My Habits

Streak counts last updated: November 25, 2016

This page lists and describes the habits I am tracking with my habit tracker of choice – Goal Streaks. Few  of these habits are so ingrained that I would do them every day without the motivation of not breaking the streak (or chain). But continuing the streak is sufficient motivation that I get up early to meditate while camping, mediate in busy airports, floss late at night after too many drinks, and do various habit activities when I’m tired and would rather not bother.

So here they are. Each one shows the number of days for the current streak and the number of days for the longest streak. Where there is only one number, the current streak is the longest.

Floss – 782

Flossing is good for your teeth and gums. My dentist friend, Vince, tells me that that if he had to choose between brushing his teeth and flossing, he would choose flossing. But it seems so much effort at night when I’m tired. There’s no positive outcome to point to, just the lack of a negative outcome. So I use Goal Streaks to motivate me to floss.

Meditation (25 minutes) – 0, 117

Meditating is for me an act of faith. Faith that something good will happen. There’s plenty of evidence that meditation is good for people, both emotionally and physically, but because there’s no dramatic change it’s still an act of faith for me. I like Nightline anchor Dan Harris’ claim about meditation – it makes him 10% happier. I did a 10 day Goenka silent meditation retreat in 2007 and think it was useful but then meditated only very sporadically for the next few years. But a little voice tells me that it’s a good thing to do, so here I am. Interestingly, I still feel a bit embarrassed admitting I meditate, but fortunately Tanya is very encouraging about this habit, even though she chooses not to meditate herself.

Update: Also, as of 12/9/14, I’ve added 5 minutes of loving-kindness meditation, so I’m now doing 25 minutes, and am using Repeat Timer to time the initial 20 minutes meditation and the extra 5 minutes of loving-kindness meditation. In the loving-kindness meditation I go through as many people as I can and, while picturing them in my mind, think – for example – “May Tanya be filled with love and kindness; may she be well. May she be peaceful and at ease; may she be happy.”

Update: As of 2/3/2016 I basically haven’t meditated for a year, except sporadically.

Pushups (4 days a week) – 0, 110

Pushups are a physical effort and a bit of a worry*, but there’s no act of faith. With pushups I can tell that I’m getting stronger – I have now done (once) 40 consecutive pushups, whereas when I started I could barely do 10. In fact, when I started doing pushups after getting Goal Streaks, I was only able to do them for two days before I had to take two days off because my pecs were so sore. I haven’t done pushups for years because the last time I really needed strong arms was when I was rock climbing, which, apart from a few short periods when I thought of getting back into climbing, was a long time ago. So I’m not doing pushups for any specific reason; I just have a general thought that I should try to maintain some level of strength as I get older. I generally do 50+ pushups, even though my goal is 40 (was 30 when I started but is now 40 as of 12/6/14).

(* The reason pushups are a worry is that every day I wonder if I’ll be able to complete even 20 in a row. Silly, I know.)

Update: My initial goal was to do pushups every day, but after reaching 110 consecutive days of 40+ pushups, I basically quit for almost a year. I’ve now started again, with two differences: I don’t have a firm goal for the number I do and am just gradually working up. I also decided my goal would be 4 times a week. My current streak is based on these new goals.

Yoga (4 days a week) – 0, 37

I used to do yoga once a week, and even got moderately strong and flexible. Then I stopped because yoga takes so long – the sessions I did were 90 minutes – which seemed like an eternity. But I do believe that the flexibility that you get from yoga is a good thing. It means greater ease of movement and (probably) few injuries. I say probably because many of us, especially men, have a tendency to push too hard and end up tearing muscles, especially hamstrings. I know there are other techniques such as Feldenkrais which might do as much, or more, to help bodies, but the big advantage yoga has is that it is social – you can go to yoga class and be around other people for 90 minutes. Not that the yoga I do is either 90 minutes or social. I do maybe 20 stretches total, each for a minute with a 15 second transition between poses. I use an iPhone app called Repeat Timer to time me – it has two timers, one for the main activity and a second one for the transition between activities. I’ve scheduled yoga for 4 days a week in Goal Streaks, although I am trying to do it every day. Uh oh, I broke my streak at 37. Our lease expired at the end of December and we spent the last two weeks of the month packing and moving boxes to a storage unit. Yoga rather fell by the wayside.

Update: After not doing yoga or stretching for almost a year, I started again in January, 2016.

Brainstorming 10 Ideas – 0, 61

The best way to be creative and to solve problems is to have ideas. And the best way to have ideas is to practice having ideas. If you want to be good at something, you have to practice. Why should having ideas be any different? I’ve been reluctant to put this in as a habit, not because I don’t think I can come up with 10 ideas, but because I’m afraid I can’t think of things to have 10 ideas about. Eventually I decided this was ridiculous. I can even make “Things to have ideas about” as one of my things to have 10 ideas about. But ever since I can remember I’ve had a fear that I’m not creative or imaginative enough, and I even wrote a book about creative thinking in order to learn more about it. Brainstorming ideas is one of the key parts of James Altucher’s Daily Practice, and he wrote a good article about it, The Ultimate Guide for Becoming and Idea Machine. Even though my commitment is to 10 ideas, I’m actually aiming for 20+ ideas and sometimes manage to reach that.

No Masturbation – 0

Ok, so this is for comic relief. I did think of adding it as a habit because it can be such a time sink, but it turned out to be too hard – pun intended 🙂

No longer tracking as habits

No Distractions at Meals – 36

While eating, I tend to read or look at my iPhone or computer if I can. This is not a good thing because I end up not paying attention to my food. In other words, I eat mindlessly, and probably too fast. To help me pay attention to my meal – or at least to avoid the distraction of books and the Internet, I’m tracking this as a habit. But I blew it one day and looked up something on my phone while eating dinner.

Sam’s Exercises (4 days a week) – 43

In 2013, shortly before leaving Boulder for Tucson, I saw Sam Iannetta for some advice on how to stay fit without injury. I’ve had problems with my left knee ever since I hurt it running in the mountains several decades ago, and it was really bothering me in 2013. Sam gave me a set of exercises to do, which of course I promptly ignored. Well, I’ve decided to start doing them again, at least on days when I’m not doing a long hike or bike ride. So I’ve scheduled this for 4 days a week in Goal Streaks, even though I’m hoping to do it most, if not every, day.

3 Gratitudes – 21

Shawn Anchor has a wonderful TED talk – The happy secret to better work – where he talks about various things you can do to increase your positivity (one of the things is meditation). He suggests writing down 3 things you are grateful for, for 21 consecutive days. The important part is that the 3 things should be different every day, so at the end of 21 days you should end up with 63 different things you have been grateful for. The value of this is that it makes you pay attention and look for the good things that happen to you every day. It’s not easy coming up with 63 different things to be grateful for, so you really have to pay attention to all the good things that are happening. As of 12/6/14 I have completed those 21 consecutive days so will no longer be tracking this as a habit.

No Alcohol (4 days a week) – 9

Sometimes I think I drink too much. Certainly this has been true in the past when at times I’ve had so much to drink that I did things that I have no recollection of, even when someone later told me what I did. I drink less now, but would like to not drink at all. I’m always impressed by people, such as Tanya, who don’t have to drink. I believe I do have to drink though. It’s a social lubricant for me, and I have a belief that I won’t be able to talk with people without a drink. Obviously this is a belief that it would be good to prove wrong. In the meantime, drinking less will possibly force me into the situation where I have to chat with people unaided by alcohol. I’m starting with not drinking 4 days a week because I really can’t bring myself to not drink socially yet. If I manage no alcohol 4 days a week for a while, I’ll change it to 5 days, then maybe 6 and even 7. Updated: I decided to not track this as a habit. These days I only drink socially, and I realize I enjoy that and want to continue it. I enjoy the taste of a good glass of wine, or a well-made margarita, and don’t want to eliminate that. So I’ll still be careful about when and how much I drink, but won’t be tracking it as a habit.

Update: I did go the whole month of February, 2015 without a drink. You can read about it in my page on 30 Day Commitments.

Links and other Clicks

My 30 Day Commitments.

My habit tracking app of choice is Goal Streaks.

The Goenka meditation web page. This organization has a brilliant strategy: the 10 day retreats are completely free. At the end you are given the opportunity to make a donation if you choose. This donation is tax deductible as the organization is a 501(c)(3) organization.

Nightline anchor Dan Harris wrote a book, 10% Happier, which describes his trials and tribulations in adopting a meditation practice. It’s a great book and he really exposes his vulnerabilities.

Web page for the Repeat Timer app I use for yoga and meditation.

Shawn Anchor’s wonderful and funny TED talk. The part where he talks about the 3 Gratitudes is about 11 minutes in. But it’s worth watching the whole thing because he has a great sense of humor.

Sam Iannetta’s web page.

Here’s a page where you can download my book about Creative Thinking.

James Altucher’s The Ultimate Guide for Becoming an Idea Machine.

One Response to My Habits

  1. Pingback: Motivation, part 1: Obsession | Contributing to the Problem

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