Monday, January 2, 2017

My Thoughts on Why I believe the Life Upgrades Method will work

A big part of why I've created this system for the New Year is that a lot of people are hoping the willpower they have on December 31st of this year will compel them all the way through next year. Knowing this, there are a couple of factors here that I hope will actually make this method more compelling and manageable. Some of this comes from personal experience, while also incorporating what many experts state about acquiring new habits.

  1. Giving Future You a Break - If you've ever packed your gym bag and climbed into your cozy warm bed, only to discover that the morning version of you has zero intention of actually getting out of said bed to workout, you've experienced the crux of resolutions. You're making plans for a future version of yourself to do things that current you doesn't really want to do long term. By giving yourself a cut off date for each weekly task, and enough variety that they can wiggle out of it without much guilt, you're frontloading some willpower that future you will appreciate.
  2. Leveling Up - As the saying goes, an object in motion stays in motion. That is, until we enter the workforce. I believe that given the first 20+ years of our life were about leveling up through education, height (I can now get on that ride!), finances, etc. we still have a strong desire to level up in life, which is why the fitness and self-help industry are always booming. By creating a system like this, you are leveling up weekly, while learning a lot about yourself. Authors like Tim Ferriss have documented their forays into Self-Experimentation, testing the boundaries of their physical and mental capabilities. I have done a few 30 day fitness challenges, and they make the day more fun and rewarding. Who doesn't want that?
  3. One Task at a Time - Many people set a lot of New Year's Resolutions that they attempt to tackle at the same time. But with just getting back to work, winter weather and travel, post-holiday finances, and post-holiday blues (no vacations until Summertime!!), trying to muster willpower out of thin, dry, cold air is pretty difficult. Since you only need to do one task each week, and can save a more difficult or daunting task for later in the year, you can build your tasks around when life is more accommodating.
  4. Adding, not Abstaining - A lot of Resolutions end up being about abstaining from things - food, alcohol, etc. Starting off the year with all the things you aren't supposed to do is just pointing you in the wrong direction. You're focused on Past You and what they did that you want to avoid, rather than what Present You wants to accomplish. There's something great in thinking about all the Life Upgrades you'll gain in the coming year, rather than all the resolutions you didn't stick to. You can literally Upgrade Your Life any week of the year, rather than waiting for January 1st.
  5. Systems, not Goals - You may have noticed that nowhere in this process did you set a goal or endpoint for any area of life or task. This was one of the key takeaways I gained from Scott Adams' writing, and given his understanding of human behavior, I'm confident he's correct in this. I deliberately avoided the word "goal" to insure that you are never heading for a destination that you will or will not get to. Think of this system as opting to fly First Class rather than Coach. You're still going the same direction, but your experience will be calmer, more comfortable, more fulfilling. This is the journey of life, and you get to decide how you get there. 

I'll be posting how this process goes for me and would love to hear from you as well. Thank you for reading and wishing you much success in your journey!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Free Trial Subscription - Life Upgrades Part 3

If you've completed Parts 1 and 2 of the Free Trial Subscription - Life Upgrades, it's now time to learn about Weekly Reflections, A/B Testing and How to Stay Motivated.

Step 4 - Weekly Reflections and A/B Testing

Weekly Reflections are a helpful way to A/B Test the efficacy of each new task. You may end up adopting every new task as an essential and valuable part of your life, but if your weekly reflections shows it wasn't that effective, why would you keep it up? These tasks are like a free trial for a product. Weekly reflections are where you sign-up or opt-out, or even re-negotiate better terms that work for you.

On the final day of the week, but before you start planning for the next task, please take a few minutes to answer the following:

Weekly Reflections Questions

  1. How did this week's task go? (Write freely and at length. You might discover something valuable you hadn't realized that the task brought about.)
  2. Did you feel the task was a positive addition to your life?
  3. How would you adjust the task to make it more effective?
  4. Do you want to continue doing this next week?
  5. If not, can you adapt a version that you will want to continue, or is the task not adding enough given the effort?

That's it! Those five questions should help you determine whether the task is a net positive, a challenge but worth tweaking and continuing, or a novel trial that doesn't fit into your life. Either way it goes, you'll have a new skill, tool or understanding about how you work and what adds to your life.

Preparing for the Next Week

Looking at the following week, if on Saturday you find you are not motivated to do the next task, and I mean zero interest, not just a sense of wanting to avoid an upcoming obligation, grab your original list and find a task in that same life category that does excite you and swap it in. A lot of the joy in life comes from the planning phase, which plants the first seeds of motivation. Take some time on that Saturday to do research on what others have said about that task or method, and how it's helped them. Hit up a bookstore or library, go to Youtube or find a local expert and build up an arsenal of facts and information that you can weaponize against any excuses or malaise that may try to sneak in in the coming week. And if you need some additional help, bring in some Rewards and Motivators.

Bonus -  Rewards and A/B Testing Your Motivators

In theory, doing these tasks would be reward enough, but who am I kidding?!?! We all need a little extra motivation here and there.

Small Rewards can help if willpower starts to fail. Usually the reward is something you have had to abstain from because of the task (TV, junk food, sleeping in, etc.) but I would also suggest small purchases that you won't get to use until a certain task has been completed. A friend of mine keeps a box with unopened items that she's been given or ordered that she won't access until she's exercised a certain number of days. Hey, it worked on us as kids, it may very well work on us now. Take that new purchase and store it in a special spot with the goal in mind that you'll get it once your task is complete.

See It! - You may also like the daily experience of physically seeing your accomplishments completed. If this is you, creating a physical calendar where you can put a big X on each day that you complete the day's task might be the feedback that your mind enjoys. Place it somewhere that you'll see it daily, and make it aesthetically pleasing so it adds to the room.

Accountability Partners can help keep you focused by checking in on your progress and reminding you why you started this in the first place. Ideally, they would be working on something that you could support them in as well. Additionally, there are online communities for just about everything nowadays, so if you can't find a friend, you may be able to make a new one with your shared task interest.

Public Declarations can be a great way to stay motivated, but I caution that some studies show that just stating that you will do a challenge can give you the same rush of actually doing the challenge before you've even started, especially as pre-challenge congratulations start rolling in. Test this one for yourself to see whether it's better for you to keep it a secret, or if the thought of public shame is compelling enough.

Bet On It - Sometimes having a little skin in the game helps. There are Online Apps where you can place small wagers on whether you'll get to the gym or jog a certain distance, and . If your task doesn't work for these apps, you can make the commitment that if you don't complete it, you'll have to donate X amount of dollars to a charity that you like, or more deviously motivating, one that you don't want to support. Signing up for a class, thus creating a financial transaction and a loss if you don't attend, can also be a motivator.

A/B Test Your Motivators

While you're doing your tasks, tinker with each of these rewards/motivators to see which works best for you. This is, again, incredibly valuable information that you can use in other areas of your life or down the line with more challenging weekly tasks. A big part of this entire process is gathering information about what works for you, so don't skip out on realizing that having a high end chocolate bar sitting unopened in the cupboard or a friend who expects you to call them after you complete your task can be applied to any number of situations in your life to help you push through when you need it.

So one more question to add to your Weekly Reflections would be

  1. What was the key motivator for me in doing this task? 

In some cases, the task itself may have been motivating enough, or it may have been a promise you made to someone you love. It could be a mentor or role model that you admired enough to push you through. Again, the information gained from this single question can end up being used in other areas of your life to push you through a daunting challenge.

I'd love to hear from you on how this goes for your chosen tasks and motivators. Again, these are all small trials that when added up over a year, can lead to some great personal data and insight, as well as some major Life Upgrades. It's all in how you build and apply it.


I suggest Bookmarking this page so you can come back to it at the end of the week for the Weekly Reflections questions. I plan to copy and paste these questions into a Word doc so I can look back at them at the end of the year for insight as well as a journal of the year's accomplishments, which can be a great motivator for the following year.