Anyone who knows me more than five minutes knows that I am never one to do something half-way. I tend to “over attempt”, as I sometimes enjoy saying. Historically, this has led me into situations where I have so many things going on that it’s impossible to accomplish everything, and I wind up getting carried away in a current of stress, frustration, and anger at myself.
This year is no different… and yet, it’s completely different. This year, I am changing my habits, changing my lifestyle, and finding new ways to keep motivated. My goals for the year are ambitious; they may even be among the most difficult goals I have ever set for myself. I want to lose 80-100 pounds, I plan to participate in my first marathon, and I want to go the full year without missing my daily step goal on Fitbit or going over my daily calorie goals on MyFitnessPal. I want to get to a point where eating healthy is my new normal and not something I’m doing to lose weight. I want to hack my life and make it better.
There’s no denying the fact that I love gaming. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone (though I have to admit, it was for me) that gamification is turning out to be a massive source of motivation and positive reinforcement for me when it comes to changing my habits and my lifestyle. I have joined a six-month DietBet, which essentially forces you to put your money where your goals are. The challenge is to lose 10% of your body weight (in my case, about 27 pounds) in six months. Each month has its own intermediate goal, and I am hoping to keep up a 2 pound/week pace for the duration of the challenge (putting me down ~50 pounds by the end). I have also started taking advantage of the social aspects of Fitbit and MyFitnessPal. I have used both of these on and off for the past several years, but I always treated them as solo adventures. Now, I have friends and family who help motivate me through direct competitive challenges and mutual encouragement. One of the last big pieces of the puzzle, and the most literal example of gamification, is the website HabitRPG. This site turns your habits, daily tasks, and to-do items into a literal game. You have a character (and can group together in a party with friends), and you gain experience, levels, and gold by completing your tasks and positive habits every day. Negative habits (such as eating junk food or skipping a workout) damage your character. On top of being a fun way to get things done, HabitRPG is open source, so I have been helping out with code and fixes for the site (something I listed among the items in my recent bucket list post).
I have no delusions that what I am doing this year is ambitious. Some people (you know who you are, and I love you for it) would say I am crazy for trying to do so much. They are probably right, but something feels different this time around. I know I am setting a large number of goals for myself this year. But they all feed into one another in a way that makes it impossible to cut any one or two items out of the bunch. In the past, I have tried to to so many things that I wound up spreading myself too thin. That would inevitably lead to becoming overwhelmed and unable to focus on any one thing, eventually resulting in my stress level reaching a point that I wind up dropping the ball on everything. This year I am setting a lot of goals for myself. But this time around, they all work in harmony. In order to keep up with my DietBet, I need to pay attention to my calorie intake as well as exercise regularly. By exercising, I keep up with my step goal every day. On top of this, my work’s insurance plan has incentives to be healthy; if I keep up with the things I already want to do, I set myself up to get extra money deposited in my HSA account. On top of the fact that my goals reinforce each other, the fact that I am taking advantage of the social aspect of all of these sites as well as joining friends and co-workers. If ever I find myself lacking motivation, there’s always someone there to encourage me.
The last couple months of 2014 were full of ups and downs (more of that in a later post, perhaps), but I have to say that the first two months of 2015 have been totally different. I am more motivated than I have been in a long time. I am more optimistic about the future. And most of all, I am happier than I have been in a long time. Every day, my son does something new to melt my heart. I am looking forward to a year of changing my life for the better and accomplishing some of the most ambitious goals I have ever set for myself. With the help of my friends and family, by this time next year I will be nigh unrecognizable. I don’t expect it to be easy, but this is one game that I don’t intend to lose.