The Green Dot Motivation Method
I started working out every weekday morning about three years ago. Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit. In theory, the plan was for me to work out every weekday morning. In reality, my dedication to that plan was a little spotty. I never totally stopped, but I would never consistently stick to the plan for more than a month or so. Every few months, I’d decide on a new plan. I’d be gung ho, this one was going to stick. And every few months the same thing would happen. I’d find excuses not to do it. I didn’t get good sleep, 30 more minutes would mean I’d be ready for the day. It was kind of chilly, sure felt good under the covers. My knees were kind of hurting, probably shouldn’t overdo it. I overslept, guess I’ll just do 15 minutes of easy yoga today. That counts, right? Skip workout, beat myself up a little for it, rededicate myself to do better, lather, rinse, repeat.
This summer, after a particularly stressful month, I decided to try a mindfulness meditation app. I’d heard a lot of good things about them lately, and thought, why not? I could use something that might help me clear my head a little and deal with stress in better ways. The good news there is it did help, but what I didn’t expect was that it also gave me the solution to my workout problem.
You see, the app tracks your sessions. It gives you a profile update after every session that tells you how long your streak is. “You’ve meditated 27 straight days.” Not only that, it shows you a calendar with a green dot on every day that you’ve meditated. That’s motivating to me. I don’t want to break that streak. I want to keep those green dots coming!
After a couple of months of doing this and building a heck of a meditation streak while still messing up on consistency in my workouts, I had an epiphany. If the green dots on the calendar keep me going on the meditation, why wouldn’t it work for exercise? Use Silicon Valley’s strategies to get me addicted to an app to get myself addicted to a habit. I printed a 12-month calendar, tacked it to a bulletin board, and dug out a green marker. Every day I did my planned workout, I marked the day with a green dot. Days turned to weeks, weeks are now months, and I will do anything to avoid breaking that streak. Now I’m thinking of other colors and habits – maybe orange for getting up on time, red for doing something nice for someone else, blue for getting through my to-do list.
Do you have a goal in your life? Maybe a habit you’re trying to start, like making a weekly networking call? Or one you’re trying to break, like getting distracted by all the electronic interruptions that we all face? I’d like to suggest getting a calendar and a marker. You can go high-tech if you prefer, there are calendars on all our phones and apps for everything. It’s amazing how powerful a motivator visibly maintaining a streak can be.