When I was in first and second grades, we had a giant chart on one wall with all the students' names on it and rows of empty boxes next to them. When we did something extra-special, we would get a small, metallic star sticker next to our names. When we got 20 stars, we could pick something out of a box of toys. I was hyper-motivated by that reward system, and was always one of the top-starred students. (I also really loved my first- and second-grade teacher, Mrs. Carlson, so that certainly made it easy to be good, since I craved her attention and praise.)

The new app, Lift, does the same thing for adults, in an appropriately modern and tech-savvy way, of course. And just like when I was a kid, it's super-motivating to do some of the things I would like to make into habits. I simply downloaded the (free) app onto my iPhone, browsed through what others were working on, and chose a couple of those. Then I added a couple of habits that are unique to me. It was both inspiring and humbling to see that so many other people struggle with challenges similar to my own. 

I am on a three-day streak of "No Sweets" and "Exercise" (I really just added the latter to make myself feel better; daily exercise is a habit that I established long ago). And my begun-for-the-20th-time meditation practice actually seems to be sticking, as is the reminder to "Work on Novel." Those are the two habits that have so far eluded me, no matter how much I have tried other techniques. I also added "Track Mood" and since the app allows you to make a short note on each goal when you check in, I figured it might be useful to see if my mood had an effect on any of the other habits (so far, it seems like I'm actually more likely to want sweets when I'm in a good mood, which surprises me; but I think I need more data to really make any insights). 

Like any modern app, you can, of course, connect with your friends on Facebook and track your progress there, and interact with other Lift users, but I'm not; I don't really want outside motivation (I'm a pretty internally directed person), but I can see where that might be really useful for other people. For me, this works as a way to keep myself accountable, and also figure out where/when I get off track. For others, it could definitely be about community support of your goals. 

And clearly, they can be positive things (like "Work on Novel") as well as negative ("No Sugar") and I would suggest making it a balance of these, so you are motivated positively. Also, I was tempted to put in about 10 things I want to do, but I only let myself do five (really, four, not counting exercise); if I can get the hang of all of those habits in a month or two, that will be real, significant progress, and then I can move on to other goals. Overloading yourself with expectations can only lead to failure, and it's important to love and respect yourself while making changes, because then your goals are more likely to stick. 

I can see this app being used for all sorts of things: some people are allotting reading time (30 minutes a day is popular), while others clock in their work hours (guessing these are self-employed folks trying to keep it honest), and plenty of people have signed up to "spend time outside" as a habit, which made me smile. Some people are using Lift to remind themselves to take vitamins (this could be useful for birth control or other medications too), drink water, or chip away at large research projects. 

Score one for positive motivation toward your goals! 

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Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

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