you couldn’t pay me not to neglect this blog

I am not one to make resolutions, although there’s plenty I’d like to do or re-commit to doing like getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night or keeping in better touch with my friends. I don’t have a “new year, new me” philosophy; the new year serves as more of a checkpoint for me to evaluate my progress. But I suppose there aren’t any rules about it, and in the end, the differences in perspectives is insignificant.

At the very least, I avoid the term resolution because I don’t have a positive view of it. I like to tell people that if I’m going to use some arbitrary marker of time for some rebirth, it should be on my birthday when my new year really starts.

But plenty of us do (or at least 45%), and I get the feeling that this time of the year is when people are most likely to purchase or download apps to help them accomplish their goals. One very popular resolution is to become fit in some way, and when I was flying last week, I read about an app called Beeminder in Spirit magazine. It’s an incentive service in which you stick to your goals or pay however much money you pledged to stay on track with your health (or other) goals.

I first encountered this type of service in my undergrad, and it always seemed to be just a slightly better racket than paying a monthly fee to have the option of going to the gym. But you have to be motivated and confident to place a larger wager on yourself in the first place.

I think a better app is Fitsby. It was featured yesterday in Lifehacker. It socializes the experience so that you’re kept accountable by your friends. In this model, if you don’t go to the gym, your money goes to your friends. I think the added element of pride or fear of judgment is a greater incentive than money alone.

While I generally like the software innovations around setting goals and productivity (age-old issues), I find that I’m generally not motivated by these things. Personally, it would keep me accountable for 2-3 weeks, but its novelty would wear off.  Actually, knowing that my attention span is about that long, I’ve learned that chunking things into short term efforts are the best way for me to complete something.

If I don’t set up and invest in something to be completed within a month or two, I can have a difficult time actually getting it done.  In terms of fitness, this has usually been in the form of running or biking events. I’ll still only do what seems sufficient prior to the actual event, but by signing up for progressively challenging events I’m still able to push myself past maintenance mode.

I think many people want to see significant change in their lives, but you can start to see why I try not to package it as a resolution. A lofty goal is nice, but unrealistic for most–especially in terms of sustaining real change (I’ve completed both a half-marathon and a double-century cold; they weren’t pretty, and it took me a while to get back into running and biking in a serious way). I had to figure out what works for me–and even before that, admitting that I was not the type of person that could always just hammer away for the sake of doing so.

These lessons have fed into a lot other things I do, but I know there’s more than enough room to improve. Fortunately, always trying to do so is at least one resolution I’ll ever need to make.

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