Three milestones and two goals

It is raining milestones this week.

Lift-5000  Calm-101   Calm-broken

I hit 100 day streak in meditation. I started meditating this January but failed rather quickly. I say with experience that trying to start meditation with twenty-minute sessions is a sure shot way to stumble. So I started again in May with Calm app. I started with their beginner program and eventually realized ten minutes a day is more manageable. I have been regular since June. If I didn’t forget to look at Lift on that tiring day in July, my streak would have been 50% longer. Anyhow, I don’t wish things were different.

I completed the third level of push up challenge with 37 push ups in a row. I struggled a bit to move past 35 but my trainer gave me some tips to move forward. The challenge is complete but the practice continues.

All these tiny habits added up to 5000 check-ins since I discovered Lift in July 2013. I don’t like this app’s new name, Coach.me. Lift and Lifter sounds cooler than Coach.Me. So I will continue to call it Lift. Had I not read this post titled Two Tips for Deliberate Practice on  Medium back in 2013, I would have missed this app and the Tiny Habits method it advocates. Reading can change life positively.

As I can already squat 32 KGs and do 37 continuous push ups, I felt it would be great to round off this year with rounding off those numbers as well. So I aim to squat 40 KGs and do 50 push ups by end of 2015. It shouldn’t be difficult as I just need to continue the momentum. But it is easy to set goals than to actually do them. So fingers crossed.

Exercise Milestone

I finished exercising this afternoon and checked in to Coach.me to find this interesting milestone.

200th workout milestone

It is indeed 211th check-in as I only started counting after the first eleven.  110 of those were in 2014. The rest 101 are in this year.

This cheered up my otherwise regretful afternoon. I ate well up until lunch and then screwed it up. Between 1.30 p.m and 3.30 p.m., I had a medium-sized cookie, a small Kitkat, a small peanut butter cookie, and a small piece of cake. I did not pay for any of them except cookie. On a perfect day, I should have had only a fruit or two in the afternoon.

I am generally eating well this year but am dropping ball once in a while, like today. It’s time to level up my eating. I know I can do better. I am also afraid that my less than ideal food habits are eating into my exercise gains. It takes a bit more discipline to eat exceptionally well. Nevertheless, I decided to move on and do well tomorrow. There’s a free cake coming my way tomorrow. I will stay clear of it.

I have slowed down with my push-ups progress. I now reached to 35 in a row but stuck there for the past few days. I am trying hard to push through one or two more after 35 but it is proving difficult so far. I will keep trying.

Elevate milestone

I reached 401 day long streak on Elevate today. I was at 101 last time when I wrote about  this cool educational app.

Elevate combines two of my passions: deliberate practice and building tiny habits. This is what makes me reach out to Elevate as soon as I wake up every morning.

It hurts to break a habit streak. Especially, when it only takes about five minutes a day to build it. It totally sucked when I broke the streak twice, once around 30 days and the other at 52 days. Luckily, I am yet to miss a day since. Until I break the streak again, I will say that it is easy to build streaks on tiny habits :). Touchwood!

Completing three games daily takes about five minutes. It is easy to do, it is also easy not to do, as I recall a note from the fourth chapter of The Slight Edge. It usually takes another five to seven minutes to score perfect games. So it only takes at most fifteen minutes to make the day count and score perfect games. Everyone has fifteen minutes. There are no excuses really. I think this is what has helped me get going.

Following are my stats and Elevate Proficiency Quotient (EPQ). I love how both the app’s design and my EPQ have evolved over time. I did not improve in listening because I always skipped listening games.

                                

EPQ    

Now that I celebrated the 400-day milestone by writing about it, 500, here I come.

James Clear

James Clear is one of my favorite habit bloggers. I came across him sometime last year. I am reading his blog ever since. It changed me for the better. I love his content, consistency, and writing style. His work has been immensely helpful to me while I was forming my habit philosophies.

Until last week he published two high-quality articles every week on his blog JamesClear.com. From this week he is only going to publish only one. I welcome this change, wish him all the best, and look forward to continuing to read his posts.

I can go on talking about the lessons learned by reading his blog. But if I were to pick only one, it is this post titled Identity-Based Habits. And this image in that post sums it up.

Identity-based habits.

“Decide the person you want to be and prove it to yourself with small wins”, he prescribes. This idea has helped set up my exercising habit.

I told myself exactly what’s in that image. I have been consistently showing up three times a week to exercise. I can’t do 100 pushups in a row yet but I did 30 this evening on my toes; my highest ever in a row. I have proved to myself that I can do pushups on my toes, over the last 128 days. I have no plans to stop; so I may be able to do 100 pushups in a row someday. I lost a bit of weight by the looks. Nevertheless, performance and appearance are external and don’t matter as much as my identity. I don’t pretend that performance and appearance are not important. They are. But focusing on them isn’t going to take me far. What if people don’t say anything about my performance? Does that mean I am not performing? Instead, I focus on my identity and see performance and appearance as offshoots.

I have few other identities that I would like to keep to myself at this stage. But the point is, identity is a powerful concept. Once you find who you want to be, it is difficult not to prove your identity to yourself. Do it often times and it becomes your reality.

I have no affiliation with James. I have only emailed him once to thank him for his great work and he thanked me back. But I always like to spread the good work and endorse its creators as much as I can. So go to his newsletter page, scroll down a bit and give your email id. You will learn a thing or two.

Push ups

99 day pushup streakOne of the skills I hoped to develop this year is to learn how to do push ups.

I totally sucked at push ups last year despite exercising 110 hours. I just couldn’t do even a single push up on my toes. So rather than getting frustrated and angry at myself and jealous at others who can do, I decided to sign up for a beginner level push up plan on Coach.Me plan and stick to it.

The result is impressive. Now I can do 20 push ups in a row on my toes. It took 100 days of practice. But each day I practiced only for about two minutes. That is a great return on my investment.

Someone said, the reward for winning a round of game is the eligibility to play next round. Or something on those lines. So here’s to Level 2. And there is Level 3. Like most of the habits I like to build and keep, there is no end date to this habit.

This reminds me: there are no real quantum leaps or secrets formulas in life. Only baby steps when taken consistently, suddenly look like magic.

Mini book review – Better Than Before

Last month I read Gretchen Rubin‘s book on habits titled Better than Before. Thanks to Tony at Coach.me for sending a free copy of this book. I received it in March and I finally got to read it in June.

This book is based on the premise that everyone is different. So there is no universal solution that works for everyone. The key is to find your habit tendency and frame your habits forming strategies around that personality.

Here is The Four Tendencies Quiz to determine your habit tendency. I am an Upholder. I am not surprised by it.

Each chapter introduces a strategy and details how it applies to each of the four tendencies. She shared a lot of her personal stories as well, which is great. There are little nuggets of wisdom all over the book title Secrets of Adulthood, which I liked but I did not highlight them until it was too late.

Everyone needs Four Foundation Habits: Food, Sleep, Exercise, Declutter. Wherever you are and whatever you do, you better be good at them, she advises.

Although I like to declutter as much as possible in my life, I am not convinced that it is a foundational habit. I heard most creatives and high performers are messy. But I don’t dispute the first three.

The chapter I liked the most is about Habit Loopholes. I blogged about it earlier. They help you realize when you are kidding yourself.

This book provided some unique ideas like tendencies  and loopholes which I never came across earlier. For these ideas alone, it is a worthy read.

150 workouts

This evening I exercised for 150th time since I told myself that I will not lose out and workout.

This habit is also an example of how I hoped to deal with my new year resolutions:

Identity – I saw myself as the type of person who never misses the workout. So I only cared to show up. I never worried about the weight I could lift or the weight I lost. There is only one person in our workout group who showed up more times than I did.

Habits and Processes –  5 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Just backpack the workout clothes and shoes. No willpower required.

Evolution  – Compared to when I started, I can hold the band tighter, swing the rope higher and last the plank longer. I am now comfortable with heavier kettlebells. I can finish all the sets and reps on the whiteboard.

I am not after any particular results although I believe that results happen by themselves. I am training for life. So the effort continues.

Habit Loopholes

Last December I took the Design Your Habits: A Hands-On Introduction to Behavior Design course on Skillshare. This is a great short course and I recommend you check it, although it is no longer free, at least for me.

It helped me refresh the classic habits stuff like Habit Loop, tiny actions etc. But a new thing I learned in this class is the Habit Loopholes proposed by Gretchen Rubin of Happiness Project.

A loophole is an another term for excuse. So here are the 6 loopholes she says prevents us from doing our habits.

1. Moral Licensing Loophole
I have been so good. It’s okay for me to do X.
I saved so much by not buying X so I deserve to buy Y.

Danger: The reward for doing your habit is you get to not do it. Messes up habit by training brain that habit is painful.

2. Lack of Control Loophole
My kids/spouse/dog is taking up all my time.
The dog ate my homework.
I am too stressed to deal with this right now.

3. Planning to Fail Loophole.
Oh look, I forgot my workout shoes/shorts today.

4. This Doesn’t Count Loophole
Tries to create a special exception to your commitment.
Classic example: I am on vacation.

5. The Questionable Assumption Loophole.
Operates on an assumption when examined closely, is not a valid assumption at all.
I can’t work until my office is clean

6. Fake Self Actualisation Loophole
Tells you to cast off your responsibilities because life is short.

7. One Coin Loophole
What difference will one day make?
One beer won’t make a difference.

I think being aware of these loopholes is important because as someone said, with better awareness we make better choices. With better choices come better results.

Elevate App

Today I am pleased to learn that the Elevate app is picked by Apple as the best iPhone app of 2014. So well done,  people at Elevate Labs. Your work is awesome.

I discovered and started using this app since this May. I broke the streak twice, once around 30 days and the latest at 52 days. But I am glad to hit a 100 day streak yesterday.

101Streak

It is a very well designed app that trains my brain across a range of cognitive functions like reading, writing, speaking, listening and math. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time and money, so I play the free version which lets me play three bite sized games a day. I can play all three games under 5 minutes and I spend a bit more time if I can, to get excellent scores.
Here is my EPQ:
EPQ

I strongly suggest everyone to check this app and start using it. It is an addiction that will indeed enhance your smarts and thereby your life.