Make a Game of It, Then Play to Win

The July Project: Day 3

The first time I got serious about exercise, I became a member of the YMCA in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. The Y offered an incentive program for runners. They gave out 6 x 9 index cards on which you could record your miles by inking in a grid of 500 tiny boxes. When you filled the card, you turned it in with $5 and got a downtown ymca 500‑mile club T‑shirt.

I filled up two cards, so I also got a 1,000‑mile club T‑shirt before I left Knoxville. I worked hard for those cheap T‑shirts. Even though the card program relied on the honor system, I scrupulously discounted fractional miles and pushed myself harder every time I neared the end of another row of boxes.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2004 …[MORE]

Give Up the Game, or Change the Rules?

In some of her workshops, my friend and sometime coach Mattison Grey has offered a theory that everyone is about either fame, money, or winning, and that making this distinction can help you figure out how to help people get what they want.

I don’t know whether that idea holds water for everybody. I can’t speak for people who are about money or fame, and it seems to me that there might be all kinds of other things to be about—love, pleasure, or security, for instance. But as Mattison explained it to me, since my orientation is toward winning, the way for me to reach any goal I’ve set is to turn it into a game I can win …[MORE]

Hunting and Gathering in the Information Age

The July Project: Number 30

Yeah, I know it’s not July any more. The month ended in a flurry of activity during which I was too busy to complete any posts, so my first job for August is to wrap up July. Bear with me!


Great Rift Valley

A few years ago, I started thinking of my daily walk as a crude analog to the wandering of our African savannah ancestors in pursuit of game and other food stuffs. They probably spent several hours every day chasing after or rooting around for their next meal, and the one after that, and the one after that. There are three grocery stores within a half a mile of where I pitch my tent, so I don’t have to wander in search of food. But evolution optimized my body and my mind for this movement …[MORE]

Go Ahead, Play With Yourself

The July Project: Day 19

I’ve written elsewhere about my exercise rules and about the idea of making a game out of achieving goals.

Scoreboard

I play a lot of games in my exercise routine. I make up arbitrary rules and give myself extra points on an imaginary scoreboard for achievements above and beyond the normal daily routine. I’m not always sure whether these tricks help keep me motivated, or just give my idle mind something to do.

Here’s a rule I made up tonight:

  • Extra points are assessed for walking on a day so humid that you finish the outing dripping wet from head to toe …[MORE]

The Practical Effects of “Everything Counts”

The July Project: Day 16

I’ve written a couple of times before about Rule #2: Everything Counts. Today will be one of those days when I invoke Rule #2. I put in a long work day, then packed my bags and took off for Galveston. I didn’t get here until after 10 p.m., ate a late dinner, and then settled in to write. As soon as I publish this post, I’ll go for a walk. It’ll be after midnight, so I only plan to walk the four blocks down to the Seawall, then maybe a few blocks along the beach and back. That’s okay, because in this game of getting some exercise every day, everything counts.

I don’t entirely grasp the psychological mechanisms at work in Rule #2, but I know that it works …[MORE]

You Can Make Up Rules, Too

The July Project: Day 9

A few days ago, I mentioned the rules of the exercise game that I’ve been playing:

Rule #1: Do something every day.
Rule #2: Everything counts.

On Wednesday, someone who’s been reading this blog lately said to me, “I just can’t exercise every day.”

I replied, “I’m not saying that you should …[MORE]