Sunday, April 30, 2017

Best way to stay inspired and motivated? Form a habit.

We're looking at getting inspired by something to continue working out. We are all seeking motivation. For me, they mean different things; inspiration is something we seek from others around us, whilst motivation is something that we look inwards for. We want to be motivated, inspired, and whatnot, for some very obvious and profound reasons. 

Lose weight, get in shape, study more, learn how to play the guitar, pick up a new hobby that's of interest, the list goes on. We have very many reasons to do the things we wish to, want to, dream to, and aspire to do. We all have interests we wish to explore, work at, hone and or excel in. And we all have the same challenges that obstructs us from doing so.   

Ze Excuses.. 

Lack of motivation, lack of time, no inspiration, or some similar sort of conundrum.  These stop us from doing things we know we want to do. And to be brutally honest, most of them are excuses we give ourselves. We're all just very comfortable people, lazy, procrastinators that keep finding excuses and justifications for not doing something. And therein lies our problem. 

What problem? Being lazy? Unmotivated? Uninspired? Serial procrastinators? Erm, no. The problem lies in us depending on motivation and its ilk.  

You see, I cannot always motivate self. I may be having a bad day, and it's hard to motivate oneself to understand git hooks when one is arguing with the missus.  
I can't be inspired by my role model   all the time; they're also humans, they err (Lance Armstrong ring a bell?). For those of us that rely on pep talks from our mentors, or depend on encouragement by our significant others, we know that it isn't always possible, for a multitude of reasons.  

The problem with motivation, inspiration and other "ions" is that they are fleeting, a rare commodity, infrequent, inconsistent, and frankly, beyond one's control. 
I'm a great fan on doing what I can, when I can, from where I am, with what I have. And that's because those are the things I can do, and have control over. And those are the things that assist me in getting things I want to do, done. 

Habit forming ftw 
In simpler words, it's habit forming. It's inculcating a discipline. That's the secret sauce right there folks. That is what you can do, and that is what you ought to do. And I'll attempt to tell you why, and how it has worked in my favour.  
How motivated are you to brush your teeth in the morning? How inspired is your stomach to growl at 09:00 AM each day, hankering for those cheerios (Cheerios, by the by, very bad breakfast. Another article)? 
Imma bet you're not. You're just habituated to it. It is  discipline you or your parents have instilled in you. You are used to it. Your body and your mind, they're creatures of habit. We tend to do some very mundane and monotonous things, very, very regularly. I mean, mind numbingly, quite boringly regular routine. If you observe well enough, you might be able to figure out those patterns of habits in your life.  
Hence, it is safe to assume you're more disciplined than you think. As you've worked for a very long time, religiously even at times, to inculcate a habit. Not to say that we all have only them good habits, no siree 

I don't know many people that took a sip of beer for the first time in their lives, and liked it. I know lesser people that had a double espresso, without milk or sugar, and were ecstatic. We do certain things, time and again, until we get used to them. Our life is ripe with examples like this, and I cannot possibly point all of them here, but if you take a minute to figure those in your like, you shall share my revelation in knowing just that; we are creatures of habit. And we ought to use it to our advantage.  

Don't go seeking motivation or inspiration. Form a habit. Drive it with discipline. If you're habituated to go to the gym, you'll go to the gym without relying on external factors. If your discipline includes reading daily, you will read daily.  
How do I form habits though smartass?? 
Wow Kartik, captain obvious! WE KNOW THIS. The problem lies in forming these habits, genius. I agree. Habit forming is hard work. But it's not as hard as you think. As some wise person once said (Ford, perhaps?), nothing is un-achievable if broken down into small tasks.  And as pointed above in this article that is becoming longer than I had expected, we're pretty good at habit forming, and pretty experienced with it. We just don't realise it.  
Please do realise that you can form habits, and that it isn't as hard as you think, nor will it take so long. You just need to do what you wish to do, with some consistency, for a period of time.  
Decide on things you wish to you. Make a list. Have fun with it. A dose of realism won't hurt though. I mean,  I'd want to be able to fly, but until the Mutant X gene inside of me awakes, I don't think I will be able to. So, please, by all means, make a list, just make a realistic- optimistic one.  

Losing 20 kilos, learning programming, having a better vocabulary, these are examples of some decent goals. Once you've jotted them down, begin working on them, one by one. Do not try to pick more of them, as that is a recipe for failure. You're just getting into the "yeah I'm motivated and inspired to rule the world!" Mode, and that's not going to work. Believe me.  

Decide on what is the one thing you want to get habituated to, and slowly, surely, daily, mundanely, invest time into it. Each day. Unfailingly. There may be days at the start when you won't feel like it. Suppress those feelings, and do it anyway. Decide and plan for a week. Don't find excuses to not do them, find excuses TO do them.  
Some folks prefer groups. Join one. Some are lone rangers, be one. For that week, ensure you work on your desired habit each day. Declare it to your well-wishers, they will help you stay focussed. Take all the help you can get, or need, but 
Temptation bundling is something that has worked for me. Say, for instance, I pair one thing I like doing, with the other I want to form a habit of. 
I wanted to listen to more audio books from freakonomics, and I like doing the dishes (Dishes? Really? Weird, right? Weird, but true). What I decided to do was do the dishes but ONLY do them whilst listening to audio books. I've also quite enjoy cooking grandiose meals. So I decided I'll cook grandiose, nutritionally dense meals, and of course eat them ONLY when I go for 10 KM hikes.  
Through this, I've now begun listening to audio books, at times, regardless of doing the dishes, as I'm not habituated to the audio books, and find time and excuses to listen to them. 
I've now begun finding hikes to go to each weekend, so that I can perfect my gnocchi with butter garlic sauce. And of course enjoy the meal later. 
There is also something called negative temptation bundling. Bundle the habit you want to forsake with something you'd never, ever, realistically do. Or something that's tough to do, yet works in your favour. 
This worked for me to get rid of my nail chewing habit too. I was addicted to it till last year, all my life. I decided to quit the habit, a 33 year old man-child chewing nails is not a good look. Apart from not doing it for a week, really resisting, and enrolling my wife to dissuade me to do so (she's really great at dissuading me. On many a thing), I also decided, if I REALLY want to chew on them, I'd do three sets of five minute planks. Chew I did, on an odd occasion, but what typically happened, 95 % of the time is that the fleeting, irrational desire, went away when I decided to occupy my mind with something else, albeit temporarily.  

See? It's not very complex. It's not confusing. It's not anything, but simple. Is it easy, though? Not at the outset, but take it one day at a time, and then, one fine day, you'll realise you're pretty good at forming habits, breaking habits, inculcating a discipline, and achieving whatever you wished to. Good luck!  

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Fitness Trackers- A Different sort of review

I've been using different fitness trackers for quite a while now. I had jumped onto the tracker bandwagon when it was at its nascent stages, when it was neither a style statement, or a must have fitness accessory.  

I got into discussions, provided Usability reviews, documentation, bug reports, enhancement requests, etc.  for quite a few fitness trackers. These trackers were wrist bands, pedometers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, smart scales, and quite a few I am sure I am forgetting.  

Some of the products I can remember are the MI Band(s), Fitbit Flex, Wahoo Tickerx, Moto 360, Yunmai smart-scale, the list goes on.  The same applies to the health and fitness apps, not only the ones associated to the hardware mentioned above but others like My fitness pal, RuntasticStrava, Drink Water,  Google Fit, Motobody, and many, many more. 

Am I trying to establish that I'm an expert? No. I'm an informed enthusiast, at best. Am I trying to boast about the amount of cool stuff I have? Nope. Well yeah, but nope.  

Am I going to provide you kind folk with an insightful review of all the trackers, health apps, smartscales, what have you? No. And I'll tell you why. 

It's because you want what's best for you, right? You want to get fitter, leaner, sexier. You want to cut fat, build muscle, "lose weight", look better naked, fit into your favourite dress, lead a healthier life, not get a look of disapproval from your doctor.  

I know of a great fitness tracker for that. It's the one you can afford to buy, like and can get quickly. Yes. ALL trackers work. They're pretty near accurate, and buying them/ installing them does not mean you need to obsess over each calorie ingested, each workout/ run tracked, or each days' sleep.  

What these trackers/ fitness apps do, what they did for me, is make me more aware of my need to move more, eat right, sleep well. They bought in a lot of accountability as well. They got me closer to a set of people that do give a damn about their health and well being, and don't just talk about it, but do something about it. They allowed me an opportunity to measure and track my results, and inculcate a discipline. They made me get into conversations about trackers, health and wellbeing and fitness in general with people, which ensured the out of sight, out of mind gig didn't happen.  

Do I need one to remind me it's time to sleep? Do I need one to religiously document the nutritional value of the last vada pav I ate? Nope. I'm not saying they won't help, they will, but not everyone is a fan of that. And investing into this doesn't mean you will have to. It serves the purpose of tracking, measuring, observing metrics, reminding you to stay on track, motivating you, holding you accountable, initiating discussions hence encouraging you and others, and at times, making you look pretty darn good.  

They have many advantages. All of them. The ones you can buy, wish to buy, can afford, and like when you look at them. Each and every one may have their own pros/ cons, and if you wish, I can discuss them with you. However, please do remember that waiting for the newer version, a cheaper version, a better version is merely procrastination. All of these critters will work for you, and in many wonderful ways. 

Go online, or to a store, buy/ install one. And prepare to be held more accountable for your own health and well being. Prepare to join the fitness bandwagon. Cuz, you know, it's good for you.