’s just plain difficult to get started again.

Well I’m back on today - so far I’ve completed my meditation, 750 words, I’ve gotten out of the tavern on HabitRPG, and I’ll be doing my Duolingo shortly.

Notes on Experimentation

Lally’s experiments on self-discipline got me thinking about experiments I could possibly perform on the subject. Here are a few thoughts:

1. If there is an automaticity index, is there a happiness or willpower index? If not, is it possible to com up with them?

2. Does mood affect willpower? It seems like it does given my experience with the effect of humorous videos on ego-depletion.

3. According to Lally’s study, different actions take different amounts of time to develop into habits - Do actions that take less willpower to develop automaticity take an equal amount of time to lose automaticity? Or Do they take more time?

4. What other actions rejuvenate willpower?

5. Does relaxation affect willpower?

6. What is an optimal willpower workout?

7. How many actions are optimal for habit formation? Given 6 actions that have a similar “will power” and automaticity value, how many actions are “stackable” - what is the likelyhood that 2 vs 6 actions will achieve full automaticity.

8. Is there an automaticity constant that can be derived from specific actions? If automaticity can be mapped, and if will can be mapped, then shouldn’t there be a value derived for willpower and automaticity for a given action?

9. Do actions that rejuvenate ego-depletion have the same affect or do they diminish? Can I exert willpower, then rejuvenate willpower, and repeat ad infinitum? Or does each rejuvenation yield fewer and fewer “willpower points?

These are all rather vague notions, but I think it’s important to note them so that they can be examined in detail later.

Travel and Gamification

I travel for work. I’m going to have to figure out some sort of protocol to incorporate gamification through (or around) travel.

Since I have a smart phone, some things are easy. Meditation, no problem - Level Me Up is a mobile app only. Duolingo has a mobile option as well. But HabitRPG doesn’t have a mobile app yet and 750 words is a little bit trickier because ideally I would like to not have to haul around my laptop.

Perhaps I should invest in a fold-able full size keyboard and a mobile word processing program for my phone…

Plateau Busting

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Plateaus seem to be THE thing that confounds everyone.

Let’s say someone wants to learn a musical instrument. There’s an “onboarding” period where people learn a ton and feedback is great. It’s new and exciting and you want to continue with vigor. Then you hit the slower steady progress. You are still getting feedback, and you are making progress so you continue - but it’s the daily grind.

Then you hit the plateau, where you work and work but don’t notice any visible improvement. That’s where most people give up, and the habit (and learning) stops.

There are a few methods for getting through plateaus. For one, just sheer willpower - either yours, or for many in school, their parent’s. The other is to vary practice so that you don’t get bored of the routine. Another is to KNOW that it’s there - the theory is that knowledge itself of the plateau will allow you to save up willpower, which you’ll use to bust through the plateau. And another method is to take a break and come back - “resetting” your habit processors so to speak.

The point of this endeavor is really about plateaus and willpower. Does gamification lower the amount of willpower needed to get through plateaus? Does this lowered willpower threshold allow for more skills to be habituated at once. It’s really two questions.

1) Sure Duolingo is fun, but will it continue to be fun after 3 or 4 months?

2) The willpower threshold in gamifcation is lowered through engagement - it’s fun. Will this allow me to learn multiple skills and practices - or will I fizzle out because I’m trying to do too many things?

A lot of people seem to roughly calculate the plateau phase of any task as kicking in at three months - and that’s the mark I’ll be looking at closely in the future. I might decide to stagger various strategies to see which ones work and which ones don’t. This will take some tracking, because I started each skill in a staggered way - duolingo first, 750 words a week after, etc.

4th Skill - Meditation

This is the beginning of week 3. So far I have 3 skills I’m working on - Spanish language learning through Duolingo (Level 8), daily writing through 750words (8 day streak, not drinking through HabtitRPG (Level 2) - which I hope to expand into general nutrition).

This week I want to add on meditation/mental health.

I’ve ramped up to this by occasionally using Level Me Up.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m uncertain if this is the best program to use because it’s quite linear - you level based on time and that’s really it. Habit RPG might be better but again - just not sure yet.

I’m using my own meditation sequences that I’ve found very helpful in the past - they’re based on the work of Shinzen Young, Mark Cunningham, and Steve Piccus. I’d like this to be a daily practice at least because it affects my mood for the rest of the day.

I really like these scripts, but I might later try expand by using SuperBetter.

Habit RPG and Habits of Omission Part 2

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I’ve decided to not only NOT drink alcohol, but also coffee, which tends to make me worried and nervous.

I’ve done this by having a DAILIES - not drinking coffee/beer for a day. This section in Habit RPG is a daily task that gets more and more difficult - so in the game your score gets higher and higher the longer your streak is.


I’ve also created HABITS - specific tasks. I wanted ways to conceive of tasks that are positive rather than simply getting docked for failing to NOT do something.

So every time I refuse a drink, I get points. Every time I don’t drink an alcoholic drink at a bar or social event, I get even more points ( I’ve gone into the advanced features to weight the task as “difficult” thereby giving more points for every successful completion).

According to The Power of Habit, it is easier to replace a task than not do it - so I also get points every time I replace coffee or alcohol with water - and I might also include a replacement with any positive activity, like going for a walk.

Lastly, I’ve decided to use a technique in meditation to fight any cravings. My addiction isn’t physical, it’s more a social habit based on the experience and the art of a finely crafted drink amongst friends, etc. There is a specific technique to bring about a feeling - normally irritation or anger - and then calming the self as a way of practicing avoiding the pitfalls of actions that come from anger.

In this way one instance of practicing bringing about anger/irritation and quelling the emotion is like one rep. I’ve gotten a lot out of that technique when it comes to emotional management, and see no reason why it wouldn’t work with any other emotion. So I’m doing it for alcohol.

I’ll look up pics of drinks or situations, feel the cravings enter, and then practicing dealing with them by relaxing my mind and unhooking the feeling of a stimulus with the craving. I’ll go into more detail on this in another post.

In Habit RPG one “rep” of this will also be a HABIT and I will get points from doing this too.

So far here are the specifics of the game:

-Not drinking a margarita at a Mexican place (Just came up with this one recently) - MEDIUM difficulty, cause I associate the two
-Drinking water as a replacement for alcohol/coffee - Easy
-Not drinking coffee - Easy - not sure if this should be replaced with the later or not
-Not drinking at a bar - DIFFICULT
-Not drinking at a non-bar social event - DIFFICULT
-Not drinking coffee/alcohol for the day

Power of Habit by Werbach and Hunter

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I was really curious about this book because it seems to be the go-to book on gamification. I find it incredibly helpful - here are a few points:

-“behavior-change gamification seeks to form beneficial new habits among a populationp 23

So that’s the official term for what I’m focusing on!


-Problems with boredom

However, if you approach gamification in this way you’ll quickly run into trouble….But these users often get burnt out by the enldess treadmill of points…and abandon the system.

This could be something look out for in programs that either don’t have a leaderboard or don’t hone in on it. For example Duolingo as far as I understand it hones in on friends that are close to you, and those are the only ones that show up on the leaderboard.

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Another interesting aspect - the lack of failure makes you continue in the game.

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This was interesting - at some point just regularly giving rewards isn’t enough - I assume that most games get around this by using badges or quests or whatnot to shake things up

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It’s not just badges, but unexpected badges that work.

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The book also talks about progressions stairs - HOW players level up - a regular progression is boring - games often start with a simple progression (onboarding) because it helps the game become more addicting in the beginning, with every next level getting harder and harder - sometimes called an RPG progression. The book says that this isn’t good enough - a better game will offset this with harder and easier levels so that players can catch their breath and experience a sense of mastery before a challenge.

Habit RPG and Habits of Omission Part 1

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Habit RPG works as a customizable gamification of habits. Basically you input things that are daily habits, and whether or not you can get penalized or get points from an action.  There is also a “daily” section, where not doing a  task penalizes you.

You have an avatar that can get gold, experience to level up, and hit points which can be taken away. You have the option of buying potions, armor, etc. to level up your character.

I like this because it adds an extra dimension to the gamification - many programs allow you to level without an avatar or equipment - I believe that with the avatar and equipment you add an extra level of addiction.

Books like For the Win by Werbach and Hunter (I’ll do a book review of it later) talk about 4 types of players. One category - the explorers - get addicted because they want to discover new aspects to the imaginary situation - they want to know what the next spell is or the new weapon. And that is definitely the kind of player I am.

Unfortunately the other kind of player I am is someone who likes PvP - I like knowing I have the power to destroyer others - I think Werbach and Hunter call these people “killers.”

I’m very curious how HabitRPG compares to something like Fitocracy, which DOES allow for PvP “battles”.

Habits of Omission

I decided to do start two gamified habits this week because one, writing, has to do with work, and this one is a habit of omission.

I suppose you could call it breaking a bad habit, but a lot of psychology seems to suggest that positive reinforcement works better for long term habituation. So “habits of omission” it is.

Specifically the habit I want to break is drinking.

I find that in the habituation game, alcohol is perhaps the absolute worst thing you can do for several reasons.

For one, even a few drinks will sap you of willpower. It actively corrupts discipline and since this entire project revolves around willpower, this is not a good thing.

Also, since I don’t drink regularly, even a few drinks will make me hungover the next day, making it highly unlikely that I will continue in my gamification - and with a day or two away from the game, I run the risk of leaving the game.

Lastly, there are other skills later on that tend to get corrupted by alcohol. Later on I want to gamify eating right, and not only is alcohol not really great, but it tends to give you the munchies. Being hungover is not good for getting into shape when I gamify fitness, nor is it good for mental health. I just read a very great thread on reddit about a guy with mental health issues who was “self medicating” - one redditor responded by saying that the first thing people with mental health issues should do is stop drinking because it exacerbates the situation. I have noted this in my own mental health.

I’ll get into the specifics in another post, because I find that Habits of Omission have to be treated differently.

750words and "Morning Pages" for Writing

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750 Words is one of two gamification programs I’m initiating this week. The concept is based off “morning pages” - where one writes roughly 3 pages on any subject without heavily editing yourself.

Morning pages are used to get thoughts flowing, to get the process of  writing more and more a habitual thing rather than something that only comes when the mood strikes. Often times it’s the first step - just starting to write - that writers have difficulty with. Morning pages attack the problem of perfectionism - the idea that words first written down on a page have to be perfect rather than ones that can be edited later - and therefore help out with procrastination and writer’s block.

And I have all these problems.

I’ve used this with success in the past when I had a particularly bad case of writer’s block. Its something I wanted to do for a while to help out with work and help out with having more output.

750 words gamifies morning pages by making it into a scorecard similar to bowling. You get different badges as you go along, a visual record of progress, the ability to share on sites like facebook, and group challenges.

I ramped up using this program last week, but I’m doing a hard start this week.

Meditation and Mental Wellness Gamification

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I am a big fan of mental wellness, self confidence, meditation, and all that hippy stuff. When I was younger, I used to meditate everyday, but I didn’t really appreciate how I could use it practically until recently (after years of depression and self confidence issues and whatnot).

So I was excited to find that Super Better is a program that gamifies mental health.

Unfortunately, I find it kind’ve….Idunno….scattered. I’ve only fiddled around with the program a few times, but the game options seem very random. I like the fact that it is the only gamified program I’ve seen so far that gives users a choice.

Choice is usually something that’s used in games to get gamers even more addicted - rather than coming up with one situation, you give a player several choices, either implicit or explicit, allowing for more palatable options, and boom, then they’ve got you. So I liked that part.

I’ve found other routines for mental health on my own that I find work incredibly well. What I need is a software that incorporates a personal routine and gamifies that without the need for specifics, and I think I found one example with

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Level Me Up - an iPad/iPhone app, that uses Malcolm McDowell’s (I think other people contributed to this, but he’s the one whose known for it) 10,000 hours theory - 10,000 hours is roughly the amount of time it takes to gain mastery over a skill. The program divvies up this amount of time and has a timer - you can set the program to be linear or more RPG-like - meaning level 1 will be easier to complete, level 2 slightly more difficult, etc.

So far I like this, but I can see it getting really old really fast. There are no badges, no community, just levels that take progressively more and more time. I’ll post a full review on each of these programs later.

I am very curious to see how these small differences in game mechanics affect long-term habituation. The goal is to get addicted to a skill over a longer period, so I’m assuming that having badges and the ability to socialize the game will help to make a habit stick long-term. We’ll see.

"2 Shitty Pages" - Tim Ferriss on Lowered Quotas and Efficiency

Author Timothy Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef) at the 5:06 mark talks about how in daily tasks, lowering quotas allows you to achieve higher productivity. Lowered quotas help lower the inertia of starting tasks, which can be particularly difficult to overcome if you don’t really like the task.

His example is writing, which I personally hate doing in a systematic way. He mentions a particularly prolific friend who would consider the day a win if he produced “two shitty pages.” This is great, because often times it’s just the process of getting through that is difficult - we tend to want to edit as we are writing instead of after the fact. Perfectionism sounds great, but can be debilitating in terms of habituation. This mentality negates the need for perfection.

Programs like NaNoWriMo are particularly successful because they advocate the process of just getting the words onto the page whether they are good or not. Editing comes later, but is less psychologically debilitating than having to write words that need to perfect from the start.

The program I’m fiddling around with now, 750words, advocates the same thing in the form of “morning pages” - a practice that can equally be used for professional writing or to break out of writer’s block.

I’ve noticed that with most of my writing, it’s the act of just getting started that takes forever.