When you were 8 years old, think about how you were persuaded to do something. While we all hated cleaning our room, eating vegetables at dinner or quitting our Nintendo 64 game to do homework, our parents knew how to trick us into doing those exact things. They gave us a reward for doing it.
If we finished our veggies, we got dessert. If we cleaned our room, we could go get ice cream. A reward was tied to the behavior they wanted from us and we gladly complied to get what we really wanted.
The funny thing is, we haven’t really changed since then. Mommy and daddy may not be the ones doing it for us anymore, but everything we do is still driven by the reward we get for doing it. And one app, Lift, has successfully helped individuals build habits by re-creating that reward.
According to Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit, a habit consists of three parts:
1. a cue
2. a routine
3. a reward
Let’s take something everyone does as an example: brushing your teeth (at least, I hope you all do this). Brushing your teeth is a habit. You don’t think about it or exert any will power to make it happen. You just do it. And that habit is broken into three parts, like any other. This is how my morning habit of teeth brushing goes:
1. a cue (my contacts are put in. I always brush after I put my contacts in, which comes after I get out of the shower)
2. a routine (putting toothpaste on the toothbrush, brushing for 1 or 2 minutes, then spitting out the toothpaste and rinsing the toothbrush)
3. a reward (a fresh sensation and the feeling of a clean mouth, plus comfort in knowing that my morning dragon breath has been extinguished)
When you attempt to create a habit, a cue and routine are typically pretty easy to devise. It’s fairly easy to determine where the action begins and ends.
But the reward is not so obvious and is perhaps the most critical portion of developing a habit that will last over time. The brain craves the reward and associates the action of the habit with it. That craving is what makes habits stick.
What makes Lift so effective is that it creates an automatic reward.
On the app, you pick the habits that you are hoping to implement. Whenever you complete those habits, you mark them as done on the app. The satisfaction of checking and marking it as complete creates an automatic reward. It feels good to make progress and let the app track your success.
In reality, the reward could be anything. You could do a stupid little dance that makes you smile and it will trigger the pleasure of reward. But Lift takes any guesswork out of creating that and standardizes it for you.
And I know that it’s been working for me. How? I’ve noticed that I’ll forget to mark the habit as completed on the app sometimes. When habits become ingrained, our brain craves them in anticipation of the reward and experiences that pleasure whether that award actually occurs or not. If I’m forgetting to mark the app sometimes, that means I’m on autopilot and experiencing the reward simply by doing the action.
Which isn’t to say that the app becomes less useful at this point. I still use it to create new habits and I like to keep tracking my current ones. Their email updates on your habit activities help show how the frequency your actions are occurring is progressing. I’ve started forwarding these summaries to a friend to keep myself accountable.
Lift becomes so useful by filling a piece of our habit loop. Ryan Hoover recently ran a great post on “habit startups” about building products attached to our habits. Anyone interested in creating such a product can use Lift as an example: find what segment of the habit loop you fit in with your users and fill that need. It’s good for you and the customers you serve.
You may not have mommy looking over your shoulder anymore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reward yourself for building good habits. Try out Lift and start eating your vegetables, kid.